PARK SLOPE – Omari Clarke walks into La Bagel Delight on 7th Avenue and asks for his usual. The men behind the counter wordlessly prepare his order. “You guys have any use for some tables or chairs?” he asks the owner. Clarke is renovating the storefront at 837 Union Avenue, between 6th and 7th Avenue, in Park Slope. He is looking to get rid of some old furniture. The owner says maybe. “Come by later and take a look,” Clarke says.
Clarke is 39, but his easy manner and constant, gentle smile make him look at least a decade younger. He is the new proprietor of what used to be Sir D’s Cafe, the sprawling, couch-laden coffee shop and events venue in Park Slope.
He is a true Park Slope local. Although born in Jamaica, Clarke grew up near 4th Avenue and Warren Street and has lived in New York most of his life. As a kid, he went to Dixon’s Bicycle Shop, which is still doing business on Union Street, most days after school. His mother, who is friends with the shop’s owners, the Dixon family, sent him there to keep him out of trouble.
The Dixons not only own the bicycle shop, but also the building across the street: 837 Union.
Earlier this year, Clarke and his wife Mona Price-Clarke were looking to open a business. They thought they might buy an existing store or rent an empty storefront and start from scratch. Out driving one day, Clarke noticed Sir D’s was shuttered. He parked, jumped out of the car, and bolted into the bicycle shop. When Clarke expressed interest, David Dixon immediately asked if Clarke wanted to rent it. Clarke pounced on the opportunity.
Though not related by blood, when asked about the new venture Dixon said, “It’s a family thing.”
Built in 1920, 837 Union was at one point a parking garage, which explains why it’s so cavernous. It was also a laundromat. Tea Lounge occupied the first floor for 14 years until 2014. Tea Lounge was a grungy community hub, loved by parents and freelancers alike.
From 2016 to 2018 it was Sir D’s, run by Chris Dixon, a member of the Dixon family. In addition to being a coffee shop, Sir D’s hosted music, poetry readings, and comedy shows. The Slope Lounge, Clarke’s name for the new business, will keep a similar format. “We’re going to have more music and nightlife when we reopen,” Clarke says.
Clarke is installing a kitchen as well. His mother, who once ran a Jamaican restaurant in Park Slope to put him through school, is working on the menu. She’s excited to have an outlet for her cooking again. They’ll have Jamaican classics including jerk chicken and oxtail, and many vegan options like her famous callaloo.
For breakfast and lunch, The Slope Lounge will be a coffee shop with light food options. In the morning, it will be a place to work on laptops and rest with young children. Then from 3pm to 5pm they’ll close and prepare for dinner service. “It will be a full-service restaurant in the evening,” Clarke says.
The bar area has been redone—extended a couple of feet. They plan on getting their liquor license as soon as possible. Clarke is also planning on adding delivery and online ordering for pickup once everything is up and running. For one of the major walls, Clarke is currently looking for muralists to add some local flavor.
The Slope Lounge is scheduled to open by late July.