Teen launches magazine to promote Brooklyn’s small businesses

Esme Neubert holds up a copy of Teensy, the magazine she started which focuses on local small businesses.
Photo courtesy of Esme Neubert

Despite the already-rigorous responsibilities of being a senior in high school, one local teenager has embarked on an additional crusade: saving Brooklyn’s small businesses with a new magazine.

Esme Neubert, a Boerum Hill resident native who attends Beacon High School, recently launched Teensy — a print magazine created entirely by aspiring journalists between the ages of 13 and 17, with the stated aim of supporting Kings County’s small businesses struggling amid the pandemic. 

At the beginning of her senior year, when most of Neubert’s classmates are focused on keeping up their grades and picking a college, she’s been striving to make the biggest impact she can, while empowering her fellow youngsters with an outlet to highlight their local business community. 

“It’s been definitely a stressful first three weeks of my senior year,” Neubert said in an interview with Brooklyn Paper.

The first issue, focused on small businesses in South Brooklyn (the area stretching from Red Hook to Park Slope), came out in September, and features contributions by Neubert and seventeen others, in the forms of writing, art, poetry, and interviews.

Its 1,000 copy run, which was distributed for free in various Brooklyn businesses, was funded by about $4,400 in funds raised on Kickstarter.

Teensy being distributed at No Relation Vintage in Gowanus.

Neubert’s war chest of contributions came after she “sent out a blast email to everyone that I could possibly think of that was a teenager that might be interested, and also their parents,” she said. 

Once the team was assembled, everyone was assigned a different project, and was given leeway to decide on their own which establishments should be featured.

Teensy contributors profiled such businesses as Orphan Guitars in Carroll Gardens, which strives to sell affordable, oddball guitars that no one else seems to want and serve as a counter to collector shops and the Guitar Center behemoth.

The young do-gooders also highlighted Gage & Tollner, the historic downtown Brooklyn restaurant closed in the 2000s and revived during the pandemic, and Windsor Terrace vintage clothing mainstay Pushcart Vintage, among others.

Also included are short lists of favorites in various categories as defined by staff, and on Instagram, Teensy has been profiling a different Brooklyn business each day this month.

“During the pandemic people are very distanced and you can’t really feel that sense of community,” Neubert said. “This was a way for people to really connect over something.”

Thousands of small businesses have shuttered across the city during the pandemic, as lockdowns kept people indoors at the beginning, and now living patterns change as the city recovers.

Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, estimated that approximately 14,000 businesses, about 22 percent of those operating in Brooklyn, have shuttered since the onset of the pandemic. While he noted that the borough is seeing a healthy number of startups rise from the ashes, thousands of businesses, meaningful to an untold number of people, are no more.

Teensy’s contributors.Illustrated by Cleo Neubert

Teensy is an ode to our community, expressing why we love it, how it is unique, how it is diverse and full of talented, driven individuals,” Neubert writes in a foreword to the magazine.

Neubert is currently working on the next issue, which she expects to come out in the winter, and is hoping to fund it through a mix of Kickstarter funds and ad sales. She is making Teensy into a club at Beacon, so it can broaden its focus to people and neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, and is recruiting what she expects to be a diverse new team bringing unique perspectives from around the city. And she’s doing all of this while approaching a deadline to get her first college applications in on November 1.

“This process is unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” Neubert said. “And the response of the neighborhood and community, the support that we’ve gotten has been very inspiring.”