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Clay it ain’t so! Slopers mourn looming closure of beloved store The Clay Pot • Brooklyn Paper

Clay it ain’t so! Slopers mourn looming closure of beloved store The Clay Pot

End of an era: Owner Tara Silberberg is closing her Park Slope Clay Pot location on March 10.
Photo by Colin Mixson

Park Slope is going off the Pot.

Slopers are sobbing over the looming closure of yet another long-standing local business, Seventh Avenue retailer The Clay Pot, whose owner will shutter the business on March 10, just months after it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

“It’s really sad,” said Helen Spontak, who moved to Park Slope in 1977. “The neighborhood is turning into something I don’t recognize.”

Entrepreneurial couple Bob and Sally Silberberg opened The Clay Pot in January 1969, hawking ceramics they made on site in a back-room studio from the shop between Garfield Place and First Street.

The couple moved to Massachusetts in 1974, but continued to operate the store in absentia, using it to sell their “seconds” — slightly damaged pieces they offered on the cheap — according to their daughter Tara Silberberg, who now runs the shop and a sister outpost that opened three years ago in Manhattan.

The Silberbergs expanded their Seventh Avenue store’s inventory in the 1980s, stocking other makers’ merchandise, including jewelry, in addition to their ceramics, and their daughter took charge of the family business in 1990 after graduating college, saying her good eye and a talent for sales made her a natural successor.

“I wanted to be in Brooklyn,” said Tara Silberberg. “I love stuff and it turned out I had a real knack for it — I’m an amazing salesman.”

The shop had several years of strong sales until the financial crisis in 2008 — and even then managed to keep its doors open despite a year-long dry spell following the crash, the younger Silberberg said.

“At the beginning of 2008 we were up 25 percent from 2007, then the stock market crashes, Obama gets elected, and I had entire orders of really expensive jewelry that I didn’t sell a piece of for a year and a half,” she said.

Sales didn’t really pick up after the markets corrected themselves, however, which the second-generation owner attributed to a maturing local clientele and the migration of its core customer to trendier parts of the borough.

“This part of Brooklyn has become older and older — or extremely wealthy — both of which don’t seem to be into this store,” Tara Silberberg said. “Younger consumers are the ones who are more actively buying things. They need things!”

Still, news of Clay Pot’s impending closure shocked those loyalists left in the neighborhood, many of whom scrawled messages such as “Lots of love” and “We will miss you” on a long scroll of paper its current owner placed in a so-called feelings corner of the shop.

Shuttering the Park Slope location will allow Silberberg to focus her efforts on her Manhattan store, where she trusts her long-time local patrons will trek to for their jewelry and ceramics.

“I’m taking a huge gamble that park slope will follow me,” she said. “I have so many loyal customers and I know they’ll shop in Manhattan.”

And when Clay Pot does close, it will join a laundry list of other longtime Slope shops that shuttered after decades in business, including optical shop Visions of Park Slope, which closed in October after 27 years in operation; Tex-Mex restaurant Santa Fe Grill, which also closed that month following a 34-year run; and Seventh Avenue health-food emporium Back to the Land, whose owner sold his last supplement last year after nearly half a century serving Slopers.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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