Though he fears that Bushwick really is on its way to becoming the “Next Williamsburg,” Eddie Cedeño loves this Brooklyn neighborhood, and he really loves being a regular at Pearl’s Social and Billy Club. It’s part of what Eddie calls The Triangle, which consists of this bar, the coffee shop he owns called Strangeways Coffee, and his apartment, which are all within three square blocks of each other. Eddie used to live on famed and now overrun Bedford Avenue, but he says he was priced out of Williamsburg. (“Who can afford $1,000 for one room?”) And yet, Eddie is part of what changed his old ‘hood and what’s making his ‘hood of six years so popular.
He’s a young, hip dude who worked at a young, hip coffee shop (both Oslo and Gorilla Coffee) and for six months has owned his own young, hip coffee shop. However, he’s also very conscientious of supporting the community. With a Cuban mother and an Ecuadoran father, Eddie is first-generation American, and Bushwick reminds him of his own family history. His parents both fled their home countries for a better life, and their hard-work ethic influences him heavily – even if his “casual” lifestyle is “super foreign” to his airplane mechanic dad and ex-garment factory worker mom.
Normally, the 30-year-old LA native, who’s lived in New York for seven years, drinks Coors in a can and engages in political and philosophical debates with his fellow regulars at the bar. The intimate space encourages that kind of hang. The room is dark yet friendly. Brick walls give way to a wooden ceiling with an elegant chandelier. A sign above an old-timey upright radio boasts a cheeky yet sincere cursive quote from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “Be Excellent to each other.” Pearl’s really strives to be a “social club.” Eddie explains why the bar is part of his sacred Triangle.
The other regulars here are super interesting, too. They’re all different. One’s a lawyer, the other one’s a banker, one’s a plumber, the other dude’s a musician. It’s like the transitional neighborhood itself: people that are starving artists, people that are well-off but just want cheap rent or are looking for the next cool thing.
One of my first times here, I was looking out the window and literally four groups of white hipster kids converged on this one corner all of a sudden. And you’re like: this is going to be a thing now. At the same time, [Pearl’s] has done a great job of caring for this part of the neighborhood and inviting everybody.
I feel like with a lot of kids in our generation, their parents coddled them. That labels me as a hater, but I think I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. I’m never “Why me?” I’m always “Why not?”
I’ve spent my whole life arguing with my parents. My parents are fundamentalist conservatives and I am an atheist liberal. We always had an open discourse. My parents would always challenge me. The ability to argue was valued in my family. We’re talkers, thinkers.
I haven’t spoken to my father in six years. We just argued one too many times. I don’t really think about it. I’ve made my own life out here. You have to distance yourself so you can become your own person.
A lot of people in this neighborhood are skeptical of gentrification. As a first generation American, it’s something I struggle with personally. I love this neighborhood. I want new things to open up. I own a small business. But these people remind me of my parents and it’s like, “Oh, shit. We’re squeezing them out.”
I don’t want to make this about Communism, but Communism and community are the same thing. We are one force, pushing forward. At a place like [Pearl’s], you feel like you’re doing things the right way, and that’s the way it should be. [Pearl’s] is not a capitalistic place. [The owner] Betsy is not in this to make money or open five Pearl’s somewhere else.
A good bar fills all your needs. You come here when you’re sad, when you’re happy, when you’re celebrating something. I appreciate a professional bartender, not just a cute girl with tattoos or some shit like that. Sometimes you need to get drunk, and other times you’re just there to have a beer. They should be able to get you to a level of drunk that accommodates all those feelings.
What makes me a regular is that I can come in here at any time, any day and know somebody sitting at the bar. That’s the difference between a bar you’re a regular at and a bar you just go to. I know that even if I come by myself, I’m not going to sit by my lonesome and sadly drink alcohol. It’s a sense of belonging.