Crown Heights deli now a general store for skateboarders with an eye for vintage

(Credit: Urbanite)

Michael J. Sclafani and Valentine Leung run Park Delicatessen,

a skateboard, flowers and dry goods store in Crown Heights. (Willie Davis)

By Garett Sloane

It seems like an accident waiting to happen: selling skateboards alongside flower pots and antiques.

A classic bull-china shop scenario, but it works for Michael J. Sclafani and his wife, Valentine Leung, who restored Park Delicatessen at 533 Park Place in Crown Heights. They turned the old deli into a general store, selling skateboards; T-shirts; vintage dry goods; old gardening equipment; flowers on weekends; and Coca-Cola imported from Mexico, where it’s made with sugar cane, not corn syrup.

“They look great in the bucket,” Sclafani said, pointing to the longneck soda bottles on ice.

Just then, Jason House, 33, came in and yanked a Coke from the pail. House was the shop’s first customer when it opened in April.

“I like to stop in and see what new stuff they have,” he said.Sclafani buys the ice for the Cokes from an old-fashioned icehouse, which is cheaper than a bodega and seems to fit his style. He found a deal on ice the way he rummages through roadside sales in search of old dry goods.

Despite selling a mash-up of flowers, skateboards and dry goods, the store reflects Sclafani and Leung’s interests.

Sclafani has an eye for antiques and even the storefront is vintage New York. He kept the name Park Delicatessen from the shop’s early days. He’s leaving the faded, broken sign out front as it is. Inside, the tin ceiling is mint, the display freezers show off a collection of old skateboards, and the deli counter remains.

Since the store opened, it has become a hangout for skaters. On Saturday, Tyri Quesaunders, 13, was buying a new board. Kids were out front doing tricks off a wood ramp.

Tyri said he was excited when the Delicatessen opened, because there are no skate shops nearby.

The character of the store is sometimes lost on the younger generation of Crown Heights skaters, who are there for the latest skate gear. They hardly see the other half of the shop lined with old wares.

“A lot of the skateboarding kids don’t even notice it,” Sclafani said. “They’ll turn around and ask, ‘What is all this stuff?’”

Tags: park delicatessen , crown heights , small business , retail , vintage skateboards , skaters , boarding , storefront , flowers , dry goods , antiques , general store , skate shop , shopping , neighborhoods , economy , brooklyn

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