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Sandy comeback cafe gives Myrtle Avenue an espresso shot in the arm

With a little help from their friends: From left, assemblymen Joe Lentol and Walter Mosley, Borough President Adams, and Councilman Robert Cornegy help cut the ribbon at Brewklyn Grind’s new storefront on Myrtle Avenue, with owners Alain and Craig Farrelly, in blue shirt and yellow sweater, and a little helper.
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A Red Hook coffee roaster that got slammed by Hurricane Sandy is back and brewing up mugs of its black gold at a new cafe in Clinton Hill.

Brewklyn Grind, run by three Bay Ridge brothers, opened its first storefront on Myrtle Avenue on Friday, marking the latest milestone in a triumphant rebound from the superstorm that swamped its roasting facility just shy of three years ago. The new java joint is a way for the brothers to invite neighbors in to wake up and smell their coffee, according to one owner.

“You have to blend business and community,” Alain Farrelly said, explaining that they hope to start an internship program to introduce to teach young people about the business. “We are giving back to something that we’re a part of.”

The trio became caffeine fiends at an early age, sipping coffee around the kitchen table as kids, and started roasting small batches of beans for fun back in 2003, two of the brothers explained.

“It started off as a hobby,” said Craig Farrelly, who is now putting his engineering background to work as head of Brewklyn’s roasting operation.

Alain said that experience comes in handy.

“It’s a real art and a science,” he said. “So it’s good to have the engineer doing it.”

The operation expanded from Alain’s apartment into a small space in Sunset Park, then, in 2011, into the Red Hook plant, the brothers said. But 11 months later, Sandy wiped them out completely.

“It looked like a burglar got in there and moved everything around,” Alain Farrelly said.

All their equipment and their entire stock of beans were destroyed, costing them close to $100,000, they said. On top of that, the roasters lost almost half of their business because customers were not sure if or when they would start roasting again. The hit caused the brothers to do some soul searching.

“Once that happened, we really had to reassess what we were doing,” Craig Farrelly said.

They decided to try again, and through some legwork, they say they scored a grant from the city, borrowed money from friends and family, and found a new space in Red Hook — this time on an upper floor.

A year later, business was buzzing with Brewklyn beans selling online and in borough coffee shops, the brothers said. But they felt something was missing, and decided they needed their own storefront to really get things percolating.

“It was really the missing link for us,” Craig Farrelly said. “It puts a face on the brand.”

They settled on a spot on Myrtle Avenue between Emerson Place and Classon Avenue in Clinton Hill. The space was a mess at first, they said, and they needed the help of a $37,000 grant from the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project, a booster group serving the strip, to get the coffee house in order.

“It literally looked like a bomb hit it,” Alain Farrelly said.

No sign of the disarray remained by the time the grand opening rolled around. Inside, the tin ceiling and exposed brick are complemented by a sign bearing the Brewklyn Grind logo — a “B” with a pigeon as a nod to the coop their father keeps back in Bay Ridge.

It is a wholesome, light story and all, but when it comes to describing the name’s origin, Alain has no filter.

“Growing up in New York is a f------ grind,” said Alain Farrelly. “But coffee is one of those affordable pleasures that helps you get by.”

Brewklyn Grind (557 Myrtle Ave. between Emerson Place and Classon Avenue in Clinton Hill, www.brewklyngrind.com).

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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