By Elisabeth Anderson
Brooklyn has brand power. Borough residents know this; they’ve helped homegrown businesses like Brooklyn Brewery and Brooklyn Industries flourish. But somehow, without Brooklyn really noticing, the rest of the country caught on. In the 20 largest American cities (after New York) alone, there are 67 distinct businesses that feature Brooklyn in their names. How come? Glad you asked. The Ink explores the who, where, and why of Brooklyn, Incorporated.
America likes you, it really likes you
“Brooklyn has a flavor all its own and people know it,” explained Jason Rapport, an ad agency alum who now works as a visual designer for Elmsford, N.Y.-based gaming technology company Turtle Beach. “If Manhattan is filet mignon, Brooklyn is hangar steak. Both flavorful and fine cuts of meats, but some people like their steak a little tougher.”
Looking at the numbers, Rapport is on to something. In assessing those 20 most populous American cities after New York – that’s a spectrum ranging from Los Angeles (#2) to Baltimore (#21) – The Ink found cities with as many as a dozen Brooklyn-branded businesses. L.A. boasts the dozen, and is followed by Dallas (nine businesses) and Charlotte (eight). Detroit and San Francisco each have five, while Phoenix and Austin claim four apiece.
What Brooklyn stuff are folks buying in these places?
Mostly pizza and bagels; of the 67 Brooklyn businesses in the 20 cities examined, 38 are pizzerias and seven are bagel shops. After that, there are a few clothing shops, restaurants, and lounges. But a full 15 businesses didn’t fit into any of these categories. These include:
*Brooklyn Motor Cars, a car dealership in Phoenix
*Brooklyn 718, a beauty salon in Charlotte
*Gio’s Brooklyn Boxing Club, a gym in Los Angeles
*Brooklyn North, a software business in Boston
I left my heart in…Brooklyn
“Often these businesses are owned by former Brooklynites,” explained Robin Zucker, owner of Zucker Public Relations in New York. “They use that authenticity to build and boost their brand.” Her claim is backed up by owners of Brooklyn-branded establishments in Denver, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
*Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli started as Heidi’s Bagels and Ice Cream in a 1,400 square foot space in Denver in 1994. With a name change, expanded menu, and bigger space, the business took off and opened a second location in 1999. Today, Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli operates in 35 locations and plans ten more in the next year; franchises exist in more than a dozen states. “We love Brooklyn and creating a Brooklyn deli west of the Mississippi was our dream,” explained co-owner Steve Naples, speaking of himself and his wife, deli namesake Heidi. “Heidi was born in Brooklyn and we lived there for many years. People seem to think of Brooklyn as a more down-to-earth, friendly place. Tough, yet nice and caring and loyal like Heidi and I know it is.”
*Lorna Tate and her husband Donovan own Brooklyn Jazz Café on South Lamar Street in Dallas. “It was his idea” to include Brooklyn in the name, explained Mrs. Tate of her husband. “He wanted to name it after me, but I thought that was just silly.” So they opted for Brooklyn instead, as an homage to Mr. Tate’s hometown. She said the café, which offers live music, food and drinks six nights a week plus Sunday brunch, benefits from its name. “Absolutely. There are quite a few folks that come in here who are from Brooklyn or New York, and are excited about the name,” Mrs. Tate said. “Others are curious to see why.”
*Dominick Deluca was born and raised in East Flatbush. He opened his first skateboard shop in Brooklyn in 1992, and decided to honor his home when he moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and opened Brooklyn Projects. “When I decided to come out here, I called the store Brooklyn Projects for two reasons,” he said. “One, I grew up next to the projects in Brooklyn. And two, the store is so multi-faceted, it’s a never-ending project.” Deluca, who has adopted the nickname “Brooklyn Dom” since arriving on the West Coast, now owns two L.A. branches of skater heaven, with another on the way this year.
Picking the name was not without controversy. “It definitely stirred up something,” Deluca said. “It’s like ‘someone had the nerve to open a Brooklyn store in L.A.?’ The L.A. pride goes deep just like the Brooklyn pride. But I did it because it’s me, I’m Brooklyn. I’m bringing Brooklyn to the West Coast.” Just like Walter O’Malley did, to the borough’s eternal sadness, in 1958.
Don’t get too cocky, Brooklyn
Sometimes it isn’t all about you. There are, after all, Brooklyns in nine states other than New York. These are Michigan, Maryland, Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Alabama. There’s a West Brooklyn, Illinois, too. There’s a Brooklyn Plaza in Los Angeles, and a Brooklyn neighborhood in San Diego. The Ink didn’t include businesses in these locations in its assessment – they have entirely other reasons for using the Brooklyn name. In addition, not every city in the top 20 population list had a Brooklyn business. San Antonio, Indianapolis, Columbus and Baltimore are not feeling the love.
A baby named Brooklyn
We’d be remiss not to mention that the Brooklyn brand extends beyond brick-and-mortar businesses and into such realms as product and baby names. Celebrities like Brooklyn Decker and celebrity offspring like Brooklyn Beckham are fueling the popularity of the name; Brooklyn was a new entry on the list of most popular baby girl names in 2010, coming in at #77.
Domino’s sells a thinner-crusted, foldable Brooklyn Style Pizza. Absolut has launched a red apple and ginger-flavored Brooklyn vodka, complete with label designed by borough native Spike Lee. “Potentially it’s just a way of adding a ‘taste of New York’ to a brand, make it seem culturally exciting, but close enough to home as to not scare people away and give it a little edge,” said visual designer Rapport. Or “Maybe, just maybe, it’s because Brooklyn just sounds cool.”