Star-Revue reporter Emily Kluver spoke to the owners and managers of three local business to check out this month: UBreakIFix, an electronics repair shop in Carroll Gardens; Toby’s Public House, a new Columbia Waterfront District Pizzeria; and Verona Wine Bar, which re-opened earlier this year under new management. Read on to get to know these additions to the neighborhood.
Opened: March 13
What is UBreakIFix? UBreakIFix is a national electronics repair store chain with a new Carroll Gardens location run by the Ortega brothers. Hernan Ortega explained, “We do laptops, computers, cell phones, gaming systems, speakers… anything that has a power button, basically.”
Background: Gaston Ortega is an electrical engineer, while Hernan Ortega has a background in IT and computer repair. From the age of 12, he began taking apart his brother’s computer and became fascinated with electronics.
Together, they are able to divide up the business by their strengths. Hernan, who always dreamed of opening his own shop, runs the day to day operations of the store and acts as the head technician. Gaston manages big picture operations, works with marketing and networking, and takes on the role of business developer.
What makes UBreakIFix special? Located in the space that formerly housed Marietta’s, an old Italian clothing store, the Ortega brothers hope to emulate the same level of knowledge and customer service that the Chirico brothers offered, but in the field of tech. Soon, Hernan hopes to put up a sign commemorating the former clothing store, which served the community for so many years.
Though Hernan says that some members of the community have voiced disappointment at seeing the Marietta’s sign taken down, the brothers are excited to be in the neighborhood. Hernan expressed special love of the Italian community that reminds him so much of his native country, Argentina.
But overall, Hernan hopes that people will see the level of devotion he and his brother have for their customers. The business, modeled on the idea that honesty is the best policy, promises to be straightforward with the best options for repair and recovery, even if that means telling customers it’s cheaper to go elsewhere for their fix. “People come in very stressed,” Hernan noted. “Our goal is to show them we’re here for them.”
Location: 392 Court Street
Toby’s Public House
What is Toby’s: Toby’s Public House is meant to be a neighborhood gathering spot, offering craft beer, brick oven pizza, and a friendly environment. With one successful restaurant open in South Slope, owner Christine Iu decided to open a new location in the Columbia Waterfront District.
The new establishment will offer people craft beers on tap, kegged wine, a house cocktail, and wood-fire pizzas.
Background: Christine’s real estate mentor and old friend turned her on to the location, which she thinks is “a really cool neighborhood.”
Why restaurants? “I’m an idiot,” Christine joked, before refining her statement, “A glutton for punishment.” She has been in the restaurant business for 33 years. Back when she was 14, she started doing pizza and hasn’t turned back.
Now, along with the store’s general manager, Tom Dunn, Christine is looking forward to getting to know their neighbors.
What makes Toby’s Special? Named after Christine’s old Rottweiler – who loved pizza and beer – Toby’s tries to live up to the concept of a public house, which was historically a community gathering space.
“People come in sweats, we had people come in after getting married,” Christine explained, pointing out the diversity of the crowd that Toby’s draws.
Between the food, the drinks, and the TVs, the place promises to be an ideal spot to watch the big game or tune in to important news coverage. “After the 2008 election, you could hear a pin drop when Obama was speaking,” Christine recalled of the South Slope location. “We had a big gathering that night.”
Location: 215 Columbia Street
Verona Wine Bar
Reopened: Early March
What is Verona? Verona Wine Bar is a place to “eat, drink, and relax.” They serve a small menu of carefully planned dishes and offer a large variety of wine, cocktails, and beer. The bar “was built on the idea of a wine and tapas place,” manager Keith William explained. “We’re not a typical bar for the area.”
In addition to being an upscale bar, Verona holds special events and private parties of up to 120 people. They update their social media accounts with what’s coming up – like a Cinco De Mayo party they are hosting on May 5.
Background: The owner of the establishment had always dreamed of running his own wine bar in Brooklyn and opened Verona in May of 2016. After closing for a couple of months earlier this year, Verona’s owner hired all new staff to run the place. Keith manages the venue, Danielle tends bar, and “Chef know-it-all,” as he is affectionately called, runs the kitchen.
Together, the new team is trying to keep the place running smoothly and consistently. Keith explained that while in the past the wine bar kept inconsistent hours, he is committed to keeping to the scheduled hours.
Why Verona? “It’s not a dive bar,” Keith explained. “We don’t want to be a burgers and mozzarella sticks kind of place.” Instead, the kitchen turns out made-from-scratch food served on wooden boards and caters to a more “adult” crowd.
“[Verona] has that sophistication,” Danielle mused. “It’s a nice sort of calmness, I suppose.”
Location: 253 Van Brunt Street