Dennis Tang


Supercrown Coffee Roasters opened in Bushwick in 2016 with bona fide awesome brew. Gorilla Coffee founder Darleen Scherer wanted to take on the mass-artisan Stumptowns and Blue Bottles of the world with her own Brooklyn upstart, serving some clever coffee-lemonades and espresso-tonics along the way.

But I didn’t know any of that yet. I was just walking the streets near my apartment, saw a pretty new place, and stepped in. I was a “writer” —meaning a freshly laid-off magazine editor who’d just started grad school. I’d recently been priced out of Williamsburg, like many other L train migrants, and was still taking the train westward to freelance out of my old haunts, not having found the perfect local spot. I was personally in flux, picky about the places where I could write, and looking for somewhere to settle down for good.

Supercrown looked promising enough. The doors opened to a view of the gorgeous 1952 German Probat roaster in a pink-painted back room. The space was calming. The coffee was great. I went again and again, worked, wrote, and hung out for hours and hours, and it was wonderful. Stabilizing.

And it lasted all of 23 months.

Today I walked the three minutes down Wilson Avenue, later than usual, expecting to queue up for my favorite seat. I found a shuttered gate, instead. Could it be? They’d just posted holiday hours. But, given the state of the food and drink industry of late, I looked for news on my phone, and knew what to expect. Then I found a non-explanatory post on Instagram. After two years, goodbye. Thanks for all your support, Supercrown.

Suddenly marooned, feeling like some kind of bourgeois Brooklyn refugee, I took shelter at a newer, neighboring shop which in all my visits so far, I haven’t liked nearly as much. There I ran into Beth, one of Supercrown’s baristas, who gave me the details: Darleen had, quite simply, run out of money. The specialty coffee market is too crowded, rents too high, and though everyone worked their damnedest, and Darleen had sold her share in Gorilla Coffee once the overtime pay began to lapse, it was time to call it. I was gutted, to say nothing of all those who worked there, made their lives off it, and were closer to the story.

Me, I’ve only lost my second home, but it still feels like a blow to a previous commodity in the city that never sleeps, but nevertheless is putting many of its oldest institutions to bed: that of continuity, and community, something to anchor us to this place other than our jobs, yearly leases, gym memberships and Tinder dates. I’m still somewhat young, but this impermanence wears on me.

And to be fair, I’m probably not a barista’s favorite kind of regular. I’m not the chattiest, and too caffeine-twitchy to be a big spender. Mostly I sat and stood quietly in the corner, and wrote. Very few people did work at Supercrown. There were no power outlets, often malfunctioning internet, and a total of twelve stools made for limited seating, not meant to be camped upon for hours. And yet for me, it was perfect. I needed focus, not WiFi, and the tall butcher’s-block tables doubled flawlessly as standing desks. My freelance work, my students’ grades, and several false first starts to my novel meant millions of keystrokes, clacked alongside the steam rising from those slate blue Heath ceramic mugs.

That said, I did have some conversations, and get to know people. The baristas, the regulars, and their many, many, adorable dogs. When a barista, Daniel, debuted a menu section of his own creation — espresso and pour-over pairings, each duo brewed with the same single-origin bean — I was the first orderer in history. He seemed pleased. So was I, because I dug the drinks. And in a city that’s often anonymously-massive and claustrophobically-isolating, that’s often all you want: to be a small part, however briefly, of someone else’s thing.

And, well, that’s gone. It’s 2017, a year that needs no introduction. My degree’s completed, and the neighborhood I’ve come to love has a gaping hole at its center. The closures of our favorite restaurants, bars, and joints in recent years have tumbled forth in such a flood, it’s hard to remember them all — just another part of my current dystopia that becomes normalized by the sheer volume of its blows. This new café is one street over from my apartment, and sits opposite the four-story, steel-and-glass commercial construction project whose circular saws and jackhammers have made me an earlier riser than ever. There are other options, of course; a new location of Blue Bottle, with Nestle’s billions behind its back, newly opened down the street.

It’s all sort of comical, a first-wave gentrifier hand-wrangling about the richer, less-tasteful second and third waves to come. But to each their own New York, and mine feels endangered, with the future of fun, innovative, independently-owned, friendly neighborhood-anything becoming more and more fraught in two boroughs and counting. There are much larger problems, sure. But these little connections, these hints of community couldn’t feel more crucial as New York becomes ever more disperse and increasingly traversed only by rideshare apps, Amazon boxes, and delivery men. In the tide of all that’s happening, even our most mundane little islands get washed away.

It’s all enough to make me wonder if I myself am long for this city. Then again, that’s what my favorite places in this city have become: something to be longed for, no more, in the past. Best wishes to everyone involved in Supercrown, in the two years of that unique little place’s existence. It was a hell of a run. May you all go on to find new isles of your own.

Cover image courtesy of Oliver Klein on Unsplash