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Guide to the Voices of Brooklyn oral histories 2008.031

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201
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library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 10, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Business and industry, 2008-

Scope and Contents

This series includes oral histories collected through several projects undertaken by the Brooklyn Historical Society beginning in 2008. The assembled series took shape in 2008 under the project title "Brooklyn History Makers." The ongoing oral history series, retitled in 2016, features a range of narrators: store managers, small business owners, bakers, and restaurateurs among them, who describe the changes they have observed in their neighborhoods over decades.

Baker, Michael, 2010 June 25

Biographical / Historical

Michael Baker was born in Canada in 1959 and came to New York City to open the IKEA home furnishings store in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a college student, he had worked in retail. Baker went on to learn more in a management program and began a career with home furnishings retailers. After he was hired on by IKEA, he helped the company expand globally, until he was asked to not only oversee the construction of a store in Canada, but stay on as store manager. In the mid-2000s, he did the same for IKEA Brooklyn. As of the 2010 interview, he and his family were residing in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn; an area they deemed to have the best schools.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Michael Baker briefly discusses growing up in Canada and how he got involved in retail store management. He talks in great detail about opening the IKEA in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn; from negotiations with the City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the local community boards to finding bedrock for driving in anchor piles, and how the home furnishings store wanted to maintain the site's waterfront history. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Baker, Michael
  • Deserio, Pino

Subject Organizations

  • Ikea (Firm)
  • Todd Shipyards Corporation. Brooklyn Division

Subject Topics

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Economic conditions -y 21st century
  • Business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Docks -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Employees -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Furniture industry and trade -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Retail trade -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x History
  • Waterfronts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Zoning -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Commerce
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Canada
  • Environmental impact analysis |z New York (State) |z Kings County
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)

Caputo, James and John, 2010 April 8

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1941 in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn to a father from Brooklyn and a mother from Rome, Italy, John Caputo was the fourth generation to run a Caputo Bakery in Brooklyn. His son, James Caputo was born in 1971. Both Caputos enjoyed childhoods spent at the bakery shop. After being urged by his father to look into a less-physically demanding career, James studied finance and went to work on Wall Street for ten years. The son came back to the family business, and the two worked side by side. At the time of this 2010 interview, John Caputo was semi-retired.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, John and James Caputo talk about generations of the Caputo family and the business history of their co-owned Caputo Bakery in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. John describes the sequence of locations for Caputo's; one near Union and Hicks Streets that was shuttered because of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway construction in the 1940s, another at 332 Court Street, and the present one that faces that old address. John recalls the businesses and scenery of his youth. The two discuss how each came into the business and how modern life has eased the demands of long hours and baking business inefficiencies. The two identify evolving styles and quality of bread in the overall market and at Caputo's. James reflects on appreciating the bakery in his youth, achieving a career in finance, and returning to work with his father at the bakery. They go over their changing clientele, the staffing of a bakery, and different technologies used in the bakery's different ovens through the years. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Margaret Fraser.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Caputo, James
  • Caputo, John

Subject Organizations

  • Caputo Bakery

Subject Topics

  • Bakery employees -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Bakeries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Baking
  • Business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Carroll Gardens (New York, N.Y.)

Deserio, Pino, 2010 July 28

Biographical note

Pino (Joseph) Deserio was born in Mola De Bari, Italy in 1952. He came to the United States in 1970 with his father via ship, and eventually his mother and six siblings joined them. As soon as he turned eighteen, he started working as an electrician's helper at Todd Shipyards in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. He worked there until Todd Shipyards closed and sold the land to IKEA in 2005. Along with the rest of his family, Deserio has lived in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 1970s. He was married and raised two daughters there. At the time of the 2010 interview, Deserio was working as the facilities manager at IKEA in Red Hook on the same site as his previous job with Todd Shipyards.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Pino Deserio describes his life in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn and the Italian American community's establishments there; including the Van Westerhout Mola Sport Club, established by those originally from Mola Di Bari, Italy, and the St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church. He talks about his family, immigration, and changes in the neighborhood, and also changes back in Italy, which he visits every year. Deserio gives a thorough description of all the steps necessary for getting a ship into a graving dock, a difficult process that was his responsibility by the time Todd Shipyards closed. Deserio also discusses the loss of his wife to breast cancer when she was only forty-five years old and shares his hopes for his two daughters. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Deserio, Pino

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Todd Shipyards Corporation. Brooklyn Division

Subject Topics

  • Docks -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- Social life and customs
  • Marriage customs and rites -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Parents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipping -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Waterfronts -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Carroll Gardens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Italy
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)

Windt, Robert, 2009 January 16

Biographical / Historical

Robert "Bob" Windt was born in Manhattan, but moved with his family at the age of four to the upper-middle class Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Windt's father, a first-generation American of Austro-Hungarian Jewish heritage, gave up his half-partner position in a large manufacturing concern to spend more time with his children before founding the successful Fisk jewelry business. The elder Windt died in 1932, when his son was just twelve years old; the death had a lasting impact on the young Windt. Windt attended P.S. 180, Montauk Junior High School, and graduated from New Utrecht High School in 1938. In anticipation of the United States' entry to World War II, in 1940 Windt joined the Army, where he specialized in carburation and was a B-29 Bomber instructor; he was saved from deployment by the dropping of the atomic bomb. After the war's conclusion, Windt embarked on a successful career in show-business publicity, working with and for Dumont Laboratories, CBS, Pepsi Cola, and Rheingold Brewing Company before launching his own firm, whose major contract was with Fairchild Publications. Robert Windt passed away in October of 2014.

Scope and Contents

In this wide-ranging interview, Robert "Bob" Windt shares his life's history, starting with his family's ancestral history and ending with his retirement. He describes his Austro-Hungarian Jewish heritage and his family's capture of the American dream; and racial relations in the Jewish-Italian Borough Park neighborhood of his youth. He discusses his sadness at his father's early passing; and his early experiences with the Jewish religion. Windt describes his young adulthood, including two years spent "piddling around," which led to his decision to preemptively join the Army as a flight engineer. He describes his experiences in Army training, including Officer's training at the Boca Raton Club, his commission as a lieutenant, and his disappointment over not being deployed. Windt details his start in publicity for the show business industry, selling radios and television sets for CBS-Columbia, and frequently references screen stars of the 1940s and 1950s, including Sammy Kaye, Perry Como, Joan Crawford, Arthur Godfrey, and others. Windt tells of subsequent years spent at Pepsi Cola and Rheingold Beer, including tales of insider business drama, proxy wars, ego battles, and bitter competition. He discusses the launch of his own firm, where his major contract was with Fairchild Publications. At the interview's conclusion, Windt discusses his love of baseball and his passionate distaste for the abuse of eminent domain, even when invoked for the construction of sports arenas. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Windt, Robert

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team)
  • PepsiCo, Inc.

Subject Topics

  • Business enterprises -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Entertainers -- United States
  • Jews, American -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Public relations
  • Religion -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

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