No money? No problem at this ‘free’ store

Clothes shopping just got a tiny bit more expensive, thanks to the return of sales tax on garments.
Photo by Damian Harris-Hernandez

Around the corner from a large abandoned condo building in Bed-Stuy, business continues as unusual at the Brooklyn Free Store, where there are no walls, no attendants and no price tags. That’s right, everything is free.

The revolutionary boutique — sheltered under an aqua-blue tent — features a treasure trove of gratis goodies: hot threads, good reads, video games, canned food, and even an electric stove — everything but the kitchen sink.

Last month, a diverse group of friends and neighbors opened the Free Store. From environmental reasons to artistic expression to the endeavor’s anti-capitalist nature, the founders’ motives vary as much as the store’s merchandise.

“I get so frustrated with the amount of waste I see on the sidewalk,” said Thaddeus Umpster, who helps stock the store with items he finds on the street. “The store gives ‘garbage’ a second chance for a new home.”

Much of the inventory comes from the nearby Pratt Institute, where students move out and leave behind perfectly good items.

Besides a few Xeroxed fliers, the store mostly draws “customers” by word of mouth and from curious passersby stopping to rummage under the tent.

“It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” said Corey Stevens, a builder who lives in the neighborhood. He arrived with his business partner, Josiah Perry, who has become an avid customer since walking past the store last week on his way to the Home Depot.

Umpster, who also worked with the Free Store’s previous incarnation in Williamsburg, which closed in 2005, hopes that the new store will develop into a community space where people congregate and throw impromptu jam sessions or poetry readings. That is, of course, until the winter forces them to look for a new home indoors.

The Brooklyn Free Store (232 Walworth St. between Dekalb and Willoughby avenues in Bed-Stuy, no phone). Open 24 hours every day.

More from Around New York