Metro Village hosts 2nd Community Day

By Jessica Meditz

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Rachel Kellner and Mark Libertini, the husband and wife team behind Aigner Chocolates.

This past Saturday, community residents from all walks of life gathered on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills to celebrate Metro Village Forest Hills’ second annual Community Day.

Metro Village Forest Hills is a small business alliance founded by Rachel Kellner of Aigner Chocolates and Eileen Arabian of DEE’S Wood Fired Pizza + Kitchen, which was born out of high tensions amid the pandemic.

It was during this time where the businesses got the idea to host their first Community Day on the Avenue, and hope to continue the tradition for years to come.

“Aigner’s was robbed a few years ago during the pandemic, and the businesses really came out to support us. We decided to create an informal business alliance to provide support to each other and to preserve the richness of the community here,” Kellner said.

“We want to keep those businesses around, and so during the pandemic, obviously events had to be outdoors. So we had this idea to do a Community Day and we did it last year with 30 businesses participating,” she continued. “It went so well that we decided to keep it going. Now it’s going to be a tradition here.”

The Community Day spanned from Royal Collectibles to DEE’S, with businesses up and down the Avenue offering various treats, gifts and positive greetings to visitors.

In addition, 29 businesses participated in a scavenger hunt, where guests received a series of clues and had to guess which business corresponded with that clue, who would then mark it off.

The bingo board-like template was created by community member Samantha Weitzberg.

All guests who filled out their cards completely were entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift certificate to DEE’S and Aigner Chocolates. The winner will be announced by Metro Village this week.

Additionally, 150 prizes were given out at random throughout the day at all the scavenger hunt locations to participants.

Local elected officials took the time to soak up one of the final days of summer sun in Forest Hills, including Councilwoman Lynn Schulman.

Councilwoman Schulman and Alfred Vitsentzos of Nick’s Bistro

“It’s so important to have days like this with people coming out to see all the different kinds of stores, it’s very eclectic,” Schulman said.

“It’s so nice to have local owners and it’s really important to help them,” she continued. “It’s just such a community atmosphere here, and everybody’s just so nice and welcoming.”

Arabian is proud to celebrate the success and accomplishments of businesses on the Avenue, including DEE’S, which just relaunched its weekend lunch service since the start of the pandemic. She believes that this year’s Community Day had an even bigger turnout than last year’s, and hopes to see the event continue to grow.

She admires the diversity of the businesses and all that Metropolitan Avenue has to offer.

“This day brings a lot of exposure to Metropolitan Avenue, which is so important because everyone knows about Austin Street, and they don’t always know about Metropolitan,” she said.

“It really has everything to offer: retail, restaurants, barber shops and hair salons, nail salons, butcher shops, attorneys, everything. So it’s a great way to draw people in and open up the doors of opportunity for other businesses.”

Ice Cream Window: ‘Different, but still the same’

By Stephanie Meditz

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At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ice Cream Window served scoops of happiness to the community such that it became a permanent fixture. 

Intended as a three-week pop-up in Karlssonwilker design studio, the shop brought Ridgewood’s original immigrant populations together by experimenting with traditional cultural flavors in its ice cream. 

Karlssonwilker, originally headquartered in Manhattan, moved to Ridgewood when a developer bought out multiple neighboring properties. 

“We knew that our days were numbered as well, and that they would tear down these whole buildings and build a skyscraper,” said Elisabeth Smolarz, Karlssonwilker photographer and founder of Ice Cream Window. 

Born in Poland and raised in Germany, Smolarz knew of the large Polish and German-speaking communities in Ridgewood, as well as its overall population increase over the last few years. 

With the help of some friends in the area, she bought the new Karlssonwilker design studio space on Woodward Avenue, along with the apartment above it. 

While renovating the building’s facade, Smolarz recalled her time living in Gowanus and saw the need for some kind of outdoor component. 

“It had a bench outside. It was very dark inside, so I would oftentimes sit outside and work or read,” she said. “What was lovely about that, being outside, was that I met all the neighbors immediately. I knew everyone on my block within a few months.” 

This goal is what prompted the installment of a window, and for a while, Smolarz wondered what to do with it. 

In 2019, she visited Lady Moo Moo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, an ice cream shop that serves its ice cream out of a window for customers to eat outside. 

“I tasted the ice cream and said, ‘Wow. This ice cream is amazing. I think this is the best ice cream I’ve ever had,’” Smolarz said. 

