During a lunch with coworkers, the conversation somehow turned to pogs. “I want to open a pog store,” I joked, “just so I could read the comments on Gothamist. I would be the most hated person in New York!” Shortly afterwards, I realized that while opening a physical store was clearly out of the question, I could easily create a webpage for a fictional one. It was an interesting idea for a project, and how people reacted might reveal some interesting truths about our culture’s relationship with nostalgia, the perception of Brooklyn & New York’s current cultural landscapes, and how the media reports on & responds to stories like this.
Over the course of a week or two, I cobbled together a website and Facebook page in my spare time. It was a bit tricky striking a balance between “convincing” and “humorous.” With just a few more outrageous details ($10 slammers? Something about ska music?), the entire project would be too obviously false. But without enough details, the concept of the store wouldn’t be interesting enough to generate any discussion.
I purposely kept the store’s physical location vague. There are quite a few vacant commercial storefronts on Graham Avenue north of Metropolitan, so I said that the store would be located in that area. For the Facebook page, I only entered the zip code “11211.” This caused Facebook to generate a map pointing to the geographical center of the zip code, which is apparently on Frost Street east of Graham Ave.
Once the website and Facebook page were finished, I needed to spread awareness. To publicize the store, all I did was make one post on the “r/nyc” subreddit and one post on the “r/brooklyn” subreddit. Neither post got much traction. The Brooklyn post got a few dozen upvotes, while the NYC post got roughly an equal number of upvotes and downvotes. At this point, I thought that the project have fizzled out without any impact. Which I honestly would have been fine with!
But the following morning I was surprised to see that I'd received quite a few messages on the Brooklyn Pogs Facebook account, mostly from journalists. Additionally, Time Out New York and The Interrobang had already written short blog posts about the store.
I responded to a few of the Facebook messages, making a point to never actually state that the physical store was real or tell a direct lie (phone number, address, descriptions of the physical store, etc). The questions I did answer were mostly about nostalgia and pogs themselves: what I found interesting about pogs, how I thought people would react to a pog store, etc.
The response to the pog store was more interesting and varied than I had imagined. Predictably, many used the store as evidence that Brooklyn was “over.” Many expressed incredulity that I was able to obtain a business loan for the store. Some used it to attack millennial culture and our obsession with nostalgia.
However, the number of positive reactions surprised me. One Facebook user talked about how pogs were a common toy in post-Soviet Russia. A lot of people asked where they could RSVP to the opening event. And a few commenters wondered if this kind of thing - small, weird small businesses that could never survive anywhere else - were actually part of what made New York great?
I’d like to thank everyone who expressed interest in the store and apologize to those that were genuinely interested in the idea. Brooklyn Pogs the physical store will never happen. But if any aspect the idea appeals to you - the nostalgia, the gameplay, the competitions, the collectibility, or the comradery - consider making the idea your own! Start a meetup group, gather some friends, purchase a sack of pogs on eBay, go at it! For while the store itself may have been symptomatic of New York’s ills, the promise behind the store - engaging with something niche and unique, along with a strong community - reveals New York’s strengths.