We recently roiled the powers-that-be over in Bushwick by publishing a thorough roundup of popular food-and-drink spots off the Jefferson L stop. Much of the epic rage was directed towards the moniker "Jefftown," an neighborhood nickname that's triggered considerable of eye-rolling from the locals. Last week, Royal Chase—a 28-year-old Bushwick entrepreneur responsible for coining "Jefftown," and for creating stickers/hats and other "Jefftown"-related promotional goods—reached out to us to clarify a few things, so we sat down with him at Jefftown's Mominette to discuss neighborhood branding, gentrification and how to handle the haters.

So how did "Jefftown" get started? Obviously [Thomas] Jefferson was a slave owner. I didn’t want to have that impression of walking around in "Jefferson". So I wanted to make it like, what if his the first name is just "Jeff." Jeff-Jefferson stop. Town, I’m from South America, Guyana, so Georgetown is very laid back, cool community.

I have tons of friends that work here, or drink here, or party here. Like Tandem, Cobra—I could just name bars for days. It’s not like I’m just at one bar. I’m here, I'm at Cobra, I go to Tandem, Bossa Nova, I could just go on for days, just shouting out names, places that I go and hang out at. I know stuff because I’ve always been around, like anybody in the neighborhood. But obviously sometimes people don’t really hang out in the neighborhood. They go to Williamsburg. When the L Train shuts down, if I don’t have to go anywhere I don’t need to go. All I need is ten dollars and a dream. Add a few friends and you got a party for the night. Tandem doesn’t charge a cover. Go in there dance your night away and whatever. Go home at four o’clock in the morning with or without somebody and you have a good time. So the thing was to just rep the neighborhood.

A goal was to bring [about] that peace, that love, that know-thy-neighbor type thing. Like, I started meeting all my neighbors on my block this year. How many neighbors do you know? People you can go out and drink with and go, oh that’s my friend, or like, that’s my neighbor, I know them I have their number, we talk, we hang out. A lot of people in Bushwick don’t know their neighbors, "I’m just doing me, gotta get through grad school, be an actress, gotta get through my job."

Everybody’s got their own goal. My whole point was to bring everybody together. So we got campaigns to kind of bring people together and have parties together and shout out. This is a great time to be 20-something, 30-something, and have a bunch of people that support your stuff. I’m not sure why a lot of people feel like [Jefftown] is gentrification or its people trying to embezzle in on their fun. It’s all the places that they go to.

It’s the popular places that certain people go to, versus the other places that people don’t go to, like the Spanish spots. On my website, I mention a few Spanish spots that nobody knows about. Like bodegas, spots that’s like—you can get a three dollar sandwich, sausage egg cheese bacon lettuce, everything. They don't do Eggs Benedict, obviously. But so cheap, so easy. There are places where you can get $7 American Spirits in Bushwick, off the DeKalb stop. People don’t know that.

How long have you lived in the neighborhood? I’ve lived in the area for like 3 to 4 years. I lived in one loft, moved to a single apartment, moved back to the same loft. And I have been able to see everything change, see everything grow, work with people. Most of the time, when I go to restaurants, I’m not necessarily thinking about—Okay I'm going to drink, get messed up, and I’m going to go home. I’m thinking like—I’m going go, still drink, but who is the owner here? I do parties, let’s hook something up. Let’s start something. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m an artist. So I’m going to create opportunities for friends and other artists to get in with me.

What has the reaction been to the branding of the neighborhood?
People took it. There were like 10,000 "Jefftown" stickers out there. I remember the first time I dropped off a stack of stickers, there was a good thick, 2-3 inch stack, and I left it at Wyckoff-Star. And I came back the next day or a few days later, and I thought that either the owner or someone from the neighborhood just took them and threw them in the trash. So I said to them “Did you move the stickers that were here?” And they said, "No I think [people] just took them." And every time I came up with stickers I just would drop them there. Never said anything like “Hey guys these are my stickers I’m trying to push my neighborhood. Let’s hang out and have parties and stuff.” I would just come in and drop the stack. There was no opposed reaction.

But as soon as it hit online, or I heard it in bars or places, and I’d be like “Oh I’m from Jefftown” people would be like, “Oh, my God.” And I knew it would be like, “Oh my God, you’re not Jefftown.” And I would tell them what I did—parties, events, promotions—and we are repping the neighborhood.

