What a gem of a store. Gowanus Souvenir Shop is nestled in the middle of what is now one of the busiest blocks in the neighborhood. It’s also a block that perfectly illustrates the harmonious contrast of Gowanus today. Newcomer Royal Palms draws crowds across the street, while the South Brooklyn Casket company next door has been there since the 1930s. Gowanus Souvenir Shop embraces and celebrates all the peculiar contrasts of this very special hood.
The selection includes unique home goods, t-shirts, books, art pieces… all carefully curated and tying back to the history and personality of the neighborhood. They collaborate with several local companies to produce exclusive limited edition items with a special Gowanus flavor.
It’s the type of store that you want to take your time exploring. There are so many special details, so many clever references to the complex quality of Gowanus. Not to mention the pretty spectacular art on the walls!
The store is run by Ute Zimmermann, a designer turned curator and shopkeeper. Ute tells us more about how the shop came to be, their collaborations with local artists and makers, and her favorite way to introduce a newcomer to the neighborhood.
How did a designer become a shopkeeper?
Because I have “bees in my bonnet” to quote my favorite children’s book, The Big Orange Splot. The inspiration for the shop came to us last summer as the arts non-profit Proteus Gowanus was closing. From there everything fell into place very naturally. Because of my and Joel’s arts background and because we had the space and a wealth of amazing artists and makers in the neighborhood to work with, putting the shop together was actually relatively easy and definitely a lot of fun.
When did the shop open its doors?
We opened just over a year ago, during the 2015 Gowanus Open Studios, in our first location.
You collaborate with several local makers to create limited-edition Gowanus products. What are some of these special items that we can only find in your shop?
Ha, thinking about it that’s actually almost everything at the shop! The items closest to my heart are the Gowanus Souvenir Editions though. This includes the Sludgie the Whale Lapel Pin, our Canal No. 5 tote, the temporary tattoos that Triple Diamond Tattoos designed for us, and the “It Came From the Gowanus Canal” faux horror movie poster. Two special limited editions we have coming up are an iridescent facial mask made for us by Soapwalla, and notebooks with original cyanotype covers by Katarina Jerinic.
It’s Saturday morning, and you’re giving an out-of-town friend a tour of Gowanus. Where do you go?
I would walk as close as possible to the canal all the way down to Red Hook and cross as many bridges as possible on our way. The vistas, little shops, and workshops that you can discover on the way are just so fun. And then take the F train back to Carroll Gardens and catch it all from above.
Gowanus Souvenir Shop is located at 567 Union Street, between Nevins and Third Ave.