Guest blogger, Julia Chance reminisces…
Say it ain’t so!
That was my initial reaction upon learning from Sharon that Grand 275 was closing. Grand was like my Cheers – a place where everybody, well, a lot of people knew my name. And I knew theirs. Since its opening back in 2003, I spent several afternoons there having brunch and many a night sipping tasty libations and grooving to the high energy beats provided by any one of a crew of talented DJs who knew how to get a party started.
When my boy Mark Chung first announced that he and friend Carmen Grau, were opening a little spot where folks could come for light fare and drinks, I made it a point of supporting their business every chance I got. I introduced out-of-town guests to Grand, met friends there for meals and drinks, brought my book club through for meetings on a couple of occasions, and generally talked it up to anyone in search of a cool neighborhood spot for hanging out. I’d usually describe it like this: By day it’s a mild mannered coffee shop, but at night, baby… A lot of people took my word about Grand and some became regulars themselves. I am forever grateful to Mark and Carmen for letting me hold a baby shower there for my sister. I was going through an extremely stressful time – my boyfriend had suffered a double brain aneurysm in the midst of me planning this event and at times I didn’t know if I was coming or going. My Grand Super Duo made the café available to me, complete with DJ, and whipped up a scrumptious buffet that had the guests raving.
Undoubtedly many of us lead hectic lives here in the Big Apple which leaves us yearning for community – a place where we can let our hair down with like minded folks and just have a good time. Grand was such a place. There you’d find artists, writers, entrepreneurs, students, neighborhood elders, techies with laptops on tables, moms and dads contending with rambunctious toddlers over brunch and fashionable kids conversing at the bar. And it was all love. As gentrification continued at a rapid pace in Ft. Greene and Clinton Hill, Grand offered some semblance of the type urban hipness and authenticity that many of us first peeped in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta have It!
My favorite moments at Grand were the many celebrations that Mark and Carmen gave over the years. Friends and I would head there for New York Marathon brunches after cheering the many racers sprinting down Lafayette Ave. On New Years Eve there we kicked up our heels and clinked glasses. And the September Grand anniversary parties were not-to-be missed events that for me officially marked the end of summer. Grand, being as small as it was could never contain the number of revelers that would turn out. We’d just spill out onto the street, over one hundred strong, and let the good time roll. In the early days you’d catch the corner boys across the street staring in awe at the multi-culti, gender-varied crowd – an obvious signal that the ‘hood was changing. And a cop car might cruise through now and again, but I never heard about any trouble from either.
Last Friday night when my taxi rolled up in front of Grand I witnessed the largest crowd I’d ever seen there. I stood for a long while at the door just taking it all in. Then I mingled, greeting old friends and meeting a few new ones. Throughout the night I asked folks, where are we gonna go now that Grand is closing? Responses were mixed. Some were optimistic that another place was bound to open where we could all meet up again for the same type of good times. Others took it as a sign that it was the end of an era that couldn’t be replicated. One woman jokingly offered up her place. One friend, a regular who’d first came to Grand with me, went on and on about how special Grand was. With drink in hand he declared, “Grand is what [places like] Habana Outpost thinks it is.”
“Um-hum,” those around him responded.
I’d made up my mind that I wasn’t leaving Grand that night until the bitter end. Not till the drinks had dried up, the music had ceased, the staff started putting chairs on tables and gates were rolled down. I sat with Eric Coles and photographer Dwayne Rodgers, watching the die-hards get their last dance in as DJ Bill Brown did his thing. Each tune took everyone higher and higher, with one brother seemingly levitating in spirited African dance.
Finally, around 7 a.m. Bill announced, “Last song. This is the last song!” As the volume lowered we all came together in a circle. I got the testifying started by getting in the middle and stating what Grand meant to me in the mere five years it had been in existence. I talked about the good times and thanked Carmen and Mark for providing such a cool and beloved spot. Others followed with their remembrances and praise. I hugged everyone goodbye and stumbled out into the bright morning light feeling giddy, tired and spiritually fulfilled.
The place that was, Grand 275, from Lesterhead’s ClintonHillBlog
A fat, juicy thanks to author (Sisterfriends,) journalist and Brooklyn resident, Julia Chance for lending her voice and evocative writing to Pendulum.