Smolarz’s daughter was born in January 2020, followed by the start of the pandemic. 

“Motherhood just became extremely lonely,” she said. “There were no mom groups. We had a digital one and it was nice, but you just couldn’t really connect with anybody.” 

During her many walks with her new baby that summer, she thought to follow Lady Moo Moo’s business model and temporarily use Karlssonwilker’s window to serve ice cream at a social distance. 

In August 2020, Ice Cream Window was born as a pop-up, with the ice cream delivered by Lady Moo Moo. 

Smolarz met many of her new neighbors in Ridgewood, and after the pop-up ended, they approached her on the street and asked when she would sell ice cream again. 

By popular demand, she agreed to reopen the shop for at least another year. 

Smolarz solicited the help of other local businesses such as Topos Bookstore Cafe, Millers and Makers, Porcelain and Plein Air to turn Ice Cream Window into a permanent shop. 

This past summer, Ice Cream Window collaborated with the longtime Ridgewood staple, Rudy’s Pastry Shop to sell ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. 

“That’s what’s beautiful about Ridgewood, that it is a community,” she said. “You can ask anyone for help, and people will help you.” 

Smolarz gives back to the community in various ways, such as cooking traditional Polish dishes at Woodbine’s free Sunday dinners. 

Most notably, though, she works to ensure that Ice Cream Window brings something new to Ridgewood without alienating its longtime residents, rather making them feel at home. 

“The flavors relate to the community, and to us personally,” she said, referencing her husband and the Karlssonwilker team. “We kind of channel our childhoods here.” 

Waldmeister, a traditional German flavor, has been well loved in Ridgewood for a long time.

For instance, one of Ice Cream Window’s specials is waldmeister, or sweet woodruff, a popular German flavor that was served in Ridgewood a long time ago. 

Ridgewood’s older Gottschee population can easily recognize the pumpkin seed oil that distinguishes Ice Cream Window’s styrian ice cream. 

“We have family in Vienna…so we first found out about it in Vienna when we were cooking dinner and then they served us vanilla ice cream with roasted pine nuts and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil,” Smolarz said. 

Whenever she goes to visit them, she brings back authentic pumpkin seed oil for the ice cream. 

Ice Cream Window serves huge amounts of joy through one small window.

Hris, a flavor based on an Icelandic malt chocolate candy, is a nod to Hjalti Karlsson’s Icelandic heritage. 

Smolarz’s favorite flavor, “mak,” is based on a Polish poppy seed roll with a sugary lemon glaze called makowiec. 

Ice Cream Window also offers linden-flavored ice cream reminiscent of Smolarz’s childhood, but only during certain months in the spring.

“There was this moment, like end of May, early June, when all the linden trees were blooming in Ridgewood,” Smolarz said. “And I just love the smell so much. So during that time, we always make linden ice cream just to celebrate the season.” 

Other flavors in the rotation include dulce de leche, lucuma, lychee, matcha and red bean along with the typical vanilla and chocolate. 

Because Ice Cream Window uses such a small space within Karlssonwilker, its flavors are on rotation. 

“We’re trying to have flavors that kind of go beyond what’s familiar to us,” Smolarz said. “We kind of think, what else would the community like? And it’s very easy, Queens is the most diverse place on this planet, I think.” 

Ice Cream Window’s Instagram account, @icecreamwindow, has been an important tool to learn more about community members and foster a fun atmosphere. 

As a photographer for Karlssonwilker and photography instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Smolarz loves to see customers post pictures of their ice cream. 

The star of the account, however, is a bright orange puppet, lovingly called “the window puppet,” that makes an appearance in every post announcing the flavors of the week. 

“Maybe next year when we get really good at puppetry, we’ll have a puppet theater for the kids,” Smolarz said. 

Because of her own daughter, Smolarz always works to include children in the fun of Ice Cream Window. 

She especially loves to see them try new, unknown flavors when vanilla or chocolate are not offered. 

“It’s always very sweet how, next time they come, they say, ‘I want a scoop of lucuma,’ or ‘I want a scoop of waldmeister,’” she said. “This is what’s amazing about ice cream. It just brings you a lot of joy.” 

Ice Cream Window will continue to serve joy to the Ridgewood community on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. until the temperature drops.