I did a presentation for Party Presenter talking about Jefftown, and one of the guys who created Morgantown was there and asked if I planned on rebranding the neighborhood. And I was like, "No I’m planning for people to see how awesome this neighborhood is and have a great time while we have it." Because anybody can move out and move on, but at least contribute while they are here. Opening up another bar is great, but give something back to the neighborhood.

Why do you think people were turned off by the branding? That guy that helped create Morgantown, he told me that they made it up as a joke. That caught on, but it got a lot of negative feedback. It got hate from people that were there for 50 years. I get no hate from that community. I get no hate from the people that have lived here for many years. They know what this area is. And I do too, I know it’s Bushwick.

It’s the people that either got burned from Morgantown experience, or think that I’m trying to change the neighborhood for that experience. But I talk to Senators, I talk to park managers, I do partnerships and parties with people that aren't just in Morgantown or Jefftown. I do parties in the city. I talk to a lot of different people, so I’m not like just in one group and one area. My affiliation is the neighborhood. My affiliation is to promote whatever is good and whatever is awesome and whatever is going to benefit Brooklyn in general. But where I am is Jefferson.

051514_jefftown.jpgAre you concerned if this kind of branding catches on, it'll speed up the rampant gentrification that's already happening in the neighborhood? That wasn’t Jefftown that did that. That wasn’t Morgantown that did that. That was the settlement that came in. The first guy that was like, “This place is $300.” "This place is $300 because I might get shot in the morning. Aren’t you trying to go to art school? Aren’t you at Tisch? Aren’t you going to Hunter, or something? You should move here." And the landlords said, "These people can afford more." That settlement came in with more money, and the people that started to escalate the rent gave you better living conditions and you appreciated that. And they brought parties in and young people in. That was the first point where it became clear we can adjust the culture of the space. It didn’t start with Jefftown. No matter what you call it, any place [gentrification] is happening is still gonna happen.

What do you think of the real estate-driven names? They’ve been trying to turn the Bushwick/Bed-Stuy border into Bedwick, DUMBO and ProCro are real estate names that seem concocted to drive up rents. Do you see that being a concern with something like Jefftown, that people will start looking for places in "Jefftown" and not "Bushwick"? I understand that I picked my brand to be representative of the places I go to in the area that I hang out in. It's about promotion. And it's something that I'm trying to do. Like, okay, "What's Jefftown?" Have people come in and hang out. Do promotions on certain days; you find a sticker, you bring it in, you get a dollar off, something like that. Eventually get to that point. But that's going back to the parties and the things we do all the time.

Is there something distinct about the Jefferson stop? I think it's clean. It's clean. That waste facility plant that's right [near the Morgan stop]—I don't know how you drink coffee, being around there. And it was really bad back in the day, really bad. I don't really see trees over there either. They should start planting trees. People at Morgan, if they're hating on me they should call their senators and get some trees planted in their neighborhood and get that thing taken out of there. They're focusing on the wrong things.

But let's say hypothetically somebody started calling this "Jeffbush". And everybody loves "Jeffbush" because it's provocative and it sounds kind of cool, right? If everybody starts pushing Jeffbush, I'm cool with that. I didn't get to read, and I don't want to read all the negative comments on both Bushwick Daily and [Gothamist].

You should definitely never read the comments. There was one guy who commented, and I put it on my site, because I thought "Embrace the hate," you know. You gotta love it. If you don't learn how to embrace some love-hate then you will never learn how to be successful with negative and constructive feedback. So there's one guy who actually bought a domain—something Jefftown—and said that Bushwick is "this", circled it and pointed to Bushwick, and then circled Jefftown and pointed to Jeff Goldblum's balls. This man paid money to embarrass me or whoever, and let it be known that this is Bushwick and this is Jefftown. And I thought "Damn, this guy spent money. He's a real hater," because you have to put time into that, and energy.

But the hate is mostly from people who have moved to the neighborhood over the past few years. That are online and have an opinion, and then say what they want to say and live how they want to live. Bushwick was the first place I ever had a job. I worked for a friend's computer repair company, and it was in Bushwick off of Knickerbocker, near Irving and Dekalb. So I know the neighborhood. I've lived [in Brooklyn] for 27 years. I'm about to turn 28 this month.

