throughout this entire process, i have waited for the moment where things start to feel real. the moment where a construction zone starts to feel like some semblance of a home. and earlier this week, that moment happened.
my kitchen cabinets were delivered late last week, and my contractor promised that friday or monday, they’d start putting them up. true to form, after meeting him at the apartment on friday morning and reconfirming the layout, they got to work. and by early afternoon, i’d received photos of the cabinets in progress. EXCITING, right?!
i’ll be completely honest: when my contractor told me “had a guy” who “did cabinets” i was a little bit skeptical. that skepticism only grew when i found out the guy worked out of the back of an ACE hardware store in DEEP brooklyn (literally, i took the 2 train all the way to the end of the line). after exiting at nostrand and walking a few blocks past a target and an applebee’s, i came across a defunct meat market advertising “just killed!” chickens.
i almost turned around. surely, i was lost. signs ahead pointed to brooklyn college, but there was barely a soul on the street.
then i walked one more block, and saw a (small) sign for ace hardware. i stopped, and stared at the chain link fence surrounding the store.
this must be the place, i thought to myself. the place where i get swallowed up into some freaky alternate back in time universe where they kill chickens right in front of you and then ask you if you need semi gloss or eggshell.
there was a small parking lot out front; an old nissan altima was parked diagonally across two spots. beyond that, two double doors opened into a quiet neighborhood hardware store with no kitchen cabinets in sight.
i’d been told to ask for “chew” — but the woman at the checkout desk simply stared blankly back at me when i said his name.
“yo! is there a CHOO that works here?” she called out to the orthodox man working the paint counter in the back, payis dangling down from his hat.
“back here,” he motioned to me. “come back this way.”
suddenly, from the very back of the store, a small man poked his head around a doorway.
chew! he did exist! in the back of this weird orthodox hardware store in deep brooklyn was an asian man who sold kitchen cabinets.
i spent the next hour with chew going over the type of cabinets i wanted (white shaker), ruminating over what size pantry i needed (18″ would suffice, anything larger was overkill), and discussing the pros and cons of soft-close drawers (i hate them, chew said they were standard these days).
at 7pm, ace hardware closed; by 6:55, i was out the door, waving goodbye to chew, who had, in the past 55 minutes, become my friend. chew understood the look i was going for (“you like the farmhouse style! but not TOO farmhouse!”). he knew i liked to bake and therefore needed space for my cookie sheets (“we’ll give you roll out drawers, two big ones, so they can stack! it’s too heavy otherwise!”). he’d agreed to customize a 16″ deep double cabinet for my island (“you need room for the legs!”), and to figure out a way to make the giant farm sink i wanted from ikea fit (“don’t you worry, sarah, we’ll make it work.”)
chew was a god among men. a god hidden in the back room of a hardware store in a strange no man’s land between midwood and flatbush.
he was, in other words, exactly the kind of smart, creative, small business kind of guy i hoped i’d be working with when i decided to pinch my pennies and go with the lowest contractor quote i’d received.
i’d budgeted $8k for my cabinets; shmulik had told me that depending on what i wanted, they’d come in between 6 and 8k. a few days after i met with chew, i received a layout, along with a quote: $7370–almost $600 below my max budget, with wiggle room for any additional filler pieces i might need last minute.
would i have loved to be closer to $6? of course. but i also wanted a pantry, and a small breakfast bar, and the two rollout drawers chew had got me all excited about. so i forked over a 50% deposit, and a few weeks later, a giant load of boxes arrived at the grand apartment.
a few days after that, the boxes were unpacked, and the cabinets went up on the wall.
and just like that, i had “the moment” – the one where i saw a home coming together right in front of my very eyes.