A community of MisFits unite

Business owner creates safe space through health, fitness

Anthony Oll-adikankwu Jr. started MisFits Nutrition with the intention of creating a safe space.

By Jessica Meditz

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Growing up, Queens Village native Anthony Oll-adikankwu Jr. always felt like he didn’t fit in, or a misfit, if you will.

He has since reclaimed the word and turned it into something positive for himself and others when he opened MisFits Nutrition on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.

Although MisFits Nutrition is listed as a vitamin supplement shop online, Oll-adikankwu Jr. said that his business’ mission encompasses so much more.

As a licensed practical nurse since 2012, health has always been important to Oll-adikankwu Jr. While one’s physical health is essential to their state of being, he also emphasizes the importance of mental health and having a life outside of work.

That is a main component of what motivated him to open up his business.

“People on Wall Street are committing suicide. You make tons of money, but your relationship with your child is strange, you’re never there, you can never make practices, you’re never there for your lover. It takes a toll. That’s not the kind of life that I want.” he said.

“It’s not just about making money…there’s plenty of things I could do just to make money,” he emphasized. “It’s about creating a space where people can come. A lot of people are dealing with depression. I’ve had people come in here, not even knowing me, they just come in, they feel good.”

Oll-adikankwu Jr. said that many people have entered his business to purchase an energy drink or snack, and have felt comfortable confiding in him about their hardships, which is exactly what he hoped for when envisioning MisFits.

MisFits Nutrition’s storefront.

The storefront is adorned with a Black-owned business flag and LGBTQ Pride flag, and the interior features a wall of positive affirmations in different languages to symbolize the diversity of Queens.

“I’m creating a space that’s not just a shake spot, but where people can come in and feel better and talk to a stranger in here. In Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, people are very secluded and they just want you out the door,” he said. “People come in here, not knowing each other and they’ll be friendly enough to talk to each other. I’m creating a space, a safe haven, a judgment free zone where people can come to.”

Oll-adikankwu Jr. opened MisFits Nutrition four years ago, and runs the business on his own — along with the support of his family and the community at large.

As an Herbalife nutrition club, MisFits Nutrition offers a variety of healthy consumption options on its menu, including energy teas, shakes, bowls and donuts. Oll-adikankwu Jr. also sells a wide variety of supplements to promote a healthy lifestyle.

As a former personal trainer, Oll-adikankwu Jr. offers dance cardio classes every Tuesday and Saturday to keep the community active.

To contribute to the welcoming atmosphere of MisFits, he also offers various activities for people to take part in, including karaoke, game night and Sip N’ Paint, which is co-hosted by Tahina Marcette, who operates Marcette Studio.

MisFits Nutrition’s decor creates a welcoming vibe for all who enter.

“I wanted to create an outlet that’s family-oriented and not alcohol-centered for people to bring their family, kids and friends to be with one another and talk to other people,” Oll-adikankwu Jr. said.

Reflecting on his time spent donating drinks to healthcare workers at local hospitals, he brought up how the sudden switch up on the “healthcare heroes” trend of the COVID-19 pandemic left a bad taste in his mouth.

“People started appreciating nurses, and the pandemic created this trend of ‘healthcare heroes.’ I was collecting donations to deliver drinks to the hospitals not only to promote the business, but to kind of show that I’m trying to do something as well,” he said.

In fact, Goldman Sachs reached out to him with a proposition to contract him to deliver 100 shakes per day to the hospitals.

This was a challenge due to the fact that MisFits Nutrition is a one-man operation.

“I would always get new customers, but it was stressful,” he continued. “Goldman Sachs then extended the contract for another month, but when COVID numbers started dropping, and they canceled the contract.”

He wishes people on a larger scale would support healthcare workers and appreciate their work without an extenuating circumstance.

However, his customers are extremely supportive and believe in his mission.

“I go to Aesthetic Solutions right here, and I passed the shop. I saw the Black-owned sign and immediately went in. I just started my fitness journey, so I’m looking for all alternatives and not giving up my favorite, good foods and sweets,” said Maddie Felton, a regular customer.

“It’s a part of my routine, coming here. There’s just so many options and it makes it easier to stick to my meal plan without giving up the stuff I love.”

A fitness lover or not, Oll-adikankwu Jr. encourages all who are interested in nutritious drinks and snacks along with fun, interactive activities to stop by.

For updates and more information, follow MisFits Nutrition on social media.

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