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No money? No problem at this ‘free’ store

for The Brooklyn Paper

Around the corner from a large abandoned condo building in Bed-Stuy, business continues as unusual at the Brooklyn Free Store, where there are no walls, no attendants and no price tags. That’s right, everything is free.

The revolutionary boutique — sheltered under an aqua-blue tent — features a treasure trove of gratis goodies: hot threads, good reads, video games, canned food, and even an electric stove — everything but the kitchen sink.

Last month, a diverse group of friends and neighbors opened the Free Store. From environmental reasons to artistic expression to the endeavor’s anti-capitalist nature, the founders’ motives vary as much as the store’s merchandise.

“I get so frustrated with the amount of waste I see on the sidewalk,” said Thaddeus Umpster, who helps stock the store with items he finds on the street. “The store gives ‘garbage’ a second chance for a new home.”

Much of the inventory comes from the nearby Pratt Institute, where students move out and leave behind perfectly good items.

Besides a few Xeroxed fliers, the store mostly draws “customers” by word of mouth and from curious passersby stopping to rummage under the tent.

“It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” said Corey Stevens, a builder who lives in the neighborhood. He arrived with his business partner, Josiah Perry, who has become an avid customer since walking past the store last week on his way to the Home Depot.

Umpster, who also worked with the Free Store’s previous incarnation in Williamsburg, which closed in 2005, hopes that the new store will develop into a community space where people congregate and throw impromptu jam sessions or poetry readings. That is, of course, until the winter forces them to look for a new home indoors.

The Brooklyn Free Store (232 Walworth St. between Dekalb and Willoughby avenues in Bed-Stuy, no phone). Open 24 hours every day.

Reader Feedback

just from bed stuy says:
I'm more afraid of bed bugs than this guy.
Aug. 12, 2010, 1:35 pm
Robin from Bed-Stuy says:
Being involved with the store has thus far been an amazing and inspiring experience. Organizers can be contacted at freenyc@gmail.com. I wouldn't be surprised if before too long there were Free Stores in numerous neighborhoods around town considering how easy it is to start a project like this.
Aug. 15, 2010, 1:20 pm
Kristin from Queens says:
The first time a went to this store, I found a few good things. But most of it was over sized clothes with lots of stains. Its so sad people with no conscience are dumping dirty clothing here. My last trip was not good. There should be people managing this thing or at least volunteers. Its just filthy. People think a little antibacterial works nowadays but if you care about your health I suggest don't go here. But if it looks like they got things together then you should. Its a good idea never the less.
Sept. 11, 2010, 4:50 pm

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