Business

The Whole Foods in Lake Grove, above, will soon be joined by a second Suffolk County store. File photo

Suffolk County is getting a second Whole Foods Market in Commack. The new store, located at the site of the former King Kullen at 120 Veterans Memorial Highway, will hold a grand opening on April 3 at 9 a.m. with complimentary coffee and breakfast pastries offered at 8 a.m. Reusable canvas shopping bags will be handed out to the first 200 customers.

The market will be the fourth Whole Foods location on Long Island. The others are in Jericho, Manhasset and Lake Grove.

“We’re eager to open our doors to the Commack community,” said store team leader Lorraine Barker in a statement. “We look forward to providing our customers with a variety of products to meet all of their needs, while also offering the highest quality service and providing a neighborhood gathering space.”

According to a press release, the new 45,000-square-foot store will offer fresh produce, full-service butcher and seafood departments; an in-house bakery; a hot and cold prepared foods section; coffee and juice bars; beer from local producers; and 142 bins of bulk scoop items. It will also feature a fast-casual eatery that will serve wine and locally brewed beer on tap.

Owned by online retail giant Amazon, the Commack store will employ a total of 200 full- and part-time team members. Following the grand opening, store hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

The Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach will host a Job Fair by the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center on Wednesday, March 20 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Representatives from over 35 companies including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Association for Mental Health & Wellness, DiCarlo Food Service, East/West Industries, Express Employment Pros, HW Staffing, Jefferson’s Ferry, LIRR, LI State Veterans Home, Manpower, Marcum Search, Precious Lambs Childcare, Presidio, Rise Life Services, South Shore Home Health, Splish Splash, Stop & Shop, Suffolk County Civil Service, SYSCO, Titan Global, Triangle Building Products, Wa  lmart, Well Life Network and Windowrama are scheduled to attend.

All are welcome and no registration is required. Bring copies of your resume and dress to impress! For more information, call 631-585-9393.

ShopRite held a grand opening celebration for its newest store, a state-of-the-art, full-service supermarket in Port Jefferson Station, on Friday, March 8. Located at 5145 Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station, the 68,000-square-foot supermarket will be operated by the Gallagher family.

During the ribbon cutting, the Gallagher family presented a check for $10,000 to Long Island Cares food bank, as well as $1,000 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249, Rocky Point.

The existing retail space was completely renovated to make way for a new ShopRite with a convenient shopping format. The store was outfitted with the latest energy-saving and sustainable technologies, including LED lighting and environmentally friendly, energy-efficient refrigerant systems. The parking lot was refreshed with new landscaping and lighting. The store will employ approximately 250 people, many of them local residents.

An in-store, registered dietitian will provide free nutrition and wellness counseling to customers, associates and the community, and the new store will also offer a large selection of organic, local and gluten-free foods and fresh produce. Expanded gluten-free options are available in grocery, bakery and the frozen aisle, and the store also offers a refrigerated dairy-free section.

“We are very excited to bring ShopRite to Port Jefferson with the opening of this state-of-the-art shopping destination. This new supermarket is committed to providing low prices, outstanding service and health and wellness options to the local community,” said Charles Gallagher, president of Gallagher Family Markets.

Charles and his wife, Judith, who also own and operate the ShopRites in Selden and Lake Ronkonkoma, will be joined by other members of the family in running the new store, which is now open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call 631-476-5717.

See more photos from the grand opening event at www.tbrnewsmedia.com/arts-lifestyles/.

All photos courtesy of BML Public Relations

Photo by Julie Diamond

RIBBON CUTTING

The Long Island Museum of Stony Brook welcomed members of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 28 for a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Carriage Museum. In its continuing effort to increase its reach and gain new audiences, the museum joined the chamber, which represents the interests of business, industry, financial service, not-for-profit and other professionals within the greater Huntington area. 

