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Shirts and giggles outside the Barclays Center • Brooklyn Paper

Shirts and giggles outside the Barclays Center

Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada opened their quirky t-shirt store across the street from the Barclays Center after being tapped by landlord Michael Pintchik.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A quirky T-shirt company is challenging Brooklynites to have a sense of humor about the one thing they all hold near and dear: their borough.

Brooklyn Rock peddles pun-laden shirts that serve as a counterpoint to the borough’s increasingly slick brand — expect slogans such as “My mom and dad went to Brooklyn and all I got was this lousy condo” and “Brooklyn, entertaining Manhattan since 1646” — from a prime piece of real estate directly across the street from the Barclays Center.

“People are coming to Brooklyn looking for flavor, but not that many people are providing it,” said co-owner Chris Smith, who used to run the Big Genius art supply store in Williamsburg and has been an artist in the borough for 17 years. “This artisinal crap is just a marketing thing.”

The irreverent silk-screening shop’s location so close to the glitzy new arena may seem incongruous, but Park Slope landlord extraordinaire Michael Pintchik says he hand-selected the shirt-sellers for the Dean Street storefront after he saw Brooklyn Rock at its former location in the now-shuttered shipping container souk the Dekalb Market.

“We picked them because we thought they are creative,” said Pintchik, who previously assembled the quaint retail strip on Bergen Street between Fifth and Flatbush avenues. “They are the antidote to so much of what is happening in retail and development in Brooklyn right now.”

Brooklyn Rock’s new space is a little bigger than its former shipping container, at about the size of a subway car, and Pintchik wants to build out the shop a bit. He has given Smith a lease that runs through April, at which point he says he will reassess and potentially move the business nearby or let it stay.

Smith says he’s grateful for the opportunity to occupy such a hot piece of real estate, regardless of how long it lasts.

“Business is much better here,” said Smith, who tries to target a literary crowd with his American-made shirts, which range from $20 to $28.

One of his shirts even lampoons his new neighbors with an image of a basketball player trying to elude a net-waving crowd of specimen-seekers. Text below the graphic reads “Brooklyn Nets.”

Smith and his wife and business partner Yukiko Wada admit they did brisk business on the nights Bob Dylan and the Who played at the Barclays Center, but they say their shop is the antithesis of the arena experience.

“We couldn’t be further from them,” Smith said, gesturing at the Barclays Center on the other side of Flatbush Avenue.

Brooklyn Rock (454 Dean St. at Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, noon to 11 pm).

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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