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Punk Rockers Open DIY Clam Shack in Gowanus

Three friends turn a dream into a reality.

It started over beers at a backyard barbeque in Brooklyn.

Three friends who met in various punk bands and artist circles decided they wanted to go into business together. And not just any business - the restaurant business. No, not pizza slices or sandwiches, though there will be sandwiches, we're talking about a New England style clam shack.

"I really love oysters, lobster rolls, clams... I really love beer," said co-owner Aaron Lefkove.

And so Littleneck was born. And it will soon be a reality.

After looking at more than 20 possible spaces all over Brooklyn, Lefkove, 30 and his partners/friends Andy Curtin, 31 and Charlie Moody, 31 decided an old chess shop on Third Avenue and Carroll Street in Gowanus was the perfect place.

"We had always liked the neighborhood, and when we walked in here, we could envision what we wanted," he said.

And the still rough around the edges feel of Third Avenue had practical advantages, too.

"In this neighborhood, there's a lot going on, but it's still possible to do what you want and not need $500,000," he said. "It's attainable."

Littleneck is slated to open its doors in September, but there is still a lot of work to do.

"This place was nasty when we got it," said Lefkove.

They are renovating the space from the ground up. They've torn out wall to wall carpeting and found hardwood underneath. They are having a bar built. They are re-doing plumbing. And all of this is happening DIY (do-it-yourself) style.

The team started a Kickstarter campaign and have already raised more money than they requested. To raise more money, Lefkove said goodbye to his savings and his possessions.

"I sold my 401K, guitars and records. You can get them back," he said.

They have friends helping with the build out, and are using reclaimed materials wherever possible. The pressed tin cieling and the wainscotting lining the walls stays, obviously.

But Littleneck isn't doing this all alone. By a stroke of luck, they are building their dream at the same time as the city is working to streamline the process that small restaurants need to go through in order to open for business.

Lefkove has been working closely with the New Business Acceleration Team, and has had great success with getting things done fast.

"It has expedited the whole process," he said. "I have reps I talk to regularly."

And what about the food?

Littleneck will serve New England classics from Curtin's childhood on Cape Cod. Think fried Ipswich whole belly clams, lobster rolls, oysters and cold beer. Littleneck will have a beer and wine license, and a full raw bar.

The head chef is Ten Vong, a veteran of The Mercer Kitchen and Fat Hippo, who will stick to the basics, but also throw in some of his own personal touches. Of course, products will be sourced locally.

"We want it to be very simple," said Curtin. "Sometimes it's harder to nail something that is simple."

As for the location, Lefkove says he thinks it's going to be great for Littleneck.

"I feel like we're at the front of something," he said, mentioning other recent newcomers and .

And while Third Avenue bustles outside the front door, inside the team behind Littleneck hopes to have a little bit of a New England-clam shack vibe going on.

"It's going to have a mix between the old road side clam bar and the classic New England, clapboard, aged but clean look," said Curtin, the brains behind a lot of the design of Littleneck. "Everything will have a function."

Littleneck is a big undertaking for three 30-year-old's that have never run a business before.

"We were at that point in our lives," explained Curtin. "[We realized] no one is going to hand you anything. If you don't make it happen yourself, it won't happen. You have to take a risk."

Natalie Musumeci July 21, 2011 at 12:52 PM
This is just awesome.
Amy Holman July 21, 2011 at 04:23 PM
I used to live right around the corner from that shop. It will fit right in to the almost boardwalk feel of 3rd Ave. But I wonder whether the Manhattan v. New England clam chowder fight will exist here?
Andrew July 21, 2011 at 04:27 PM
What's a punk rocker doing with a 401k?
Kim_InTheSlope July 21, 2011 at 06:28 PM
CANT WAIT! Let me know if you need a food tester!
ken gootkind October 30, 2011 at 01:27 PM
This reminds me of my restaurant days when I was 30..I started doing clambakes on the road, then opened 3 restaurants! Good luck K61 from Carroll gardens

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