Startup stirs excitement in Port Morris

Visitors crowd the bar at Gun Hill Tavern in Port Morris to view a multimedia presentation by Bronx Narratives. Photo: Julia Sclafani

A new magazine is launched at a new brew pub

A conversation between strangers sharing an Uber ride three years ago birthed the idea for a new magazine that was launched in Port Morris last weekend.

The launch of Bronx Narratives was the occasion for a packed house at the recently opened Gun Hill Tavern on 133rd Street on Saturday, January 28th.

The Bronxites behind the new print publication include Dondre Green, 24, its founder and creative director, and Decota Letman, 27, its lead editor. The two, who began exchanging ideas when they met in the backseat of the shared car in Brooklyn, quickly realized they were onto something.

“We were like ‘we need to change the narrative of what’s going on in the Bronx and of what people think of what it means to be from the Bronx,’” Letman said.

The two creatives linked up with Hoay Smith, 27, who became the magazine’s art director, and the first public event followed in 2014: a photo exhibition at The Point Community Development Corp. in Hunts Point. The exhibition was a success. Supporters and community soon approached the team asking for more.

“People were saying ‘you guys, we want to see more. We need more platforms like this in the Bronx,’” Letman said.

Since then, the group has hosted events at Mix CoffeeHaus, a pop-up coffee shop in Hunts Point; The Bronx Museum of the Arts; and Gun Hill Brewing, the Williamsbridge-based brewery from which the new Port Morris brew pub stemmed.

The sleek new space, inconspicuously located among warehouses at the corner of Willow Ave. and 133th Street, serves craft beers made in the Bronx. Its Americana aesthetic features exposed brick and wooden accents with an industrial feel that echoes the charm of craft beer—an artisanal and small-batch approach to brewing.

One of the bar’s co-owners, Kieran Farrell, 47, is also the co-founder and managing partner of the original Gun Hill Brewing on Laconia Avenue. He and his partners decided to open the tavern in Port Morris last November after recognizing the opportunities presented by all the recent development and revitalization in the South Bronx.

“We want to be a part of what’s happening here…we want to be part of the whole revival of the Bronx,” he said.

The full color magazine is the first annual print edition of material posted on the Bronx Narratives website, featuring dedicated content not previously published on the site of the same name. That includes profiles and interviews with Bronx residents as well as photo essays and other stories about happenings around the borough.

The print content differs from the content on the web, which hosts video profiles and two radio shows, BXN Radio and Neighborhood Tales, which feature conversations with residents, business owners and public figures.

Bronx artists and contributors to the magazine helped celebrate the launch. Annie Legnini, a 22 painter from Morris Park, sat at an easel in the back of the room painting portraits she had snapped on her iPhone. Legnini ‘live-painted’ at the event as part of an ongoing project that features interviews she conducted with her subjects, accompanied by their portraits.

Letman facilitated “speed-dating” style talks for event-goers that included prompts such as thoughts on print versus digital publications and other conversation-starters. Visitors to the tavern quickly snapped up all of the copies of Bronx Narratives that its promoters had brought.

“It was nice to highlight positive aspects of the Bronx,” said Regina Hamilton, 47, from Co-op City.

Green sees the new magazine as a way for readers to get beyond misconceptions many of have of the borough, where, he said, “most people only see the stigma.”

The limited release first edition of Bronx Narratives sold out shortly after it came off the presses.

Details about the magazine and the accompanying online publication can be accessed at www.bronxnarratives.com, which includes profiles, videos and radio stories not featured in the magazine.

The story was updated on Feb. 15 with a correction. A prior version of the story said that new copies of the first edition of Bronx Narratives would soon be made available. In fact, the first edition was a limited release which sold out and no new copies are anticipated.