Gowanus Souvenir Shop to close storefront by end of month

Ute Zimmerman stands outside her Gowanus Souvenir Shop in Brooklyn
Ute Zimmerman, owner of the Gowanus Souvenir Shop, plans to close the Union Street store on Jan. 31 and sell her toxic-themed keepsakes online and in select stores.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

The Gowanus Souvenir Shop is set to close its doors on Jan. 31, when the shop’s owner said she will focus on selling her toxic-waste-themed novelties online and in select stores.

“It’s always been more of a passion project than a business scheme,” said Ute Zimmermann. “It’s a big time burden to have a storefront and to keep it stocked. Now we can focus on doing more fun things.”

The Union Street store between Bond and Nevins streets will remain open until the end of the month, when the business it shares the space with, the gift shop From Here to Sunday, will take it over and continue selling some of the Zimmermann’s goods, such as T-shirts and postcards, she said.

“They’re going to take over my half of the space and will be carrying a lot of Gowanus products,” Zimmermann said. “We hope people will still come back to the old place.”

They will also continue to sell their goods at the Brooklyn Museum’s gift shop and at Artist and Craftsman on Second Street in Park Slope, according to Zimmermann.

The gift emporium launched in late 2015 as a four-month project when Zimmermann heard that Proteus Gowanus — a gallery and reading room that previously occupied the space — made a killing selling postcards and the artist saw the potential to sell Gowanus-themed stuff.

The store became a treasure trove for ironic products crafted by neighborhood makers, including poison bottles labeled with toxins found in the waterway, a puzzle of its oily surface, a calendar of Gowanus manufacturing businesses, local history books, and other goods inspired by the neighborhood’s zany mix of creatives and toxic waste.

“It started out of my love for Gowanus and that it’s such a weird, beautiful, and nasty mix of things,” she said.

The artist plans to invest more time in getting the goods to other stores and she wants to partner with local organizations on Gowanus-related projects, starting with some more classic keepsakes.

“We still haven’t done the Gowanus key chain like any good souvenir shop should,” she said. “I’ve so many ideas that I want to fulfill.”