Nov 2, 2021
Teensy is a new teen zine that celebrates South Brooklyn businesses
How a Boerum Hill 17-year-old developed a new print publication to give shine to struggling small businesses during the pandemic
Esme Neubert seems like a typical high school senior, at least by New York standards. She commutes to Beacon High School in Times Square, then rushes home to Boerum Hill to finish her math homework and is working on a tight deadline to submit her early decision college applications.
But in between, Neubert is hard at work on the second issue of her buzzy magazine, Teensy.
The slick and colorful Teensy is a multi-section magazine that features interviews, profiles and features of small businesses and community groups throughout South Brooklyn. Neubert, 17, and a cohort of friends developed Teensy to support local businesses that had been affected by the pandemic.
“It came from a place of seeing specific businesses and local shops in my neighborhood closing,” she says. “I wanted to be something that would either inspire neighborhood pride and at the same time help drum up support for these small businesses.”
While readers (and journalists) have been bemoaning the death of print media for as long as the Teensy staff has been alive, Emse settled on creating a print magazine because she wanted to work directly with her community.
“Blogging and podcasts are more impersonal, I feel. There’s this nostalgic quality about my neighborhood that still honors print, especially in the older generation,” she says. “There’s a lot of creative people in Brooklyn, whether that be in a field of art, like photography, or illustration, or painting. All of that can come together in a magazine in a really cool way that kind of encompasses everyone’s individual niche or area of expertise.”
‘Connect to the community’
Neubert grew up in a creative household (her mother is a graphic designer and her father a digital director in architecture), and took design classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the School of Visual Art. Harnessing her powers of organization and drive to create, Neubert sent out an email blast to her neighbors in search of teens who wanted to write about their communities. She ended up with a crew of 16 13- to 17-year-olds who were keen to write stories, poetry and take photos of their neighborhoods.
“I didn’t give too many parameters or guidelines, my main thing was that it had to connect to the community in some way or another,” Neubert says, adding that the Teensy team lives in neighborhoods from Park Slope to Red Hook and Cobble Hill. “I just said, ‘find something that you’re really passionate about—a cafe or a community organization or community garden—that you think is really cool’.”
Teensy’s debut issue has six sections: civics, fashion, art, music, food and makers, along with poetry and a crossword. The debut issue showcases Carroll Gardens’ Orphan Guitars alongside a sidebar on local record stores, a piece on Pushcart Vintage in Windsor Terrace with a list of the top thrift stores in south Brooklyn, and an in-depth story on Christopher’s Secret Garden. The magazine is visually engaging, too, and employs the DIY attitude of punk zines—the cover image is a candy-colored can of spray paint with the words “South Brooklyn” scrawled across it—alongside a surprisingly nuanced understanding of traditional magazine aesthetics.
Following a Kickstarter campaign, Teensy was released in September and 1,000 free copies were distributed to local businesses. The magazine was an immediate hit: “A teenage girl just dropped off her zine at my bookstore and I have never written a thank you note so fast. As ever, teenage girls are the fucking best,” Books Are Magic owner Emma Straub tweeted.
While Teensy provides new, excited support for small businesses, the mag is also a much-needed outlet for its creators during an (wait for it) unprecedented time.
“I loved being part of the Teensy community. It was an amazing opportunity to support my neighborhood as well as connect with friends throughout the pandemic,” says Eva Sheehy-Moss, 17, who wrote the article on Christopher’s Secret Garden. For 15-year-old social media head Cece Milde, working on Teensy “provided me with a challenge, a creative outlet, and a deeper appreciation for my community” during “a really weird year.”
Seeing a professional project to fruition is a unique opportunity, Neubert adds. “They could also cultivate all their creative passions and an outlet, and a project that’s separate from their schoolwork.” Co-designer August Geraci, also 17, developed about a third of the magazine and the project helped him hone his design skills.
“There was a lot of energy surrounding the project and I was inspired by what my peers brought to the table. It was a learning experience for me because I was working in an unfamiliar environment with new challenges,” he says. “Subsequently and partially due to Teensy, I have decided to go to college for design.”
In October, Teensy highlighted 30 local businesses on its Instagram to further the reach of the magazine. Neubert now at work on a second issue with students from her high school, which would broaden the scope of Teensy’s coverage out of south Brooklyn and possibly across all boroughs.
“A lot of people in Brooklyn are creative. But a lot of people in my school are super creative, too. There’s a lot of people who love journalism, and …. there are super talented artists at my school,” she says. “People are interested, especially now that we have more extracurricular opportunities, in getting back to that sense of community, especially school community, because we had so little of that last year.”
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