More than 20 years ago, Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn was a home for auto repair shops, buildings marked by graffiti and single room apartments.
Now, as wine shops, retail centers and luxury shops appear on once abandoned street corners, the Clinton Hill Simply Art and Framing Gallery at 583 Myrtle Ave. stands as a testament to the block’s history.
“If I didn’t adapt to the changing neighborhood, I would not be here,” said L.B. Brown, the gallery’s owner. “Being caught in the transition, I lost a lot of merchant friends because they were being pushed out [and] moved around because of the extraordinary changes that were being made.”
According to an “It’s on Myrtle” report, Myrtle Avenue has a growing buying power of approximately
As developers cater to a younger population, Brown has noticed fewer Black and Hispanic owned stores.
“There was no one to protect these businesses,” Brown said. “Bids were coming in and kind of saying we’re going to be the new sheriff in town. And you gotta go, you gotta go and you gotta to go.”
Brown said that Black and Hispanic residents are still here, but in fewer numbers.
“With every 10 customers that walk through the door, eight of them are white,” Brown said.
Last December, The New York Times reported a 149 percent increase in white Clinton Hill residents and a decline of 29 percent in the number of Blacks, according to a United States Census Bureau 2009-2013 American Community Survey.
“My customers have spoken to me very candidly,” Brown said. “They are moving in Brooklyn from other states or other communities throughout the U.S. They are not just moving from Manhattan because of the high rent. They are moving from the West Coast.”
Gentrification in Clinton Hill has created a hub for large outlets such as Rite Aid and CVS and fast food giants such as Chipotle.
“Developers are not connected to communities or neighborhoods,” Brown said. “They are connected to the banks and to money.”
Brown, one of the few Black, female gallery owners in the city, said gentrification has helped her business. In 1991, the Clinton Hill Simply Art and Framing Gallery was created to sell, promote and exhibit Black art.
In the early 2000s, Brown shifted her business to custom framing. She found that some of her white clients, however, are not as eager to buy Black art.
Preservation framing starts at $200 and decorative framing is between $75 to $100. After Sept.11, many of Brown’s clients turned to her to protect their artwork. Some of the gallery’s wealthiest clients are white media professionals who are willing to spend up to $1,000 dollars on custom framing.
“They are power brokers,” Brown said. “They say, ‘You know I feel a part of the community. I like to support the merchants on Myrtle Avenue, but there is nothing here for me’.”
Brown added, “There is a lot of harmony here. But you got to give them a little service.”