New York City: That beloved concrete jungle where abundance and scarcity are opposite sides of the same coin. A city in a state of constant prosperity that it’s inevitable for smaller pockets of larger areas to become sought-after real estate and deemed the next “it” spot. Williamsburg, a neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn, has slowly become just that over the past two decades, a place where artists, artisans and shop owners have settled down to call their businesses home.
Williamsburg is made of more than 32,000 people. Originally known as the Village of Williamsburgh within the Town of Bushwick, the neighborhood separated from Bushwick in 1840 and became the City of Williamsburg in 1852. According to Crain’s New York Business, retail has seen average asking rents rise 477 percent over the past 10 years, due in large part to its growing reputation as a hub for unique and experiential retail.
Since the 1990s, artists, musicians, retailers and more, have flocked to Williamsburg thanks to lower rent, less competition and easy access to lower Manhattan – the beginnings of its cultural shift. “I opened our Williamsburg location eight years ago,” says MegKinney, Designer and Owner of Meg, a retail store for men’s and women’s clothing. “How the area has changed! Today, mainstream labels sit aside boutique luxury hotels and high-rises, which has changed our clientele in this neighborhood.”
Retailers have such faith in the area that they’re also opening stores there for the first time. Online retailer Bulletin opened its first brick-and-mortar location in November 2016 right in the heart of Williamsburg. “We have super strong relationships with other retailers in Williamsburg,” says Ali Kriegsman, Co-Founder and COO for the women’s clothing store. “So much so that we collaborate often with other local businesses to support each other and build audience and customer crossover.”
The Hot Spots
Apparel retail notwithstanding, Williamsburg is home to a plethora of unique and engaging experiences that run the gamut. Barcade on Union Avenue is both bar and arcade, with vintage games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. “Westlight is a bar at the top of The William Vale hotel; [it] offers a stunning panoramic view of the waterfront,” says Kriegsman. “It’s more high-end and sometimes you have to wait, but it’s totally worth it.”
Another favorite local spot is the quaint House of Small Wonder, inspired by the quality and intimacy of European cafés. “Their coffee beverages are super unique and yummy,” says Kriegsman.
Obstacles and Opportunities
As with many Brooklyn neighborhoods, the effects of gentrification have had an impact on Williamsburg locals, due in large part to rising rent prices, forcing many to seek more affordable areas.
According to StreetEasy.com, the median rent stands at just over $3000/month – a studio alone costs around $2500. Compared to other area rental markets, though, it may be a small price to pay. With low crime rates, an active art scene, live music and shops galore, Williamsburg lives up to its hype. “It’s really amazing having a store in Williamsburg,” says Kriegsman. “The crowd is young and highly engaged with the storefront, retail space and all of the events and programming we do. It’s a really nice mix of Brooklyn locals, tourists and customers coming in from New York City proper.”