The beloved coffeehouse Tillie’s, which has caffeinated Fort Greene for 14 years, has been put up for sale — alarming locals who don’t want the neighborhood institution to change.
Patricia Mulcahy and Amos Yogev offered the DeKalb Avenue cafe for sale on Craigslist with an asking price of $189,000 — but the buyer must preserve its cozy art shows, open mic nights and organic brews.
“We’re trying to find a situation that will continue the spirit of the place,” said Mulcahy, who opened the cafe at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue in less-trendy 1997. “There’s a lot of potential, but we don’t have the resources to move forward.”
The online ad describes Tillie’s as a “profitable business … that successfully operates with minimal supervision.” The sale will include outdoor seating and a basement with sinks and catering equipment.
Mulcahy, a former editor at Doubleday, dreamed up the venue after realizing that the neighborhood had a plethora of Pratt students and creatives — and no place for them to hang out.
Tillie’s quickly became their centrally located living room, with its scattered café tables, walls lined with local art, and a mini fridge for the creamer and milk. There’s no clock, but there’s a vintage portrait of Tillie Asnis, who owned the building housing a Laundromat and antiques shop that preceeded the cafe.
Mulcahy discovered the available storefront when she bought a couple of old chairs from Asnis, who told her that she would soon have to rent the space because the owner of the antiques store had just been murdered.
To purify the crime scene, Caribbean contractors held an exorcism with rum and chicken feathers.
“There’s all kinds of stories with Tillie’s,” Mulcahy said. “It has a history and a real place in the neighborhood, and not that many places do.”
But the story of Tillie’s is also the story of Brooklyn itself: Ordinary people are often priced out of their own neighborhoods. Mulcahy herself moved out of Fort Greene a few years ago for a more affordable place.
Customers worried that the scrappy cafe would fall to the neighborhood’s rapid gentrification.
“It would be sad to see Tillie’s turn into something else,” said Rich Lebenson, a painter who’s stopped into Tillie’s nearly every day for the past five years. “It’s very casual and free form. There’s no other place like it around here.”
Tillie’s [248 DeKalb Ave. at Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 783-6140]. For info, visit www.tilliesofbrooklyn.com. Prospective buyers can call (646) 912-8763 or (734) 417-0530.