by Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler, The Queens Kickshaw
It's almost exactly a year since Ben knocked the first hole into the walls at The Queens Kickshaw.
It had been a year of planning, three months since signing the lease, and two weeks of waiting for building department approval. It felt good and RIGHT to finally be able to put up the craft paper on the windows, and start ripping up the layers of carpet, linoleum, drywall, and drop ceiling to reveal the original character of the space.
The initial investigation revealed this:
Glory! We had no idea what kind of history we would find behind the synthetic surfaces.
The space had been a clothing store called Relax just before we took over. We had also done some historical research at the Municipal Photo Archive, the Greater Astoria Historical Society, and the Archives at Queens Library.
The brick building was as old as Schuetzen Park, a picnic grounds and shooting range that occupied the entire block where the public library now stands across from us. It was likely that picnic-goers purchased last-minute supplies at the adjoining businesses before heading into the park. We were also able to dig up a tax photo from the 1940s, showing that the space used to be a tailor and clothing store called Albert. As a side note, 41st St. used to be known as Albert St., named after one of the Steinway sons.
(Image courtesy of the Greater Astoria Historical Society)
The build and design process was an organic one for us and the resourceful team at Ecosystems Brand. We exposed the original brick walls and hardwood floors, and reused the supporting lumber from demolition to build the framework of the bar, the framework of new walls, and work tables. None of the other wood surfaces are new - all were reclaimed from other work sites, or purchased at Build it Green! in Long Island City.
To save as much money as possible, Ben and I did as much of the demolition, construction, and repair as possible. The valuable skills we learned or honed included:
Even now, we miss the days when we went home covered in a fine dust, wood chips, and sweat.
Now that we are operating as a coffee shop, restaurant and bar, Ben and I face new challenges and opportunities. The Queens Kickshaw has been, for us, about reinterpreting the tried and true in light of history and community. It is our playground, our outlet for creative expression. We are immensely grateful to you, our valued guests and colleagues, who have embraced and supported us from the day we opened. 2011 is only a preview, and we look forward to creating beautiful stories with you in the years to come.