Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Filling in a Few Blanks in an Old Brooklyn Real Estate Mystery -

Dust has settled on a generation of clutter: bills, egg cartons, newspapers and a vintage scale that provides both a horoscope and a weight for 5 cents. A sign advertises goods that are “fresh today,” the coffee, apples, cheese and sausage that no one has delivered in years. Through the milky glass front window, tins of maple syrup and jars of vitamins are visible, improbably paired on wooden display shelves.

The shuttered pharmacy could be a location in a film about some mysterious cataclysm — killer spores? aliens? — that emptied a 1950s town, or it could be a scene from a blighted city, the commercial casualty of a Main Street abandoned by shoppers and hope.

But it is neither, just a store in the heart of Carroll Gardens, a thriving Brooklyn neighborhood. The store, closed for about a dozen years, sits at the corner of Henry and Sackett Streets, opposite a lively cafe and cater-corner to a trendy new dumpling house.

The store, with its 1920s details and promise of farm-grown goods and specialties from Vermont, might well have been popular with members of the neighborhood’s brownstone-renovating set.

Instead, it is a curiosity. The longtimers seem to know more about the place than they let on, about the eccentric homeopath, Mark Stein, who owns the building and is still seen visiting. The new residents peer into the windows and move on, knowing little about the puppeteers who helped run the place; or the gunrunner who worked as a clerk in a pharmacy that occupied the space before; or, in much earlier days, the British gentleman-thief with a taste for diamonds who lived upstairs. No one seems to know exactly why it shut down.