Coming soon: The pie-brary

Pie society: Stephanie Monohan shows off a tray of Four and Twenty Blackbird’s signatures pies at the bakery’s Gowanus location.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Book lovers flocking to the Central Library will soon be able to purchase some treats to keep their literary flights of fancy aloft when a Gowanus pie shop opens an outpost in the lobby.

The bakery and cafe Four and Twenty Blackbirds will start serving up pies and grub on March 14, which math nerds celebrate as Pi Day in honor of the endless number which begins “3.14.” A co-owner of the sweet shop said that, cheeky though the choice of deadline may be, it also adds much-needed urgency to getting the shop in order.

“That date was intentional, and it puts us under the gun to finish setting up,” said partial pro-pie-etor Emily Elsen.

Elsen and her sister Melissa opened the Gowanus location, on Third Avenue and Eighth Street, in 2010 and made a name for themselves with surprising creations such as salted caramel apple, chili chocolate, and grapefruit custard pies, all using ingredients from nearby locales.

The library followed their lead by selecting a vendor locally, a Brooklyn Public Library spokesman said.

“They’re homegrown and locally based,” David Woloch said. “It’s great to have them aboard.”

The new location will be in the main lobby of the prose palace on Grand Army Plaza between Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue, but bookworms will have to check out their titles before chowing down.

In addition to pies, the eatery will carry sandwiches, soups, salads, and coffee.

The Elsens inked a three-year lease with the Brooklyn Public Library, and will pay the library a percentage of what they make in lieu of rent. This is not the first time a Brooklyn cultural institution has opened its doors to restaurateurs. Next door to the library, the Brooklyn Museum welcomed top-rated chef Saul Bolton last summer. And Fort Greene’s Theatre for a New Audience opened in November with a Danny Meyers-run cafe we are calling “Shakespeare Shack.”

Nor is it the first move to open up public libraries to private use. An initiative is under way to rent out former office space in the Red Hook and Williamsburg branches to artists and musicians (see opposite page).

Once their doors open, the sisters hope to start educational programs, including pie-baking classes and reading rewards.

The library will also host Pi Day activities for kids on March 14.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Baked: Emily and Melissa Elsen staff this temporary counter that is serving coffee and a few pastries at the Central Library before their official eatery opening on March 14.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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