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Guest blogger month at Curbed continues with Brooks of Sheffield aka Lost City taking the reins. He'll be offering up Carroll Gardens-specific musings till Friday, and will occasionally throw us a bone. Today, he files a report on local convenience store Winn Discount.
What holds Carroll Gardens together as a neighborhood? The F train? Ancient ties to the southern Italian town of Mola di Bari? The memory of the filming of "Moonstruck"? No. It's the Winn Discount.
If there is a resident in Carroll Gardens—or Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill for that matter—who has never visited the low-slung, catch-all convenience store that is Winn Discount, they are either an invalid or hopelessly ignorant. The average local will visit the shop at least two times a week. For hairspray. For twine. For a melonballer. For holiday lights. I have often passed friends and neighbors on the street and I can tell from their purposeful walk that they are making a call on Winn, and they have no doubt that Winn will have what they need. I once had a globe-trotting friend. His friends from Rome and Paris would visit him and become transfixed by the discount store, visiting it every day, marveling at the store's cornucopia.
Winn is the kind of store that every town and every big city neighborhood once possessed, but few now enjoy. They were called five-and-dimes, houseware stores, general stores, whatever. They had everything, and most of it for cheap. In recent years, they've been replaced in New York by a combination of Rite Aids, Staples and other big box stores. Winn Discount has somehow survived on Court Street simply because it is unbeatable. I've patronized it countless times over 13 years; only three times has it not had what I needed, from cheesecloth to potting soil. They've also probably won survival points with good service. The clerks and managers seem strangely dedicated and they know the store like the back of their hands. Whatever doodad or widget you want, they'll know which stock-stuffed aisle it's on.
I don't know who Winn is or was. Or if there is a Winn. I've never met the owner. The main manager is a pale, helpful, middle-aged guy who sometimes has a moustache and sometimes doesn't and always knows if the store carries something or not.
A measure of how dependent the nabe is on this ugly, endearing, rock-solid business came in July when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the Winn Discount had been named a contract station by the Postal Service. If anyone can alleviate Carroll Gardens' enduring mail-service misery, it's this place.