On the wall of the manager’s office at Crest Hardware hangs a painting of a young, clean-shaven Joe Franquinha smiling at his white-haired father, Manny. It’s an image that displays the past and future of a North Brooklyn institution celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Joe, who now sports a 3-inch-long beard, sits under the portrait in a room filled with memorabilia and family photos. Since taking over as manager of Crest in 2006, he often looks at the painting for guidance. “It was a present from a customer and friend who knew I was taking over,” said Franquinha. “It shows that it’s sometimes tough to see eye to eye, and reminds me to be patient.”
Patience has long been a specialty of the Franquinhas. During the 80s, Crest built a loyal customer base of homeowners and contractors owing largely to their highly knowledgeable and dedicated staff. By the late 90s, however, big North Brooklyn factories like United Electric had closed their doors, and the Great Recession in 2008 had contractors making fewer visits. Sensing the change in the neighborhood demographic, Manny focused on educating renters and serving an explosion of artists in search of material for non-traditional artwork. (The store now carries 300 colors of spray paint and soft-body acrylic, paint and brushes.) When in 1993 local artist Gene Pool asked to showcase his work in the window, Manny naturally agreed, seeing an opportunity to open Crest to a new clientele.
“My dad’s a consummate businessman,” explained Joe. “But more importantly, he treats everyone as equal. Whether you’re a rooted resident or just moved in.”
In 1994, Pool curated the first Crest Art Show with the theme “art as retail.” All the work was made with hardware bought at the store, and visitors enjoyed an acoustic performance and a keg of beer in the backyard. For many artists looking for cheap alternative art spaces in North Brooklyn, a hardware store made sense. No one had to play by white box rules, and all could exhibit work to the entire neighborhood. Pool organized each show until 1999 when he moved out of New York.
In 2008, Joe Franquinha restarted the show, and took on the duties of curator. His girlfriend, Liza Shields, a clothing and graphic designer and friend Jeremiah Davidson serve as co-producers. Under Joe’s guidance, the event has flourished into a full festival, and is currently one of the largest group art shows in the city. This year, Crest Fest will feature over 200 works of art ranging from photography to mixed media, 25 vendors and musical performances by bands such as the Hard Nips and the Pitchblack Brass Band as well DJs including Petey Complex and Peter Hale. The event, which is free and open to all ages, will support the City Reliquary Museum and Civic Organization.
Pieces cramming the storage rooms of Crest reflect the uniquely innovative and urban feel of the North Brooklyn art scene. Mikal Hameed’s multi media sound panel “Rebaroque” is a model of upcycling, in which a frame and speakers have been repurposed to please both the eye and ear. In “Rat Race,” Kelly Vetter uses steel wool to create a rat on a mousetrap with wheels – a material usually used to fill holes to prevent such a pest from invading a house.
In addition to larger companies such as True Value and Converse Rubber Tracks, sponsors include local businesses such as The Meat Hook, Vine Wine and Main Drag Music, which will donate all band equipment for the event. It’s the kind of community service Joe Franquinha believes has and will continue to sustain his family business.
“Crest supports the arts, so artists support us,” said Franquinha. “But it’s also about helping the whole community. There are a lot of preconceived notions about hardware stores, that they’re rough places where you’ll be ridiculed if you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s not how we operate. We make sure you know how to do something and we’ve been here 50 years because of that mentality.”
The Crest Hardware Art Show will run through August 31st. For more information, visit www.cresthardwareartshow.com (Woods and Marquia Fox / Photo: Nick Powell)!
Crest Fest ‘12
Crest Hardware and Urban Garden Center
558 Metropolitan Avenue
Saturday, June 30th
1:00PM – 7:00PM