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Hurricane Hopeful
by Grant Moser

Sitting out front at the red and white-checked tablecloth-covered table, with the easygoing "surf" music playing, and the surfboards, life preservers, pictures and newspapers clippings pasted in the windows, and the old worn wood around the door, you nearly feel as if you are near the beach (which you are in a bizarre sense since we do live on an island). Where you are is Hurricane Hopeful, soup bar, shaved ice stand, and brainstorm (or evolving idea he might say) of Benjamin Sargent.

When he arrived from Boston to New York about a year and a half ago, he took a job at the previous incarnation of Hurricane Hopeful - which used to be a candle/soap/clothes store. Sargent suggested making the atmosphere more attractive to visitors.

He started serving apple cider and slowly moving in his knickknacks, one item at a time. The owners liked his decorative touches, and the item-import continued. Then Sargent started serving soup, and the owners (soap opera actors) decided they were missing too many auditions and that Sargent really had some good ideas, and they turned it over to him.

"I hope it has a seaside-shanty feel," Sargent said. "Where you can wait out a storm. Or wait for one, if you're a surfer." He grew up surfing Cape Cod, and while waiting for a storm to bring waves in from the Atlantic, he sold T-shirts out of the back of his car - Hurricane Hopeful shirts.

He sold thousands of those shirts, and hopes to continue the tradition here. And the tradition has begun to catch up with him. People driving or walking by the store will see the sign and recognize the name from the T-shirts they bought from him years ago.

It is his history that makes this store important to him. "I want it to have a very New England feel: Maine, Nova Scotia, Cape Cod. That's where I hung out. I also based it on my grandfather's garage, which was packed with stuff."

Packed with stuff is an understatement, as upon first entering, you wonder if you can fit through to the soup counter. There are T-shirts, pictures, old stoves, chairs, posters, paintings, surfboards, plants, and clothes hanging from the walls and ceilings. There is an aquarium in the base of the counter, where he once had an octopus. "It escaped. I don't know exactly how, but it's gone now."

That mishap aside, Sargent has managed to create a homey and unique place of his own. "It's a fun idea, and while it seems a bit far-fetched to have a surf-inspired shop in New York City, it's not preposterous." Apparently, there is a surfer culture in the city, and surfers do stop by on the way to the ocean.

However, Hurricane Hopeful is not particular to the surfer crowd. ""It's got to be a place where most people feel they can come. I want people to come by and hang out and socialize. I like that this has a small-time feel, that it's not a chain store." He encourages neighbors and families to stop by and is a first name basis with nearly all of his customers, especially the children that come in for his shaved ices. (His shaved ices are real shaved ices, not granular like sno-cones.)

After tasting the soup, I believe Sargent can count on me to stop by fairly often. Hurricane Hopeful, of course, carries clam chowder. But it also has Caribbean vegetable; salmon, potato, and dill; and scallop and corn. Then there's the Beck's Bahamian Fish Chowder. Damn good soup.

Sargent is planning for the future already, considering: a knock-off of a Japanese/Korean pocket sandwich that can be dipped in his soups, whole coconuts chopped open, filled with shaved ice, and flavoring mixed in the milk; and huge "out-of-control" ice shaves with azuki beans, vanilla ice cream, flavoring, and whip cream.

Hurricane Hopeful opened officially in March of this year and is located at 218 N. 7th St. between Driggs and Roebling. It is open from 1-9pm Tuesday through Sunday. Stop in. The storm must come.

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
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