Erik Zajaceskowski and Rachel Nelson, the husband and wife behind art/music space Secret Project Robot and hoppin’ Bushwick bar Happyfun Hideaway, are putting the finishing touches on their latest project, a tavern, cafe, and gallery on Dekalb Avenue, in that blurry area between Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. With the grand opening of Flowers For All Occasions set for Thursday evening, the smell of fresh wood still lingers in the air and there’s a bare back room of sorts where a “zine vending machine and cabinet of curiosities” will eventually stand.
As I’m checking things out, Erik comes in, gleefully brandishing a small sparkly object.
“Look!” he says with a grin. “Pink pepper spray!”
“These are the things you get excited about after five months of construction,” Rachel says.
That’s no understatement: the married couple did “one hundred percent” of the space’s construction, aside from the plumbing. No strangers to working with their hands, they have experience in building immersive art installations and constructed the two other spaces they own. In fact, much of the wood used in the space came from an old deck at Secret Project Robot. It’s a very wooded space, with gnarled branches lining the bar and dark wood shelves. There’s a plastic swan atop the bar, joining similar waterfowl lawn ornaments present at their other spaces. “It’s fun,” remarks Zajaceskowski. “It’s like an art installation in itself.”
This cozy look was inspired by the couple’s yearly trips to Provincetown. “It’s like our favorite place in the whole world because there’s all the parties but there’s also all the cool mellow stuff,” says Nelson. “And this place was sort of inspired by when you walk down and see all the dilapidated wharfs and things like that.”
Nelson and Zajaceskowski initially opened SPR as more of an art space and Happyfun as “a place you could hang out on Tuesday night and have a beer.” As time passed, the former became more of an event and music space and the latter a raucous late-night party spot. They’re happy with that, but found themselves craving a chiller, smaller spot that focused more on art.
While on an unsuccessful hunt for a space for SPR to relocate to when their lease ends and rent inevitably soars (their current spot is off the Jefferson L stop), they found themselves drawn to the corner of Dekalb and Broadway, right off the Kosciusko J stop. They were in the right place at the right time, and learned it was for rent. Six days later, they had a signed lease. “It was a very New York sort of moment. No Craigslist, no realtor, no fee… When some things are really simple you sort of feel like it’s supposed to happen. I feel like it worked out like that.”
They’ve left the storefront intact, aside from painting it a charming light green. They’re contemplating keeping it that way because it was integral to the spot’s naming. “The reason we called it Flowers For All Occasions is because it used to be a video store but then a guy who’s a florist moved in but he never opened, but he had this sign. Then we took down that sign, and [the current] sign was under it…” Nelson tells me. “So we were like, maybe this is a sign. To leave this sign.”
At Flowers, there will be coffee, beer and wine (pitchers will be plentiful, as will the ever-mysterious “punch”), and several food offerings. “It’ll be more food than Happyfun, less food than a whole restaurant,” says Nelson. “It’s gonna be like, cheese plates, French tartines, tomatoes and cheese, lentil soup… Simple food. Cafe food. More than just bar food, for sure.”
They’re planning on gradually rolling out art shows and smaller-scale live events over the next few weeks, and getting together zines and art books to sell.
“The vibe we want is sort of like a constant art opening, where you’re on better behavior than at a bar but still having a really good time.”
And thank god for that, because we’re not so sure Bushwick needs another bar.
Flowers For All Occasions’s grand opening event will be Thursday, Nov. 5, from 6pm to midnight, at 1114 Dekalb Avenue. RSVP on Facebook here. Hours will be 8:30am-midnight starting Nov. 6.