About a year ago, delivery company Brooklyn Seltzer Boys left Canarsie, Brooklyn — said to be the last seltzer factory in the city, where production of bubbles clanking in colorful glass bottles had been running for 70 years. The company is led by Alex Gomberg, a new wave seltzer purveyor, who had been operating out of his family’s decades-old Gomberg Seltzer Works factory since 2013.
Now in Cypress Hills — a move the team attributed to issues related to the pandemic — Brooklyn Seltzer Boys is still chugging along. But like so many other businesses it has been affected by rising costs. Gomberg tells Eater that the team sent out messages to costumers recently alerting them that as of Monday, September 5, Brooklyn Seltzer Boys would be raising prices on its cases, each filled with 10, 26-ounce bottles, by 50 cents each (that makes the cost somewhere around $50 per order, though it fluctuates depending if a delivery location has difficult parking or arduous stairs). Gomberg estimates that when he started a decade ago a case might run customers around $35.
Mid-century New York City was once bubbling over with seltzer delivery, then the soda of choice, though a citywide seltzer boom dates back at least a century. The signature glass bottles with levers would be delivered by a handful of companies to New Yorkers’ doorsteps; the water could be enjoyed on its own or as the basis for egg creams. In recent years, New York’s glass bottle seltzer services have fizzled out as 15-minute delivery services, plastic bottles, bodega availability, hard canned seltzer, and sparkling water makers threaten the old-fashioned seltzer market. To that end Gomberg delivers to homes, but he also angled his family business to supply to bars and restaurants.
Gomberg tells Eater that he currently delivers to around 500 customers. Prior to the pandemic, he says the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys had about a fifty-fifty mix of home- and restaurant deliveries. During the pandemic, the team pivoted to basically exclusively deliver to customers’ homes, as the handcrafted service was considered by some of his clients to be more of a luxury.
But with restaurants returning, a steady stream of business is bubbling up from restaurants and bars. Gomberg shares that Long Island City’s Dutch Kills bar has been a client for around ten years, and he also delivers bubbles to spots like Juliana’s Pizza in Dumbo and steakhouse St. Anselm in Williamsburg. “Now that people are dining inside again, we’re starting to see business pick-up,” he says.
Back in 2017, the New York Times reported, then the oldest purveyor of seltzer, Eli Miller, had retired, handing over his route to Gomberg, the youngest seltzer man in the city (Miller passed away in 2020).
According to the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys website, the factory was originally founded by Moe Gomberg, back in 1953 and has remained in the family for four generations. The bottles themselves have history — allegedly those still circulated today were “hand-blown in Czechoslovakia and Austria in the 1800’s,” the website states.
Gomberg tells Eater, “we want to start inviting people to see [our new Cypress Hills facility].” Select private tours have begun, but by March of next year the team plans to ramp up advertising to bring in people to their historic company’s new space.