By Rafa Sattar

An Idyllic Enclave

By Rafa Sattar

Exiting the subway at Borough Hall was familiar: Diverse faces bustled in the area, getting to and from their destinations, as we were greeted with the conspicuous logos of chain stores such as Sephora and Starbucks. There were an array of stores within the area with varying histories such as a behemothic Trader Joe’s building, which once accommodated a bank, and the excessively expensive United Artist’s

By Rafa Sattar

Movie Theater. Being near a transit center, there was no loyal customer base to serve, essential to the endurance of small businesses. Thus, customers here could simply opt for brand-name stores indifferent to the unique charm of shopping at mom and pop shops.

Nonetheless, walking down Court Street, the sidewalks gradually grew less grimy, and the contrived chain stores gave way to alluring and neatly kept small businesses. The roads of Carroll Gardens were finely paved where residents idyllically walked their purebred dogs and leisurely read newspapers that highlight the nation’s current political state on sidewalk benches. The sight, just blocks away from the hectic streets of Atlantic Ave and Joralemon Street, was representative of the serene enclave the neighborhood offered to residents.

By Rafa Sattar

Nonetheless, juxtaposed against the polished, elegant exteriors of neighboring small businesses, the Court Pastry Shop was prominent in its gaudy, outmoded appearance. The overall ambiance of the bakery evoked a 1950s time capsule with aged wooden panels, granite counters, fading blue-tiled cornices, a gallery of family photos, and a painting graced by the gentle smiles of the founders. The homely interior only added to its rustic charm.

Allured by the Aroma…

By Rafa Sattar

As we entered, we were mesmerized by the aroma of freshly-baked Sicilian delicacies as a kind woman greeted us at the front counter of the store. The receptiveness and cordiality of the employees alone seemed to plant a sense of affinity toward a bakery which we had just stepped into. Though we were prepared to be received in a more unfavorable angle upon asking the employee for an interview as we had on numerous other occasions, she instead agreed readily and left the counter to call the manager. Within a few minutes, we were able to speak to the manager of Court Pastry Shop, Eric.



By Rafa Sattar

As a family-owned business, Eric described how the business was founded by Salvatore Farelli in 1948 in April and then handed down to his sons Gasper and Vinny. Characteristic of the bakery is its adherence to the making of authentic Italian pastries, such as the cannoli and Sfogliatelle, particularly originating from Sicily and Italian villages.

As Eric underscored, “The taste now is the same as it tasted in 1948,” which he contributes is due to the use of natural ingredients, ensuring the every pastry is fresh, and the continued methods that the bakers employ. Every pastry made in the shop, such as the cannolis, is unique and handmade daily. Eric described how each cannoli is “stretched out one by one” sans the use of cookie cutters. Each cannoli that we tried encompassed a taste that left us craving more.


An Acrid Atmosphere for Business in Cobble Hill

Naturally, we wondered what Court Street was like before we became familiar with it. We wondered why the rent, as business owners have told us, is immensely high. We examined this by considering factors that would influence the people of a neighborhood to flock to and raise their families in an area such as this. Factors such as proximity to “the city,” standard and value of education and nearby zoned schools, crime levels, income, and types of businesses would impact the choice to live in Cobble Hill.

Seeing that this bakery was opened in 1948, after transforming from a toy store, we explored the conditions of rent and age of residents before this year. Based off of our interview, the neighborhood was once a Sicilian Italian enclave of immigrants. We connected this to information found in a 1943 Profile of South Brooklyn found at the CUNY graduate center.

picture found using: http://www.1940snewyork.com/

Concentrating on the area surrounding Court Street many people under age 30 had an expenditure under $1,800. Many of the residents at this time were immigrants that may not have been able to afford a high rent. We thus compared this to income, total returns, and taxes in 1998.

Using www.infoshare.org, we were able to create various area profiles. The total returns on 1998 personal income in District 6 were 50% with the total adjusted gross income of 2,170,203, 50.7%. Upon seeing this, we explored social aspects that deemed this neighborhood desirable. Using this same website, we constructed a profile for crime and noticed a drop over the span of 1985 to 2001. The total reported felonies have decreased from 7.5% to 2.1% and the total arrests from 25.8% to 20.8%. Additional area profiles on education, businesses, and public assistance such as Medicaid have shown the number of establishments separated by the number of employees and the number of food stores and eating and drinking places. 