Its mission is the promotion of business, economic development and job creation through the coordinated effort of its membership. In addition to the customary ribbon cutting, chamber members, many of whom have never been to the Carriage Museum, received a guided tour of the galleries.

Pictured from left, LIM Deputy Director, Director of Advancement & External Affairs Sarah Abruzzi; Manager of Membership & Special Projects Alexandria D’Auria; Manager of Special Events Regina Miano; Executive Director of the Long Island Museum Neil Watson; Huntington chamber board member Brian Yudewitz; board member Bushra Dano; board member Vincent Casillo; board member Gail Lamberta; and Executive Director of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce Ellen O’Brien.

A scene of construction going on behind the fences along Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

By David Luces

A long mesh fence has gone up around the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Passing cars can see heavy construction vehicles already breaking the ground on what will be an assisted living community and senior rental space.

As development and construction are underway for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal assisted living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land in Mount Sinai, the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency earlier last month offered a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement to the developer.

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community.”

— Ann Becker

Lisa Mulligan, the town’s director of economic development and CEO of the town’s IDA, said the projects would be a major boon to the area, adding these two projects are a $138 million investment for the township, and construction would facilitate around 800 construction jobs, according to town officials. 

IDA documents show once the project is completed, the residential facility will provide four full time jobs with an average salary of $56,000. The assisted living facilty is listed as providing 50 full time and 20 part time jobs with an average salary $36,000 by year two of the facility.

Mulligan said that before construction began in January the developer paid around $46,000 in property taxes on the vacant land. 

The 13-year PILOT would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs,” Mulligan said.   

Mount Sinai Civic Association has largely been supportive of the senior housing construction plans, though civic leaders are not fond of the news that the developer has received a PILOT from the Brookhaven IDA. 

The civic association hosted a meeting March 4 to discuss the PILOT agreement.  

“The Mount Sinai Civic Association has been consulted by The Engel Burman Group and approves of their plan to construct the senior housing project currently underway on Route 25A in Mount Sinai,” the civic said in a statement provided to TBR News Media.  

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities. However, civic members were disappointed in the loss of tax revenue due to the PILOT.

“Our community has gone through many proposals for this project, and is pleased that the development is finally underway,” the civic said in its statement. “However we were very disappointed to see that a PILOT was approved by the Brookhaven IDA as this parcel was always intended to provide much-needed tax relief for the Mount Sinai community.”  

At the March 4 meeting, civic president Ann Becker reiterated that stance. 

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community,” she said. “We’ve been concerned about that for a number of years.”

Becker said while they are supportive about the facilities coming to the area and understand there will be some tax benefits for Mount Sinai, they are just unsure if this was the best deal that could have been obtained. 

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs.”

— Lisa Mulligan

The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, are no strangers to the Long Island area with 13 other assisted-living locations on the Island, including facilities in Lake Grove and Holtsville. 

Census data shows the senior population will outstrip the younger generations. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035 there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18. 

The Mount Sinai senior rental complex will include a 9,000 square foot clubhouse with a movie theater, card room, outdoor pool, living room and gym. 

Units in the complex, will range from studio up to two bedrooms. A spokesperson from Engel Burman said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

Information added March 11 denoting number of jobs the two different projects should have by completion.

The Shelf at East Main. Photo by Kyle Barr

A shelf can be a curious thing. When walking into a stranger’s house, what you may find on the shelves, whether it be pictures, books, art, can tell you much about that person. 

In a small shop located at 218 E. Main St., one local woman is trying to get others to discover something about local artists through the shelves she’s built to showcase their work.

The shelves Diana Walker is planning to use for artists. Photo by Kyle Barr

Diana Walker, a 25-year resident of Mount Sinai, is planning to open a consignment shop called The Shelf at East Main, a new spot that will showcase artists and entrepreneurs talents in a way many artists rarely have the opportunity to do so.

“To classify it, it is an artisan market,” Walker said. “The aim of this is to lift others through community connection, and also educate the community on the talent that is here locally.”

