Walking the Silent Streets of Sheepshead Bay
By ARMYDA ESCOBAR
I had gotten off the B44 Select Bus on Shore Parkway at Nostrand Ave when mother nature decided to unleash her reign of terror and rain on my parade. Unfortunately for me, I had forgotten my umbrella at home, so I was forced to continue my journey in the rain by walking down Shore Parkway.
When I arrived at the UA Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14 movie theater (3907 Shore Pkwy), I felt a ping of nostalgia run through me as I thought back to my memories of middle school when my school would’ve constantly taken us to the very theater I stood outside of. Today, that area lacked all forms of life other than the three teenagers loitering near its entrance.
After taking pictures on the top of the theater’s parking lot, I walked down Shore Pkwy, turned left on Knapp St, and right on Emmons Ave to head toward Roll n’ Roaster. But because I forgot my umbrella and wanted to keep warm, I walked into the Old Boat Basin Deli, which lacked a visible sign, and decided to ask the man behind the sandwich counter about the area. However, the man knew a limited amount of English and directed me to his boss, Mr. Moosa, who tended the cash register.
Mr. Moosa told me about the highlights of the area he’s lived in for a year. He said he liked the area because of the “nice” people who live in it and go to his deli.
“I have seen all types of customers come to my shop,” Mr. Moosa said as he helped a lady buy a carton of milk. “I had this 82-year-old come to my shop every day, and he would put some music on and dance around. He still comes to my store.”
After thanking the men for their time, I left the deli and continued to stroll down Emmons Ave. However, while taking a photo of an inn that was near the bay, which is named after the now rare Sheepshead fish, my phone proceeded to die at 23%. Although I was frustrated by the turn of events, I continued walking down Emmons Ave in hopes once again of finding the one and only Roll n’ Roaster. However, after minutes of walking, I was lured into a bait and tackle shop that was open in the midst of gloomy day.
When I entered Bernie’s Bait and Tackle, I was met with the scent of fish and fishing equipment that hung throughout the store. The store was empty aside from the men behind the counter who were cutting up fish. I was greeted by Mr. Frank, who agreed to an interview and proceeded to talk about what has changed in the area over the last 30 years.
Mr. Frank discussed how Sheepshead Bay was “a diverse fishing area” before Russians from the former Soviet Union arrived, wanting to live near the fishing area.
Before the influx of Russian immigrants to the bay, there existed “one-story leveled homes with no building in sight,” Mr. Frank said. In fact, “60 fishing boats lined up against the shoreline” in hopes of catching fish as “30 sea-related restaurants from 19th Street to Coyle Street” waited for an influx of customers.
But as the years passed, Mr. Frank said, “other people also wanted to live near the water, so buildings were built to meet their demands.” The fishing industry shank, he said, “because the younger generations no longer desire to get their hands dirty.” Nonetheless, the waterfront view is popular during the summertime.
Regardless of this, Bernie’s Bait and Tackle has managed to stay in the same location for 18 years and is one of the two bait and tackle shops that have managed to stay open after the demographic changes in the area.
Once I finished the interview with Mr. Frank, I continued my journey down Emmons Ave until I saw the famous Roll n’ Roaster. However, unlike the other establishments I passed by on my way to the sandwich shop, Roll n’ Roaster was actually bustling with life, even while it rained profusely.
I entered the shop and was entrapped by its old, traditional family restaurant vibe. Since it was the first time I had been to the shop, the young man at the counter helped me order one Roll-n-Roaster Beef Sandwich ($5.95) with cheese (+$1.00). After ordering my meal, I sat down to eat my freshly made Roll-n-Roaster Beef Sandwich at an empty booth (and, oh my, it tasted scrumptious).
Although I stayed longer in the shop than I should’ve, I was reminded by how Mr. Frank talked about the change that the neighborhood had undergone to get this far. It is sometimes unfortunate to see trends come and and go. But as Mr. Frank reminded me, “things change.”