Monday, October 5, 2009

Interview with Mark Gerbush of 200 Fifth

All About Fifth Interviews Mark Gerbush, owner of 200 Fifth, on Park Slope fandom and the passage of time.

AFF: Where are you from originally?

Gerbush: Brooklyn, New York

AFF: When did you open in Park Slope?

Gerbush: 200 FIFTH Restaurant and Bar opened January 14, 1987.

AFF: You’ve been around a long time, what has changed most in the neighborhood?

Gerbush: Huge changes: First, the demographics. When I came to Park Slope the people in the Slope were much more diversified and less affluent. There was a larger range of age group and less educated - but street smarter. Second is the way the 5th Avenue looks, there were abandoned stores everywhere - some of them, shells just lived in by the homeless and unfortunate. Fifth Avenue has come along way and has become one of the best avenues in all of New York.

AFF: What do you miss about the old 5th Avenue?

Gerbush: The pioneer attitude. A lot of people fought hard to make 5th Ave better; livable. The camaraderie that existed between us, the common bond, brought out the best in us. We had a sense of social justice, but we also wanted a certain quality of life and we wanted people held accountable and to respect their neighbors. Most of us were not born with silver spoons and we fought hard for what we had.

AFF: As a sports bar, you must have the inside scoop—-does Park Slope have any discernible favorites, even by slim margins? Are we Mets or Yankees town? What about Jets and Giants? (And, of course, what about you?)

Gerbush: I’m a New York Fan, and proud of it. I root for all NY teams and that’s good for business. We get a great crowd for all NY teams, but I lean towards the Giants. Often, it depends on who’s winning. It seems whatever team is on top will have a large draw. We also get a buzz for Boston teams and Pittsburgh Steeler Nation.

AFF: In a word, what kind of sports fans are Brooklynites?

Gerbush: Brooklyn sports fans demonstrate the classic Brooklyn traits: Passionate, Loyal, and Thirsty.

AFF: The layout of your establishment has a hybridized feel. What’s your model? Are there challenge to making a bar and restaurant work closely together or are they naturally complementary?

Gerbush: I came up with the model on my own. I had talked thoroughly with my friend Ron Beasley, who owned The Carriage House, about creating a sports bar that served quality food, not the prefab food other sports bar serve. Now at 200, we have the best of both worlds. The sports bar provides one of the most electric atmospheres to watch any game, while offering great Sports bar food, like burgers and wings. While the dining room offers an upscale menu with Chef’s specials which include the best steaks in the area.

AFF: How do you make beer choices, and what are the rotations?

Gerbush: 200 Fifth is a huge believer in the sense of community in Park Slope. We believe in promoting how great the neighborhood and Brooklyn are. Although we’re always open to storming anywhere for new great beer, we are adamant about showcasing the great brews that were birthed right next door.

AFF: What are the greatest challenges of being a small business owner?

Gerbush: The City: Dealing with the way the bureaucrats change or interpret the way they are going to enforce the regulations is maddening. We are at the mercy of agencies who now have to justify their existence. The way they justify their existence is by being revenue producing which means taking money from people who risk and give their all and are the backbone of this city. The other hardest job is dealing with your employees. You spend more time with them than your family and most of us want to be liked, but you have to insist on certain standards and employees eventually come to resent it. But it’s with this tough love that you find the strongest staff, which I feel 200 Fifth always has to represent it.

Interview by Rebeccah Welch

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