For the last year or two, my favorite Saturday afternoon pastime was a walk down Third Avenue to This & That (formerly 7104 Third Avenue), a consignment shop with heaps of books in the back, records here and there, and an impossibly thorough selection of contemporary horror DVDs in the front, as well as other oddities. This & That recently shut down, but you can still find its DVDs and even one of its employees at a new shop, across the highway in Dyker Heights—not to mention a whole lot of other stuff!
E and J Boutique (7014 Fort Hamilton Parkway) belongs to Erik and Jessie Harrison, a married couple who opened this, their first storefront location—two doors down from the VFW hall, in what most recently housed a “professional satellite TV” installer—in March after years of operating a traveling, mobile store. (They are not affiliated with This & That.) “I was born and raised on Fort Hamilton Parkway,” Jessie told me, “and thought the Parkway needed a cool little shop and would really benefit from it.”
That’s true. Twenty years ago, when I was a student at nearby McKinley junior high school, Fort Hamilton Parkway was an old-school Brooklyn commercial strip, not glittering with corporate retail but occupied end-to-end by the sorts of independently owned businesses that neighborhoods need: a deli, a video store, a pizzeria, a coffee shop, a furniture store, a bagel store, a bakery. And while some of these have survived (Maria’s, My 3 Sons, Mauriello, Fort Hamilton Bagels, St. Anthony’s), many other storefronts in recent years started to shutter.
On a recent Saturday visit, though, the avenue seemed to show signs of new life; as though after a long winter, it’s spring up there. Investment by more recently arrived Asians, who for the past several years have been moving in significant numbers beyond Eighth Avenue into Dyker and Bensonhurst, has driven new development, with an assist from older residents like the Harrisons.
Though the name “boutique” might make you think of vintage clothes, that’s not what’s on-sale here; and it’s less a “thrift store,” which signifies the seedy entropy of a Salvation Army, than an antiques shop, filled but not crowded with bric-a-brac, where many shelves hold an array of tchotchkes and knickknacks, old glass bottles and figurines. They have a big box of records, but it’s not a bin of Mitch Miller castoffs from the recently deceased (as you tend to find at the Salvation Army); it’s a well-curated selection: on a recent visit we picked up John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy, The Rolling Stones’ Flowers, and other LPs by Nancy Sinatra and the Kinks.
Thing is, the couple knows what they have: the records start as low as $5 but most tended to be $10 (and some were more), meaning you won’t be getting any steals, just good records in good condition at a fair price. (If you were to go home and look for the same discs on eBay, you might save yourself a dollar or two, but at that point, why are you going to so much trouble not to support local businesses?!)
If the DVD selection (and the racks they’re on) looks familiar, like the ones at This & That, it’s because they’re the same. “I did buy them out of DVDs and racks when they were closing down,” Jessie tells me. Short stacks of books contained a few interesting finds, including a lot of old showbiz biographies and novels like Ian Frazier’s Family. A glass case at the front currently has some old NES, Game Boy and Genesis games, tapping into some of that Gotham City Games energy.
“So far the neighborhood has really taken a liking to our store,” Jessie says, and it shows: granted it’s a small space, but it was packed when we stopped in. Apparently, it’s not just me who likes to shop for books and records and movies on Saturday afternoons.