As lockdowns began to lift in August and Americans warily looked towards the end of the tumultuous pandemic, one vintage clothing shop in the heart of Windsor Terrace became an oasis for Brooklynites casting a quixotic eye towards normalcy — with neighbors flocking to the Prospect Park West storefront to re-taste a familiar sense of the bygone days.
“People were so excited to feel a little sense of normalcy, to shop for something that wasn’t food,” said Bonni McCoy, the owner of Pushcart Vintage.
McCoy, a Windsor Terrace resident, said vintage clothes have long been a passion of hers, but when she fell ill with COVID-19 in April, she vowed to turn her fascination into a business — opening up a shop of her own after years of self-deliberation.
McCoy and her husband Michael found a 200-square-foot storefront near 17th Street, which they considered a perfect location — not only because of the decent amount of pedestrian traffic, but also because it happened to be on the same block as the filming location of Al Pacino’s 1975 heist film “Dog Day Afternoon,” a movie McCoy says she has an obsession with.
Green-Wood Cemetery opening their 20th Street gates to allow for more entrance points to the green-space increased foot traffic past the shop even more, and when Elora’s Mexican restaurant opened up an outdoor dining set-up next door, it enlivened the street and brought even more potential patrons.
“It just ended up being a really lovely location,” McCoy said.
Among the vintage wares McCoy carries are a fur-lined umbrella, a vinyl case for 45 records, a Pee-Wee Herman Doll, an assortment of vintage lunchboxes, penny candy, and various vintage housewares and ceramics.
The store also carries a collection of face masks made by an elderly seamstress from Brighton Beach who found herself out of work during the pandemic. All proceeds from sales of the masks go straight to the seamstress.
Pushcart Vintage’s success marks a bright spot in an otherwise grim business climate throughout the Five Boroughs.
One Harvard University-run database shows that nearly 50 percent of all small businesses that had been open prior to the pandemic remain closed today — and revenue for those shops has decline 57.9 percent compared to January 2020.
McCoy, who understands the dire financial situation many Brooklynites face, says she is keeping her prices low in order to appeal to the economic diversity of Windsor Terrace, which is home to a good portion of working-class families as well as wealthier newcomers. Many of the clothes are between five and 10 dollars, which has been a boon for the neighborhood’s teenage population.
“I’ve got a lot of teenagers coming, my price point is pretty low, so they will take a break from remote learning and come in and get a four-dollar necklace or something,” she said. “I really just wanted to make the store accessible to everyone.”
Pushcart Vintage, 270 Prospect Park West near 17th Street in Windsor Terrace, (908) 403-8551, 11 am – 7 pm Sat-Sun, 12 pm – 7 pm Wed-Fri.