Preesa Bullington didn’t imagine opening a vegan bakery and café when arriving to New York in 2011 from Seattle to work in theater design. Taking over the former Champs Vegan Bakery and Luncheonette at 760 Bushwick Avenue back in 2016, the little bakery outgrew their tiny shop based in what was once a bodega. Now, in all its vegan glory, Brooklyn Whiskers (“The name is just a pun and… I love cats,” Bullington chuckled) has a new space on the corner of Broadway and Suydam St. to meet the growing demand.
Moving their business a few blocks down from their original location started with an unfortunate spill of pastries across Bushwick Avenue from a truck. Now in the space of a former hair salon and laundromat, the café’s soft opening was held on August 8. While working out the last few details and kinks of the new shop, Bullington is hopeful and content seeing the bakery bustling with customers.
“[Saturday] we had a first sense of how a regular day would feel like,” she shared in the new space. “And it’s been as busy as It’s ever been and we’re getting a feel of what our full capacity is.”
Bullington has been a vegan for over 10 years and hopes to share the lifestyle with others. This means not only serving plant-based foods, but also keeping the business green, like having compostable utensils, straws, and cups.
“With the state of our environment it is import to educate people and help people learn different ways to eat in more environmentally friendly and ethical ways,” she said. “We really hope that this new location is going to bring us more opportunities to reach this community in regards to that.”
The new space also comes with new items, like “The Carolina,” a BBQ jack fruit sandwich, “The Pesto Mutt” sandwich with grilled zucchini, and a caprese salad and cheese plate with locally sourced vegan cheese from the Catskills. You can also find kombucha on tap here and other craft beverages.
Another big addition to the menu is “The Seattle Burger,” with a beet patty and espresso aioli. The sauce was so good, that with its first run the employees started eating it and dipping everything in it on their breaks, leaving Bullington to make a whole new batch.
Vegan pastries ranging from earl gray bundt cake to cinnamon rolls are $3 to $5. Larger meals and sandwiches start at $7 for avocado toast and go up to $14 for their new burger. You can find various breakfast-style plates with tofu scrambles and bowls filled rice and beans for $12.
Working on their beer and wine license for brunch and happy hours, the bakery also plans to host events to bring the community together. With many diverse businesses around in walking distance, Brooklyn Whiskers hope to have evening patrons to continue their evening adventures at next-door establishments, like the bar Bodeguita.
Understanding that their business does partake in gentrification of the area, the owners aim to make good vegan food, educate communities on positive environmental trends, and fulfill their business goals by keeping the prices as low as possible and accessible to the locals.
“One thing that is very important to me is being able to show people that vegan food is just food, and can be delicious, and can be accessible,” said Bullington.
In addition, they plan to incorporate nostalgic flavors the area has been missing in their next round of recipe development. For example, a resident reached out to ask for a Caribbean pastry filled with guava, a pastelitos de guayaba.
“Old businesses are closing and we take it seriously when we have these requests to bring back the flavors of the neighborhood,” Michael Mihanan, Bullington’s partner in business and life, shared.
The initial opening was supposed to happen in early spring, but was delayed due to National Grid not connecting gas to the new business. After months of delayed service, they were able to get an account. Luckily, their Puerto Rican landlord, who has owned real estate in the area for over 30 years, didn’t charge them for rent until they could get the business running.
“He knows the neighborhood, helped us find local contractors, this is a family business,” said Mihanan. “We have gratitude for the ‘familia’ nature of this neighborhood.”
As for plans for their former space, the couple are working on turning that space into a commercial kitchen and reopen front of house as a coffee shop, featuring their favorite menu items. The long term goal is to create a plant-based lab, where other people can use the space to curate their brands.
“I hope the neighborhood keeps its special and unique flavor,” said Mihanan. “Small business and New York will rebirth itself. And it will work out in tandem. And the communities will continue to be celebrated as a part of that.”
Hours: Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cover image courtesy of @adrianosis. All other images courtesy of author.
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