At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, when Elissa Olin was preparing to open her eco-friendly Myrtle Avenue shop Green in BKLYN, she received a discouraging piece of advice from a former boss and respected mentor — he told her not to go through with it.
“He said, ‘The demographic’s not here, nobody cares about Brooklyn, nobody cares about eco-friendly stuff. In eight to ten years the space isn’t going to work for you. Don’t do it,’” she recalled.
But Olin had done her homework. Her research indicated a demand in Clinton Hill for a one-stop-shop with sustainable, locally-sourced and fair-trade products. She had a solid business plan which had just won the second prize from Brooklyn Public Library’s PowerUP! competition. She had even staked the place out, sitting out front and taking note of every passerby.
Despite all her diligence, Olin worried she could be making a costly mistake.
“I went home that day and had the worst headache of my life,” she said.
Lucky for Olin, Green in BKLYN has survived and thrived through the recession and beyond. The shop is now a Myrtle Avenue mainstay and neighborhood hub. Right in time for the ten-year anniversary, Olin just completed an interior renovation and signed a new, ten-year lease.
Inside the colorful and cozy shop, Olin’s 13-year-old rescue mutt, Bullet, can usually be found snoozing behind the counter. There are shelves of lotions and soaps made with natural ingredients, many by vendors too small for Amazon or Duane Reade. The cleaning products come in a large vat, which customers use to refill containers brought from home. There’s a display of brightly-hued Hudson Valley Seed packets, each with custom art by a local artist.
Green in BKLYN’s top-sellers by volume are soda stream refills and handmade truffles from local fair-trade chocolatier Roni-Sue. (After sampling one, I can see why.) Some of Olin’s favorite products are what she calls the “magical nature” items, like beeswax candles and Palo Santo wood, which she says emit negative ions when burned, removing pollution from the air, and the goat’s milk soap, which customers report soothes skin conditions like eczema.
Olin plans to expand her inventory of natural wellness products and home goods, and to increase online sales. She doesn’t have plans to open a second location in the near future, but says, “It’s always a possibility!”
More than just a place to shop, Green in BKLYN is a neighborhood gathering place. On Sunday, Olin hosted a girl scout cookie pop-up and a composting demo. She’s had art shows, live music, recycling events and book signings in the past. Olin seems to know most of the customers who trickle into her shop, and they tend to hang around and chat.
“It’s not just that we have products they can’t get somewhere else,” Olin said. “People also meet each other here. I’ve introduced customers to each other that have gone on to do amazing things together for the community. That feels great.”
If you’d like to meet Olin, Bullet and some green-minded neighbors, stop by Green in BKLYN on Earth Day, April 22, for their ten-year anniversary party!