Re-opening Park Delicatessen as a skate shop meant more than just selling skateboards and flowers to the neighbors, it signifies a willingness to give back to the community.
Michael Sclafani and his wife, Valentine Leung have a knack for collecting found objects. Mixed with their love of skate culture, the couple decided to open a shop in 2007 when they got word that Leung was pregnant.
“My wife and I were looking for a storefront to use as a studio to make room for our baby.” remarks Sclafani. “We didn’t know that it was going to be called Park Delicatessen until we found this location.”
Park Delicatessen has been a Crown Heights staple for 50+ years and has seen the best and worst of times and the wear and tear of past tenants made for major renovations before Park Delicatessen could open its doors. Four months and a list of repairs later, (electrical, plumbing, skim coating the walls and removing fake walls) Park Delicatessen is fully restored and welcoming a newer generation of skateboarders.
“I tried to keep as much of the original integrity and charm that this shop once had, there were a lot of tenants over the years, and I had to peel away the layers to revel the original details.” Sclafani commented.
Some original details of Park Delicatessen included the original store front signage and a walk in refrigerator. Very mindful of the environment, Sclafani reused as much as he could during the renovations.
“I was able to repurpose 2 of the original coolers and of all of the trash we took out I’m proud to say we recycled about 50%of it, either scrap metal, or simply removing nails from boards and reusing them.” reveals Sclafani.
Sclafani, who has been skateboarding since childhood, notes that the skateboarding community in Brooklyn is so vast, each neighborhood’s technique differs.
“You have to be inventive and creative about where and how you skate. A lack of skate parks forces you to find something natural to skate, for example a basement gate, or a sidewalk that a tree rooted up. I noticed how large the Crown Heights skate scene was and felt that a skate shop would bring it together as a community. That is what Brooklyn skating is all about.” declares Sclafani.
Park Delicatessen is happy to know that it provides something for everyone. People now have a place to buy flowers, parents and skateboarders don’t have to travel so far to buy skateboards and it offers a safe haven for the kids.
“We basically invite everyone; build some ramps and hire a local DJ. We believe we will have a positive effect on the community and we are giving kids a place to come and skate. Kids stay out of trouble when they are focused on something positive like skateboarding.” states Sclafani.
Encouraging everyone to get involved, Park Delicatessen knows the potential for changing the lives of young skaters is endless. Because of this, it has produced a skate jam for the neighborhood and has three more in the works for summer.
“To me it’s not just about having a shop. It about how you can use your shop to make a difference in the community.”
Park Delicatessen is located at 533 Park Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.