Going Beyond Bedford

Greats founder Ryan Babenzien takes us on a walking tour of his shoe company's home, which also happens to be one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in New York City: North Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The culture of Williamsburg has transformed over the past 10 years—whether for better or worse is a conversation for the artisanal coffee shop. One undeniably good thing is the upsurge in creative outposts, from restaurants to retailers, all with a refreshing independent spirit. After a stint in California, Long Island, N.Y. native Ryan Babenzien returned to his home state in 2013 to start his footwear brand Greats—this time settling in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Having spent two years immersed in the retail scene, he shares his recommendations for the 'Burg. Take notes, kids.

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House of Small Wonders

Babenzien usually starts his day at Japanese cafe House of Small Wonders. "It's as if it's a tree fort built on the ground. It's so cool," he says. "They serve breakfast and lunch and it's all Japanese. It feels like you're in Tokyo."

77 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY, houseofsmallwonder.com.

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"Egg is probably the most visited breakfast spot in Williamsburg," says Babenzien of the old-guard farm-to-table breakfast spot. "It's tried, true, and still kickin'."

109 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY, eggrestaurant.com.

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"I think Gentry's one of the best men's stores in New York, if not the country," says Babenzien. The shop, which carries rare brands like Visvim, Engineered Garments, and Ovadia & Sons, is "a really well-curated store for the guy who's looking for stuff you can't find everywhere."

108 North 7th Street, Brooklyn, NY, gentrynyc.com.

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"Everything RRL does is at a level of detail that we can all aspire to," says Babenzien of Ralph Lauren's upscale Americana label.

85 North 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY, ralphlauren.com.

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Greats' store-in-store at Steven Alan's flagship is housed in a building that dates to the 1800s. "It has character you can't buy or recreate," Babenzien says of the interior. "Our part of the store is simple, but still really effective for presenting our brand."

85 North 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY, greats.com.

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Babenzien has a special place in his heart for Kinfolk, a company that started in Tokyo as an illegal bar. "It was a crazy bar on top of an old house that could fit, like, 15 people," he recalls. In 10 years the brand has expanded into a luxe streetwear label and an events venue. "It's been amazing to see what they've become."

94 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, kinfolklife.com.

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To stay energized, Babenzien opts for matcha (powdered green tea) over coffee. "Everything at MatchaBar is made from matcha," he notes. "The donuts are matcha, the drinks are matcha, you can get 'em hot, you can get 'em cold. It's just delicious and healthy."

93 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY, matchabarnyc.com.

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Pilgrim Surf + Supply

As a retail pro, Babenzien has high expectations for shopping experiences. He likes Pilgrim Surf + Supply for its curation. The store carries not only surfing hard goods, but casual selections from brands like Norse Projects, Vans, and Patagonia. "It's really complementary to a traveller's life," he says.

68 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY, pilgrimsurfsupply.com.

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The Ides Bar at the Wythe Hotel

For a view of the Manhattan skyline, Babenzien says that the Ides Bar is the best in Williamsburg. "People in Manhattan pay for the view of Brooklyn," he says, "but the view of Manhattan is really the one you want."

80 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, wythehotel.com/the-ides.

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Antica Pesa

For dinner, Babenzien frequents Antica Pesa on Berry Street. "The food's amazing, but it's not stuffy," he says of the cozy atmosphere. "I go in there wearing a sweatshirt, it's super chill." He suggests the mozzarella and phyllo to start: "It's one of their famous things, and I've never seen it anywhere else."

115 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY, anticapesa.com.

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