Best Ethnic Market New York 2009 - Flatbush Caton Market
794-814 Flatbush Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
At some point south of Prospect Park, when the retail on Flatbush Avenue becomes dominated by roti shops and bakeries selling Jamaican patties, you come across a building that belongs in another time and place. Made of corrugated sheet metal, like a super-size Third World shanty, the façade is bright emerald green with giant blue palm trees painted over it, which makes the building—called the Flatbush Caton Market—stand out in such an appealing way. Even the word "Caton" sounds like something that should be said in a Jamaican or Barbadian accent, but the street is actually named after Susan Martense Caton, who was a descendant of the Dutch and lived on Flatbush Avenue shortly after the Revolutionary War. Inside the market, vendors sell typical neighborhood fare—the ground cassava meal and bouillion cubes one might find in a Port-au-Prince grocery, lingerie that cinches around the butt to give it a lift. The Caton Market is also where the neighborhood goes to stock up on costumes for the West Indian Day Parade—and all other patriotic, kitschy memorabilia. In a store called Flag-a-Thon, you can buy a skirt that is a print of the Guyanese flag (red, yellow, and bright green) or a pair of flip-flops that tells the world that you're from the tiny island of St. Kitts.