To me, when someone just gets here and decides "That's wrong, you can't change it! I don't want my rent to go up," it's mostly for selfish reasons, or maybe other people aren't doing as well with their brands and the things that they're doing. They feel that they're not getting attention.

You know who I get a lot of hat sales from? People that are named Jeff and people whose dads are named Jeff. Back in like 1970, there was a big boom where a lot of male names were Jeff and Jeffrey. So there are a lot of dads out there are named Jeff. You probably know a couple.

Have you heard the nickname being used outside of your own circle? Yeah. There was a sticker that was found on 145th Street. Someone tried to peel it off and give it back to me and I was like "Yo, why didn't you leave it?" He was like "You know...145th Street. That's not Brooklyn." And I've had other people—I got an article in a Swedish magazine last year when we first started it. I was just showing [the reporter] around the neighborhood. I wasn't even doing stickers yet. I just had a name—Jefftown. And I was like, "This is the neighborhood that's going to pop off so much in the next coming years."

And we're hopefully trying to go out there and go to different places—California, things like that. To try and create the same kind of scene and love that we have for the neighborhood here in other places. But I understand, you know. If I went to the Bay Area and said "Jefftown"...there's no Jeff-anything. But they'll know Bushwick. If you look [Bushwick] up right now it's number 1 in Google. And that took time. It took time.

What about the negative reaction from bars and establishments in the area? I can tell artists that I don't like this, that, or the other thing, and maybe they hear what my feedback is but it really doesn't matter. Because they're going to continue making what they want to make. You tell Picasso or Rembrandt, "I don't really like that shade"—it doesn't matter. It's a part of my expression. So you can not buy it. I bet people that didn't like Van Gogh when he was selling on the streets of Germany walked past and walked away. And then a couple hundred years later, "Yeah, my dad passed up on a Van Gogh that's worth millions now."

These places or these establishments that decide not to support [Jefftown]—it doesn't change what's going to happen. People will like it, people won't. I'll do alright. I'm going to take it and I'll go with it for however long it does go on. And if it doesn't work out, I'll start a new venture. But it is my solo project, it's my baby, it's my first brand. I'm invested in it. I love it. I've met a lot of great people doing it.

There's tons of people that don't like [Jefftown] for how much traffic it brings in and they can't live their lazy or somewhat subdued life, the way it is regularly. You bring a certain amount of tension to Morgan or any neighborhood and the locals will be the ones that don't appreciate it or don't like it. There are people that live in Bushwick, off Jefferson or off Morgan that don't like Jefftown because there's too much openness, and there's this group of people that really just want to be quiet and subdued and not go out. I'm saying this because we've got great things that are going on and a lot of people aren't appreciating it. And the people that don't live here, that don't get what we get, are like, "We want to be there," and they don't understand. But it's not for me to decide if these people want to accept me or not. That's not my job. My job is just to create cool shit and have a good time. I'm enjoying my life. There's no reason for me to be unhappy. For whatever reason if they want to be unhappy, that's their choice.

Do you think the name will stick around? Jefftown is gonna blow up in it's own time, whether or not it's from partying, a t-shirt, a cafe, or something. So I'm doing what any other good businessman would do. So maybe these people are saying no right now, "We don't like it, I'm mad," until I ask them, "What do you do? Oh hey, you're a musician. I know a few guys in the city who are musicians and work on this project." I just hooked up a friend the other day for a gig.

I just like collaborating with people. The "no's" might be no's for right now, they might be "maybe's" next year, and then two years from now it might be a yes, like, "Yes, I love Jefftown." My goal is to win those guys out and turn them from haters to lovers. I want to ask them "Hey, what do you do? Let's collaborate, let's form something."

I want people to come to me and actually tell me why they don't like Jefftown. And I want them to actually say what they see in it that would cause disaster other than rent and gentrification. I don't create that. I can't create that. If I move to Harlem—it's been gentrified for a long time. There is no way that I can create that. That's designed by a bigger entity than me, than any of us. But if they're interested in talking like civilized people rather than emotional children, talk to me why they don't like it, what they don't like about it, and I can explain it—I'll totally stop on the street. I'll be late for work, just to talk it out or have a beer. And to the [bar] owners—I'm still gonna come to your bar until you 86 me, for a reason.