If you’re a creative type who lives in Bushwick, and not directly off of the L train, it might be a statistical inevitability you will end up spending time at Little Skips. The café, located a few blocks away from the Myrtle-Broadway JMZ, has become a Bushwick institution, a homebase with internet access and caffeine for artistic strays. Art, local work, rotates constantly on the walls, and the mismatched tables and chairs, some covered in collage, look like they were scavenged from a hoarder’s garage sale. Skips is almost constantly crowded with sippers on laptops, as well as regulars for whom the spot is part of their daily routine.
There’s no doubt that Little Skips has become the epicenter of the Littler Bushwick, the community that thrives on the outskirts of the New York Times’ vanguard, the few blocks designated as “Morgantown” and Roberta’s. But while Skips as just a café is known to many, it’s begun to pursue other creative ventures. The L sat down for some cucumber-flavored water (Skips style) with Henry Glucroft, 26, co-owner of the business, to talk about the community, as well as Little Skips’ new enterprise—a record label.
The L: When did you move to Bushwick?
I moved to Bushwick in the summer of 2009. My parents found it funny because my dad’s great grandfather had a shop in Bushwick on Knickerbocker Avenue. His mother used to pay people to walk my grandpa to school every day because it was not too safe. So there’s a bit of nostalgia with that.
The L: When and how did Little Skips come into your life?
Linda Thach, my partner, had been living in Bushwick a little longer than I, and had been in the hospitality industry, and was fed up with managers and working for other people, and had envisioned to open a café in the neighborhood, and found this space, which was very raw, and nothing like what you see today, and signed a lease with the idea of opening a café called Little Skips. She needed help getting things done. And that’s more on my strong side. I like to get things done, create, build.
What motivated me was, I would love to be in an office where I’m not getting paid for the work I’m doing on my laptop, but paid for all the work that’s taking place around me, which worked out well, and still does, to work on my other projects, network. I’ve met a lot of other opportunities through the café, so it’s kind of been my office to create a space for creative individuals to interact, and build a community. And I think that’s what’s helped keep people grounded in the community as well.
The L: How do you think Bushwick has changed since you moved here?
I mean, first it was the genuine, real artists that, you know, complete integrity, the ones that don’t even take jobs for the sake of making a living, really save every penny so that they can survive as artists. And ultimately those are the artists that are capable of pushing their creativity to the furthest of us at times. And then there’s the second wave of artists, the artists that want to be in an artsy place and have maybe dayjobs or whatnot, doesn’t mean they’re not as true, but definitely sort of the second wave of artists.
Then there’s the wave of people after that that aren’t quite artists but that are cool with the creative community and want to be in it, and along the way I’m sure there are designers, illustrators, people that don’t fit the exact stereotype of the “artist,” but that are creative professionals. Then, followed more recently, by students, lawyers, the more conventional route, started moving in.
I feel like I moved in about six months before the drastic changes started to happen, and I don’t know if it’s me being stuck in the Little Skips world of things, but I think Little Skips and places like Little Skips accelerated the change a lot more, because they gave people a place to get coffee, or those little things. Those are the things that have really accelerated and shaped the neighborhood we see today.
The L: How did Little Skips get into curating art, like the art on the walls?
That was my doing. I’ve always loved art. My mom’s a ceramicist. At first I would dread going to all these museums when I was 10, 11, and hearing my mom lecture me. There are so many artists in the neighborhood, I’ve always known a lot of artists, compiled business cards, gone to art shows, said “Hey, I like the art,” when I like the art, and just made interesting connections that way. So it’s really cool to be able to curate art in the space, but it’s very time consuming to put the shows together, to promote them, and I don’t even do nearly as good as a job as I’d like to.
The L: Let’s talk about the transition from art to music. How did you decide to make a Little Skips label, Skips Records?
We just really wanted to be active with not only the people who are very talented musicians and artists, but who happen to be our customers. It’s a way of showing support for people who support us. It’s what keeps the community going, those little things.
The L: Do you see Skips Records, eventually, as becoming part of the larger Brooklyn music scene?
I’d like to. Right now, I’d say that’s the biggest challenge we’ve had. We have a lot of top musicians coming in here, a few members of bands like Friends, one of our favorite customers, who religiously orders a soy flat white, is a very well respected experimental artist, Lichens. So, we have a lot of these musicians, now the challenge is letting them know. It’s the same challenge with the art on the walls. We’re a café, how do we get them to think of us as an art gallery? And it’s a big gap to try and cross, but I feel like we have, to a certain extent, successfully crossed it. We’re not considered a gallery, but I definitely see so much more appreciation for the art we put out than at any other café.
So musically, that’s a challenge to convince these local indie artists, “Hey, we’re a local establishment, we’re into you guys not just because of your talent, but because you’re local, and hopefully we can work together along those lines.” Not only is the music biz so tough, and musicians struggle to make it, especially in Brooklyn, so they’ve gotta be convinced, “Why am I gonna release with you over this top UK label that’s offering me $2,000 to do my music video?”
The L: So what services would Skips Records provide to the artists?
I’d say the fairly standard record label functions, to release and promote the music. A little down the line we’d like to get more involved with the bookings and have a performance space.
The L: Do you have an artistic vision for the label?
I guess both the art and music match the Little Skips aesthetic. Elegant and playful.
I’m not going to release dance music on it, more bands, live music, a little bit on the pop side, rock. Nothing really too cheesy, it has to be original. And ideally, the people are part of our community already, and if they’re not we’ll bring them in.
The L: Let’s jump into the future. Let’s say Skips Records is wildly successful. In your dreams, what do you see?
A block party on our block that would grow over the course of the years. That’s something I’d like to see happen in the near future.
The L: You know, it seems like the community down here is different than what’s up by the Morgan stop, like the Roberta’s block party they have there.
I hate when people disagree with me when I say that there are two Bushwicks. The people who live off the L and the people who live off the JMZ. They’re like, “What are you talking about?” Where have you been?! I definitely see the two Bushwicks as different, even though they intersect in many ways. It’s hard to describe what makes them different. It might be that our side is a little hippier. They’re hipper, we’re hippier. Maybe they take themselves a little more seriously. Both words, and no disrespect. I think they’re so used to being called “you hipsters,” that it’s gotten to them a little bit.
The L: Haha, they have to own it.
They’re used to living in a cool neighborhood. Maybe we take ourselves a little less seriously.
Skips Records released its first album in September, Photon Dynamo and the Shiny Pieces’ third record, Mess You Up. The label’s second release, an album by artist Bobby Genalo, is set to drop in February, as well as a compilation album in March.
Follow Sydney Brownstone on Twitter @sydbrownstone