New Franklin Avenue business model: Target cool kids, not actual kids - Brooklyn Paper

New Franklin Avenue business model: Target cool kids, not actual kids

Owners Ariane Ben Eli and Craig Judelman opened Cool Pony, a vintage clothing and record shop that will also be a live music venue, on Franklin Avenue.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Crown Heights is young — but not that young.

A Franklin Avenue candy and ice cream store will close and reopen as a vintage shop by day and folk music venue by night because the demographic that truly holds sway on rapidly developing Franklin Avenue is people in their 20s, not 5-year-olds, the entrepreneurs behind the twee shop and concert hall say.

Kevin Phillips opted to close the Candy Rush between Park and Sterling places after parents stopped showing up this winter for ice cream, sweets, and French lessons for tots — and new business owners Craig Judelman and Ariane Ben Eli stepped in with a can’t-fail store idea that offers something for every 20-something.

“Kids and parents on this avenue is not really what’s happening now,” said Phillips, who owns the building and runs the sandwich shop Tastebuds across the street. “What’s happening is more young adults and adults. Date nights. Food, drinks, alcohol. Not ice cream and candy. College stuff.”

The change from kid-centric business to adult-focused music venue is the inverse of a recent shift in Park Slope, where the longtime music venue Southpaw closed and was replaced by a tutoring center.

Judelman and Ben Eli are confident that their venue, which is named Cool Pony, will lure millenial shoppers thanks to the affordability of its wares.

“There’s something really great about people in their 20s that often they have less money to spend on stuff,” said Ben Eli, who estimates the average age of her neighbors at around 28.

Ben Eli dreamt up the idea for a vintage store because of all the cast-off treasures the moving company she runs comes across, and added the music component after meeting Judelman, a folk violinist, through hurricane-relief efforts in Red Hook with Occupy Sandy.

By its grand opening on March 15, the store will stock vintage Western-wear and boots, old furniture, and records, while host lo-fi, folk concerts on a stage that Judelman and Ben Eli plan to construct.

The two will welcome acoustic shows in the space’s backyard, and hope to sell beer, wine, and food, and eventually hard liquor, if things go according to plan.

And Cool Pony will give the neighborhood — as well as its stage-starved young musicians — the first full-time music venue on the quickly changing Franklin Avenue strip.

“We always lament that there’s nowhere to play here,” said Judelman about fellow Crown Heights musicians. “I’ve been working for years to create communities around food, dance, and music and finding a space like this to realize those things.”

Judelman said the store was inspired by hybrid shops like Robert’s Western World in Nashville and the Jalopy Theater in Red Hook, where he is a regular patron and performer.

“We want to focus on Crown Heights artists,” he said. “We don’t want to close off to anybody.”

Cool Pony (733 Franklin Ave. between Park and Sterling places in Crown Heights) Opens March 15.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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