709 Lorimer St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Hours: Open 5p Daily
L,G to Lorimer/Metropolitan
Written by: Emily Niewendorp
Pete’s Candy Store is an affable bar and live music room. The bar is small, and maze-like. Discovering the different rooms and hallways can recall memories of exploring an old house as a kid. The space is made up of real wood wainscoting, mellow-yellow walls and old-fashioned pieces—the vintage, red refrigerator behind the bar was installed by the strength of six men. There is a beautiful back patio and garden, and the kitchen sells grilled ciabatta sandwiches.
“The driving motive behind the performance room was to make the performers feel good. It’s intimate. People that come to see a special musician and get a decent seat usually have a memorable experience,” the owner, Andy, says. A long and narrow room, with no cover, it is a good idea to arrive early to get a good seat. Latecomers often sit on the floor or stand in the back to absorb a performance. Successful musicians, such as Norah Jones, still play the venue often, but these shows are never posted or even leaked. Andy sums up the ethos of these secret shows best: “It’s a wonderful experience for those who just happen to be there—an intimate show that everyone enjoys. It gives freedom for the artist to mess around, workshop and experiment in a live setting, while they are ‘hiding from the public at large.’”
The music style at Pete’s Candy Store has been consistently wide open to anything that musically fits the small space, which is perfectly suited for singer-songwriters, alternative and antifolk musicians, and experimental performers, as well as a haven for side projects of bigger rock bands. Devendra Banhart, Will Oldham from the Palace Brothers, Joanna Newsom, Akron/Family, Sufjan Stevens, the Wainwrights—Loudon, Martha and Rufus, Deer Tick and Beth Orton have all graced the stage.
Pete’s Candy Store serviced the local sweet-toothed in Williamsburg from the early 1920s all the way to the ’70s. The business then changed to a greasy spoon and most recently a cover diner for a mob-operated business that was more often closed than open. All the time, the old-fashioned ‘Pete’s Candy Store’ sign hung above the entrance. In spring of 1999, Andy took over the space. He fixed up portions that had fallen into disrepair, and added and knocked out walls and doorways to improve the atmosphere. He kept the storefront intact, and after much thought kept the original name—no other name suited the place.
The news of a music venue at Pete’s Candy Store spread quickly. It was the first nightly live music venue in Williamsburg and the discovery was significant for people, even though it was off the beaten track. An out-of-the-way music venue at that time was a phenomenon and it became an exciting destination. The energy at night was stimulating, opening everyone’s senses. Andy recalls that, “Those memories are special to those who were around during the hay-day of the venue’s first few years.”
Non-music-oriented locals express their sentiments about Pete’s Candy Store as well. Over the years, many folks have enlightened Andy about their personal experiences at the candy store. Neighborhood ladies spoke of their employment there in the ’70s and standing on ladders to paint the words, ‘Pete’s Candy Store.’ Others remember doing their homework there after school when they were kids, and folks who have moved away are amazed to hear the store is still there, except it is a bar and music venue—adult candy.