The idea has been sitting in Walker’s head for several years, since she helped her son Kyle arrange an art show in the Port Jefferson Village Center for him and a group of fellow artists. During the show she overheard several conversations about the artists who were desperately looking for ways to break into the art scene.

“Talking to the artists I heard, ‘It’s so hard to find places to exhibit,’ and ‘It’s so hard to sell,” she said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice where there was a place where they could sell their work, we could have events more regularly, to get their work out there not only to buy but just to experience?”

As of March 1, Walker had 32 artists signed onto the store, though not all will be present when it comes time for the grand opening April 19. She’s proud that many of the artists she expects to showcase come from all walks of life. She said a veteran has signed on to showcase his work, several older retired folks and even children as young as 9 years old.

“This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”

— Diana Walker

The new shop owner said since artists already have a tough time showcasing their work, often not having the funds to do so, she will take a percentage of each sale.

“This way if it sells you pay, if it doesn’t you don’t pay,” she said. “This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”

Items in the store are expected to be changed out every 90 days, and the owner expects to host several community events after hours, including giving artist the opportunity to showcase their entire line, doing crocheting classes, book signings, storytelling and podcasts. Her website will be a digital version of the store, showcasing the artists work so those unable to come into the store can still see the artist’s work.

“What motivates me is the energy that these people have,” Walker said. “It’s said you lift yourself by lifting others, and that’s what this is going to do.”

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Danya, Dean and Kevin Scott stand at the last night of the DEKS pub. Photo by Kyle Barr

It could have been like any other night at the family owned DEKS American Restaurant & Taproom Feb. 28, but of course, it wasn’t. Once the clock struck midnight March 1, the staple pub in Rocky Point that has stood for 41 years closed its doors for good.

“It’s the people, of course, it’s the people,” said Dean Scott, the pub’s owner. “It’s been nothing but accolades from people that say, ‘Look, thank you.’”

The pub and restaurant owner is moving down to Florida to enjoy a retirement that has been a long time coming. He said it was time to take a break from the hustle of running a bar as old as his.

Regulars Margaret and Vinny Labate stand with pub owner Dean Scott, center, while reminiscing about a photo taken there some 20 years ago. Photo by Kyle Barr

“It’s time,” he said. “We haven’t had any life. It’s 24/7. It’s like, ‘What are we out of? What fell down? What’s broken?’” 

Regular Margaret Labate has been coming to the pub for decades. In one of the closets toward the front entrance, the pub workers hold onto many photographs from over the years. On one of them from around 1998, Labate and her husband Vinny stand by the bar, smiling as they did the night of Feb. 28.

“This is when you had color in your hair, hon,” Margaret Labate said to her husband as she held the picture. “We’ll miss the homeliness and the comfort of this place.”

Labate had come for years, back when she and her husband had started dating. She would even eventually go by herself, saying she felt safe there.

There was a good amount of camaraderie to go around the closing night. Scott and his family, including his brother Kevin and daughter Danya, know just about everyone who walks through the doors and were able to make a quick quip about nearly every one of them as they came in from the cold night outside.

It was a night of bittersweet well wishes, but just a few days before, Feb. 24, the bar hosted its going-away party with live music. That night the space was packed shoulder to shoulder, and the parking lot across the street was lined by cars. By Feb. 28, most of the neon signs had been taken down while the Scott family sold off hundreds of beer taps, some from brands long forgotten.

Despite his love for the patrons, Scott said he has to get off his feet. He only recently underwent below-the-knee surgery due to complications from diabetes.

Scott family and friends reminisce about DEKS pub. Photo by Kyle Barr

Natalie Stiefel, president of Rocky Point Historical Society, said the building dates back to James Hallock, whose family was a well-known influence on the area in the early 19th century, and was built in 1825. Area local Charles Bloder purchased the house in 1929 and turned it into a night spot called The Rocky Point Inn.

