Being a superhero in New York City is easy. Just walk into the Brooklyn Superhero Supply in Park Slope, 5th Avenue between 5th and 6th street, and walk away with a new cape, a grappling hook, a tin of antimatter, or even a new identity. And if you need a partner, Brooklyn Superhero Supply also runs a sidekick placement service. And like any good superhero, the store itself has a secret second identity.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply is the brainchild of acclaimed novelist Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari who founded 826, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. When they founded the original 826 chapter in San Francisco, the building they chose for their tutoring center was allocated for retail. The law required them to either open a retail store or take their offices elsewhere. Dave and Ninive chose the latter and invented the Pirate Supply Store that not only helped them get past the restriction but also helped attract kids and raise funds for the organization by selling pirate wares and souvenirs. When Dave and Ninive opened the New York chapter of 826, the superhero theme was the obvious choice given the city’s history with vigilante.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. was opened in 2004 and since then has been taking care of the city’s superhero needs. They sell capes, utility belts, masks, and all sorts of infinitely silly accessories such as deflector bracelets, bottles of chaos, anti-gravity, immortality and more. You can get into costumes and test their aerodynamic capabilities in a cape-testing wind tunnel, which is essentially a series of fans on a pedestal, to see how they fare when you are flying or fighting. If you aren’t even sure whether you are a superhero or a villain, you can go into the villain chamber and answer a series of questions to determine your villain type.
All the store’s products are made in house by its staff and volunteers. Some of the toys are repurposed surplus goods, like suction cups that kids can imagine scaling buildings with. Others like the Galactic Light Blaster or the air cannon, which sprays a burst of highly pressurized air to stun foes, are dollar-store toys that suddenly become much cooler with a dose of imagination. The disguise kits are dossiers instructing you on how to adopt a new persona.
The store’s real identity lies behind a secret door designed like a bookshelf that leads to a spacious learning center where students ages 6 to 18 participate in creative writing programs and get homework help. The learning center is free and any children in the age group can walk in and participate. The center is run by a team of 250 volunteers, five staff members, and a handful of interns who help tutor over 2,000 students each year.
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