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:

And 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:

  • Tiling
  • Using powertools such as power saw and jackhammer
  • Bricklaying and pointing
  • Rewiring old light fixtures
  • Refinishing old wood surfaces
  • Artificially rusting metal
  • Mixing cement

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.

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Comment by pat merino on March 24, 2012 at 11:28am

Great act you got out there last night - thanks getting at least half of them to come out to Astoria ;-)

Comment by Astoria Haiku on January 17, 2012 at 11:27am

LOVE it here. On every level.

Comment by Jen Lim on January 7, 2012 at 9:55am

Thank you guys so much for the comments and the awesome support. :)

Comment by Ran Craycraft on January 6, 2012 at 10:25am

An amazing story. You guys truly raised the bar.

Comment by Pax on January 6, 2012 at 10:09am

Man, you guys had me at craft beer, coffee, and grilled cheese. And your iPad-based POS systems. Now I just love yas more!

Comment by Jenny on January 2, 2012 at 8:11pm

Yay!  just Yay!

Comment by Tom Foolery on January 1, 2012 at 7:07pm

Great story.  AMAZING food.  

Comment by Rita on January 1, 2012 at 5:05pm

Loved this. Especially because when you walk into your joint, you wanna hear this story. The place is a lovely visual playground, and the food is like a good hug from a friend on a bad day. Keep up the great work!

Comment by Lo Fisch on December 30, 2011 at 11:18pm

thanks so much for sharing the story! what great history and here's to a big shiny, cheesy, coffee-filled future. QK makes me super happy and even more of a die-hard astorian than before! happy new year!



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