When the pandemic hit, putting Emily Williams and Megan Brosi out of work at their café jobs, unemployment became a blessing in disguise.
Williams and Brosi had worked together in different cafes for the past five years and decided the time was right to take a leap of faith and build a business of their own — something they'd long talked about.
Williams, an avid motorcyclist, wanted to start a community garage, where people could fix their own vehicles at little cost. Brosi was all in for the idea.
When a friend showed the pair an empty Bushwick lot on the corner of Myrtle Ave. and Hart St., their stars aligned. Not only was it what they were after, it also came with an old RV.
Fast forward a few months, and the pair have converted the RV into a fully functional café and the site into a casual community hangout called Til Death.
Scattered in front of the 1970s motorhome are some tables and chairs, which run alongside a shipping container Williams brought in and is currently turning into the community garage. And the space, enclosed by a tall metal fence typically used to fence off abandoned lots, has already hosted its fair share of pop-ups and events.
"It's been incredible, everyone has been so supportive and friendly -- we've had regulars since our first week which is so insane," Brosi said.
"After this past year I think everyone's a bit more cognizant of supporting local and building up each other and staying within the community, it's been a really rad response."
The pair have been totally hands-on in crafting Til Death, including tearing up the carpet and cabinetry in the old RV and designing and managing all aspects of their business. Williams had previously managed other cafes and knew all the ins and outs of what they needed, while Brosi roasts the beans that they serve at the cafe.
And around them, the space has thrived. The almost weekly pop-ups have included painting classes, flower deliveries, food stalls, a huge Christmas market, and more.
Brosi said a lot of the people hosting the pop-ups had also launched their businesses during quarantine and were ready to test out a physical space.
"We've been really fortunate that we've met a lot of really talented people in this area already," she said. "We're new, we're flexible, we're open to stuff, and the people we're working with are exactly the same way and giving that back to us."
Williams added that Til Death was a perfect spot for new businesses to test out demand and establish whether they could make the leap to starting a brick and mortar.
"They can try it out here with very low stakes and if they see it works they can keep doing pop-ups," Williams said, adding: "But it would super cool if some of these people ended up having their own space or shop or restaurant."
Right now, Williams is at work getting the mechanical garage ready — which she expects will be done by summer.
Essentially, she said, the shipping container will become a space where people can work on their own vehicles, whether that's a motorbike, a moped, scooter, bicycle or skateboard.
"I ride a motorcycle, so that was the original plan, but we'll have the tools and the basic fluid -- brake fluid, oil, things like -- and you can rent time with tools that you might not want to invest in purchasing yourself," she said.
She said the idea was to provide an inexpensive, community-centered space, where people could work on things together. Although there won't be dedicated staff in the garage, Williams hopes to build up a catalogue of neighbors with different skills who can share them together.
"The idea is to have a space where we can do what we're good at, and provide a space for others to do what they're good at and what their passions are."
And judging by the community they've already built around them — not to mention the loyal dog following — the catalogue will fill out quickly.