My LES: Rene Henricks
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What do you do?
I run two of the first established juice & coffee bars in the East Village (Juicy Lucy Juice Bar — at 1st & 1st and Ave. A between 5th and 6th), which would not be possible without the skills and tenacity of my long time managers and staff, some of the nicest and most hardworking people I’ve ever met. I consider myself incredibly lucky to do what I do.
How long have you lived on the LES?
I moved to Suffolk Street in 1990. That is when I first heard the term ‘gentrification.’
Favorite block in the hood?
That has changed as the neighborhood changes. I’m currently a big fan of the East River Park, I really enjoy going to C-Town, they have the best deals in the hood. I suppose I’m particularly biased towards the corner of First Avenue and First Street where my kiosk is located. I always run into people I haven’t seen in years when I’m there. Being on that corner since 1996, I’ve spent a lot of time watching folks coming from the subway going to and from work, then during the day
we serve the artists, musicians and the hustlers — that’s when you get the gossip. I get a big kick seeing kids that were just toddlers when we met now in high school and off to college. I always give them the stink eye when I see them and tell them I’m watching just for a tease. I think it’s way funnier than they do.
Favorite date spot in the hood?
I usually end up at 3 of Cups, they have a nice outdoor seating area off the beaten path, the food is delicious and reasonably priced and the people are the best. It always feels like family when I’m there.
Favorite coffee in the hood?
That’s a hard one, I’m a Bustelo warrior. The reason we only serve that brand is because when I first moved here, I couldn’t find it outside of Life Cafe unless you made it at home. I grew up with it, my grandmother would make it for me when I would stay with her in Florida. I was 8 when I had my first cafe con leche and needless to say I got hooked, I have yet to find something better. That being said, if I do go somewhere for coffee it’s Puerto Rico Coffee Co. on St.Marks between 1st and 2nd Ave. They’re a bit surly over there, but the coffee is alway good.
Favorite cheap eats in the hood?
Punjabi, Paquitos take out, and Stromboli.
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
I usually take people to Boca Chica, They have a great brunch, the food is always good and the portions are generous. It has a laid back atmosphere and it’s the real neighborhood. It hasn’t changed much since I used to work there in the early 90′s, which for me is part of it’s charm. It’s a great place to show out of towners the East Village “experience,” especially if it’s family.
Favorite dive/locals bar in the hood?
Hands down — the International Bar.
How has the neighborhood changed in the last few years?
Well, it’s a love/hate sort of thing. I understand change is inevitable and I am extremely grateful for the business. That being said, I hate to see change at the cost of hard working people losing their stores due to high rent, especially after they’ve become established. It’s a real shame that most of the ‘Mom & Pops’ could not make it. Those businesses were the back bone of this community and set the ground work for everyone else, they were our “personality.”
Also, the idea that you can lose your home to students or to people who can afford to tear down beautiful old buildings is especially scary and stressful. Don’t get me started! It also really bothers me that people no longer feel the need to move out of the way of sidewalk traffic, I don’t know when exactly we lost our collective politeness.
Favorite LES memory?
Although it was bitter sweet, being able to witness our neighborhood post 9/11 was a beautiful experience. We were barricaded at 14th street and needed to prove residency to get home. There were no cars allowed in and it was so quiet for about two or three weeks. People were especially kind towards one another during that period. We came together as a collective, it was quite moving.