Tillie’s, a beloved Fort Greene coffee shop and bohemian stomping ground, will serve its final cup on Dec. 31 — breaking hearts and reducing caffeine levels across the neighborhood.
Patricia Mulcahy, who opened the scrappy café on DeKalb Avenue 14 years ago, said that she’s shutting down because her landlord Danny Browne wants more in rent.
“We haven’t gotten rich doing this, that’s for sure,” she said. “But being in the neighborhood has been a joy, and we’re very sad to leave our customers.”
Local sippers were jolted in October, when Mulcahy and co-owner Amos Yogev listed their star-crossed shop for sale for $189,000. Several potential buyers came forward, but Browne wasn’t on board with any of them.
“It’s very sad and not what we had hoped for,” Mulcahy said. “But I don’t think we’re going to be the last ones to fall prey to rising rents.”
She said she had no hard feelings with Browne, who said that he was sad to see Tillie’s go, but that “in this economic market, rent increases are inevitable.”
The neighborhood was far less trendy in 1997, when writers and artists made Tillie’s into a living room and de facto performance space.
The spirit never changed at Tillie’s, even as the neighborhood around it did.
“We’re going to mourn the loss,” said Harvey Wilson, a Clinton Hill resident who had the first and now the last exhibition at the shop. “What’s rare about a place like this is that it organically became a scene, with so many gifted people gravitating here. It’s a phenomenon, and you can’t just put that together.”
But that is just what Mulcahy, a former editor at Doubleday, set out to create. Back then, she realized that the neighborhood had a plethora of Pratt students and creatives — and no place for them to hang out.
Mulcahy came across the perfect venue by chance when she bought a couple of old chairs from the shop’s namesake Tillie Asnis. Her family ran a Laundromat out of the storefront before it became an antiques dealership.
Asnis told her that shopkeeper had just been murdered and that she was looking for a new tenant. Thus Tillie’s was born.
“There’s all kinds of stories with Tillie’s,” Mulcahy said. “It has a history and a real place in the neighborhood, and not that many places do.”
Mulcahy and company will host a goodbye party, but haven’t set a date.
In the meantime, regulars are downing as many brews as they can.
“It feels like we’re homeless,” said Mireya Perez, a Clinton Hill resident who holds poetry readings at the coffee house. “This was one of the attractions of the neighborhood. I hope that whatever comes here next keeps with the community.”
Tillie’s [248 DeKalb Ave. at Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 783-6140]. For info, visit www.tilliesofbrooklyn.com.
Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.