“I’m an old-fashioned retailer,” David Alperin tells us, “I don’t want to lose the fact that I’m a part of this Brooklyn neighborhood. I want to have this forever.” Alperin—that rare-breed, a fourth-generation Brooklyn Heights resident—is the owner of Goose Barnacle, an Atlantic Avenue concept shop that does double-duty as both a menswear store and an art gallery. And, perhaps mirroring the dynamism of the neighborhood around it, the shop resists any kind of commercial stasis, transforming itself over and over as new, perfectly curated wares and art fill the space.
One of the few permanent installations in the shop, though, is a decades-old wooden phone booth that used to reside across the street in the old Long Island Bar, which was owned and operated by Alperin’s grandmother. The phone booth is now full of covetable goods, like Malin+Goetz toiletries, but still has the working ceiling fans that were once necessary as men would smoke while phoning their wives, explaining that they’d be home soon. The ease with which Alperin can relate little bits of neighborhood trivia is incredibly appealing and reveals a sagacity and humor belied by his youth and modern, though timeless, aesthetic. While there is definitely an abundance of small Brooklyn businesses, a shop like Goose Barnacle—owned and run by someone who is completely invested in his neighborhood’s past, present, and future—is somewhat of a rarity.
Visiting Goose Barnacle is like stepping back into a time when hospitality and quality extended into every aspect of life, when immediacy and disposability were not virtues. As is the case in the very best restaurants or hotels, Alperin seems more like he is hosting you in his home than his store. And no visit to Goose Barnacle is complete without getting an answer to the question, ‘What exactly is a goose barnacle?’ Alperin tells us with a smile, “In northwestern Spain, where my grandmother’s from, there’s a delicacy I’ve always been obsessed with. It’s a crustacean that grows on rocks in the roughest areas, where the sea crashes on the cliffs. They’re really ugly—they look like a dinosaur nail. And my grandmother would always have them waiting for me when we would go to visit her. So it’s special to me. That’s a goose barnacle.”