The majority of establishments, 63.5%, employ 1-4 people. But, this does not tell us where these employees reside. So, you cannot tell if many of the people that live in this neighborhood actually work here. The total number of food stores in this area is 130, 34.9% of the stores here.

Image found using: http://www.1940snewyork.com/

Also, there are 20 retail bakeries, two notable bakeries being Court Pastry Shop and Caputo’s Bakery. According to the area profile of people receiving public assistance, 9.7% on Medicaid and 14.5% receiving some form of assistance. This tells us that some of the people living in this area receive public assistance and do not have as high incomes as their neighbors. Lastly, the area report of education revealed why many choose to remain in this neighborhood to raise their children. The teachers in the public schools are, on average, 27.7% licensed and permanently assigned to their schools. Many of the teachers do not take days off, only 3.3% of them did from 1999-2000. The ethnicity of students is somewhat balanced between White students, 11.6%, and 13.5% Black students. The average number of days that students have attended school has increased over the three-year timespan. These numbers seem low, this may mean that the sampling pool was not large.

Information from Social Explorer interactive maps

Interestingly on maps provided by NYC OASIS, the white-concentrated blocks, in particular, have median household incomes that surpass $105,000; this trend, in fact, encompasses much of Cobble Hill. Instead, neighboring blocks identified as being “communities of color” have median household incomes below $45,000. Whether intentional or not, the efforts of public officials to “rehabilitate” respective communities such as Cobble Hill have only further stratified racial communities both socially and economically.


Layered Issues

Eric described a woman named Joanne who came to the bakery expressing her gratitude for the compassion of the original owners to her family as African-Americans in Jim Crow-era America. Eric recounted how she described coming to the bakery as a little girl with her father where they would be welcomed and would engage in conversation. 

It was unusual to hear that she particularly prioritized the “fairness” she was treated with as it would otherwise be assumed that race relations were much more assuaged in New York City. Unfortunately, racial integration was not conventional within the broader American landscape in Jim Crow-era America, which is particularly why she cherished her memories at the bakery all the more. The warmth she and her father were met with at Court Pastry Shop was in many respects anomalous in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn as well.

Cobble Hill has in fact historically been a white-concentrated neighborhood.

Below you will find a timeline outlining the development of gentrification in the area:


By John D Morrell

Storefront E. Lauricella and Sons Inc. is established in 1898 according to a photo by John D Morrell but a laundromat has now taken its place. This has sadly been the fate of many small businesses in this area.


A newspaper article titled “Pictures Son in Gang Killing as Sissie” from April 27th, 1948 on The Brooklyn Daily Eagle describes an instance of juvenile gang violence amongst teenage boys within the neighborhood. The article indicates that those involved in the shooting of an eighteen-year-old man lived on Kane St, Carroll St, and Dean St (all within proximity of Court Pastry Shop). In response to the incident, the chairman of the Brooklyn Borough West Advisory Council underscores the need for implementation of President Truman’s Proclamation on Juvenile Delinquency, which would investigate and create recommendations to communities based on local conditions


By John D Morrell

On  December 31st, 1958 unpretentious, “non-flashy” storefronts run next to Court Pastry Shop. The street appears particularly crowded at the entrance of the bakery.


On June 9, 1961, a letter to W.E.B. Du Bois, the city identifies Cobble Hill as “badly blighted.” Instead, the letter underscores the need to implement an “urban renewal project” in Cobble Hill in order to provide residents with “low cost,” and “middle income” housing options.


Found on: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org

An article published by MIT Press indicates that Cobble Hill was being “rehabilitated” by younger families who were beginning to move into a neighborhood of predominantly “older” Italian, Syrian, and Puerto Rican locals. The article also describes the neighborhood as “resurgent”.


2015 US Census lists 5090 respondents that have identified as Italian which is the largest single grouping within Cobble Hill in respect to ancestry. Moreover, 4,284 residents identified as Puerto Rican, while 261 individuals identified as Arab.

Current Day

Of the listed small mom and pop shops, only Court Pastry Shop remains in business. A daycare, fitness center, clothing boutique, and smoke shop have taken the place of the deeply-rooted businesses next to Court Pastry Shop. Nonetheless, it is evident that it is not the salient influence of Italian cuisine in Court Pastry Shop which has prompted its enduring success.


