On brand: Exhibit celebrates the business of Brooklyn

On brand: Exhibit celebrates the business of Brooklyn
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They’re putting the brands back together!

A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society showcases the products and commercial concerns that have made Brooklyn famous. “The Business of Brooklyn” which opens on Feb. 23, celebrates the industries that have thrived in the borough — and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s 100th birthday, said the organization’s president.

“We commissioned this exhibit in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, so this is all of the past and current things that make the Brooklyn business world great,” said Andrew Hoan. “We want to celebrate the entrepreneurs and brands made in Brooklyn — that have taken the brand of Brooklyn to all over the world.”

The show, which is broken into six sections, highlights local businesses and stores from the past 100 years. The “Made in Brooklyn” section focuses on products and brands that started in Brooklyn — some of them dating back 150 years, said Hoan.

“Some of those companies we mention — people will be really surprised about the number of brands that began here,” he said.

A few notable Brooklyn-born brands includes pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the licorice candy Twizzler, Benjamin Moore paint, Eberhard-Faber pencils, Domino sugar, and Sweet ’N’ Low sugar substitute, along with dozens more.

Visitors will be able to trace the path of companies that began in the borough and conquered the world, said the museum’s president.

Gotta go: Another Brooklyn-born household product is the flavored laxative medicine. It was manufactered on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill.
Brooklyn Historical Society

“Part of the fun in this is recognizing that this exhibit is not just a local story — Brooklyn really has been a force over time,” said Deborah Schwartz. “From all the types of coffee companies we had, and other brands that are now household names — they’ve become major global brands.”

Though some of the businesses have abandoned their home borough, their successful history here still encourages the up-and-coming, said Hoan.

“Although many have moved on, their legacy is in Brooklyn, and in some ways this can innovate companies to start-up in Brooklyn,” he said.

The exhibit includes more than 100 artifacts to help visitors visualize the borough in the early 20th century. The charged economy of modern day Brooklyn has its roots in those long-ago day, said Hoan.

“What’s happening in Brooklyn is a big deal and it’s driving a lot of the economy and all the incredible things that make people love the borough,” he said. “But you’ll really get to see a whole history of different things, and the products are a really important part of that.”

“Made in Brooklyn” at Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222–4111, www.brooklynhistory.org]. Open Wed–Sun, noon–5 pm. $10 (students free).

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Then and now: The exhibit highlights many different business ventures in Brooklyn, from massive corporations to mom-and-pop businesses like Gottlieb’s Restaurant.
James and Karla Murray