Kneading Compassion in the Community

Nonetheless, Court Pastry Shop has served in many respects, as a junction point for individuals of numerous social backgrounds drawn to the delectable treats and superlative service offered by the bakery. Eric stressed that the owners have always been “nice people” and that he hoped to emulate their hospitable service. Eric recalled how the original owners used to be able to provide their employees with health insurance. Nonetheless, due to rising rent and lack of governmental support, continuing to provide such provisions would have been prohibitive for the business. Eric remarked that he would appreciate the governmental support to directly provide such benefits to employees of small businesses. Eric is in fact deeply invested in the bakery, having earned his first job making Italian ices for the bakery during the summer ten years ago. Since then, Eric earned jobs at both the counter and kitchen of the bakery, eventually rising to the position of manager. As the current owners are aging, they have trusted Eric to run the business on their behalf. Eric hopes that the business will at least be around for another fifty years while ensuring that everything is kept the same to keep the customer base happy.

Authenticity in an Automated Age

Since the inventory is entirely handmade, it can be difficult to rapidly make complex dessert items such as Sfogliatelle, which requires one to stretch out, and cut a roll of dough “as big as a carpet”. According to Eric, having to deal with fastidious customers who simply do not realize that the employees are “ not machines” can be particularly difficult. Minor variations between pastries and cookies can be practically impossible to overcome without the use of machinery, which the Court Pastry Shop deliberately avoids to maintain the authenticity of the bakery.

Aside from a proposal to create a website to make ordering for customers more efficient, Eric emphasized that he would not consider making any changes to the business. Eric described customers in their 50s and 40s reminiscing of coming to the bakery with their own fathers in their youth, purchasing Italian ices and cookies. In Eric’s words, “Providing people with their memories is pretty cool”


 Creaming the Competition

When we referred to another business owner we interviewed who pessimistically described that small businesses would be rooted out within the next 10 years, Eric acknowledged that he sympathized owing to large corporations such as Amazon. Nonetheless, Eric is confident that the Court Pastry Shop will be able to endure particularly because “robots don’t know how to make specialty pastries and cakes.” Eric particularly stressed that it is fundamentally the support of local communities rather than the government, which enables small business to thrive. As Eric pointed out, “if you support small business, small business support local charities, schools, and churches and helps the neighborhood grow”

Unlike other businesses that we’ve visited, Court Pastry Shop does not use flashy

By Rafa Sattar

advertising and has chosen to remain in its classic state. The 50s themed bakery features classic Italian pastries that bring up nostalgic feelings when one takes a bite of anything produced here. We could tell that this business was different from the rest simply from the way we were treated upon entering the bakery. Greeted with polite smiles and employees with helpful demeanors, we were delighted to have spent time chatting with the manager and staff of the establishment.

At the end of the interview, as we were purchasing cannolis, the manager kindly requested the employee not to charge us. The intimate service offered by the employees of the shop is surely an aspect which we would never be able to encounter through an automaton; it is ultimately the compassion and craft of the employees, which distinguishes the Court Pastry Shop from its mediocre, mechanized counterparts.


(n.d.). Circular letter from Brooklyn Heights Association to W. E. B. Du Bois [Letter written June 9, 1961 to W.E.B. Du Bois]. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b153-i031

Kaufman, Irving. (n.d). (1938). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from  http://catalog.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/record=b11954946.

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. (1969). South Brooklyn, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Gowanus, Windsor Terrace. (cont.) MIT Press. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/c42cb93f-8e03-ca65-e040-e00a18064e5c

Morrell. Daniel D. (n.d). (1958). Retrieved May 20, 2017, from http://brooklynhistory.pastperfectonline.com/photo/889AF345-5C54-4BEA-A2F4-285280414613.

NYC OASIS MAP. (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2017, from http://www.oasisnyc.net/map.aspx

Photo Record. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://brooklynhistory.pastperfectonline.com/photo/8640FC41-AAE7-4CCB-93BF-355235643490

(1948, April 27). Pictures Son in Gang Killing as ‘Sissie’.The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. p. 1. Retrieved from https://bklyn.newspapers.com/image/52910074/.

US Demography 1790 to Present. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.socialexplorer.com/6f4cdab7a0/explore

Welcome to Infoshare Online! (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.infoshare.org/main/public.aspx

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