Before Scott purchased it, the bar was originally named the Sip and Bull Tavern, he said, but it was later changed to its modern incarnation. The current pub owner can still remember a time before the bypass along Route 25A, just when the area was turning from a summer destination into a place where residents could take up roots.

Overall Scott said he is happy to see so much support for what he and his family have done.

“We were the place that always stayed open no matter what, somewhere you could get warm and get a hot meal,” Scott said. “It’s really wonderful, it’s a nice thing to know that people actually appreciate what you’ve done for the past 41 years. It’s been a long time — a lifetime.”

Photo from Legislature Tom Muratore's office

RIBBON CUTTING

Legislator Tom Muratore’s   legislative staff joined members of the Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, Town of Brookhaven, other county officials and the crew at Planet Fitness to celebrate the grand opening of its newest location at 321 Middle Country Road in Selden in Selden Plaza next to Pet Depot, on Feb. 19. The event included a tour of the facility and a pizza celebration.

“I welcome Planet Fitness to the community as well as the shopping center where my district office is located,” stated Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma). “I also wish them much success in the years ahead.” 

“We’re thrilled to bring our new Judgement Free fitness experience to Selden, and we encourage everyone to come check out the new club, meet our friendly staff, get a tour and see what the Judgement Free Zone is all about,” said Rich Childs, senior director of Corporate Club Operations at Planet Fitness in a statement.

Pictured in the front row, from left, Planet Fitness staff members Jose Robles and Anthony Napoli; William Maggi, aide to Muratore; Cara Pagan, senior regional operations manager, Planet Fitness; Pastor Scott Kraniak, Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce; Doug Smith (R-Holbrook), New York State assemblyman 5th District; Bob Martinez, chief of staff to Muratore; Jeanette Spillane, Planet Fitness club manager; Thomas Heinlein, aide to Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden); Ryan Gessner, assistant director, Middle Country Public Library; and Thomas Lupo, representing Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy (R).

Rocky Point Jewelers employees from left to right: Ken Driver, Ronald Watkins, Anthony Bongiovanni Jr., Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella, Barbara Michelle, Tara Jansen, Theresa Armone and Cassie Mundy. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

Honesty and service — that’s what the owners of Rocky Point Jewelers say have been the mainstay of their shops for 40 years. 

Originally born from a coin collecting hobby between father and son, Anthony Bongiovanni Jr., the general manager of the store, said that after he graduated high school he and his dad hatched the idea of opening a small coin shop. The coin shop eventually turned into a full-fledged jewelry store. 

“I realized early on though that jewelry was the way to go for a daily business — so we went in that direction,” Bongiovanni said.

From there, Bongiovanni would pursue and receive a graduate gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America, the highest degree awarded by the institute. He also holds the title of certified gemologist with the American Gem Society. 

“He meant everything to the store. He was here every day — he was a fixture — always there to lend encouragement to the staff.”

— Anthony Bongiovanni Jr.

Bongiovanni said he learned much from his father. 

“My father taught me honesty and hard work,” he said. “He meant everything to the store. He was here every day — he was a fixture — always there to lend encouragement to the staff.” 

Anthony Bongiovanni Sr. passed away in 2011, but his impact on the store and the community remains. 

“My father was a big influence — he was a great man,” Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella, who works with the family business, said. “I see a lot of my father in my brother.”

Bongiovanni-LaBella worked as a secretary for many years in the Hauppauge area until that company went under. With some convincing from her father she began working at the store in 1984. 

“Who would’ve thought it would’ve come to this,” she said. “[I remember] we started out with homemade displays my mother would make.”

Over the years, the store has seen an expansion in size, and the family opened a Rocky Point Jewelers branch in Stony Brook.  

The Bongiovanni siblings point to customer service as essential to running a success business. 

“Anyone that sells retail will tell you that it is a different environment now than it was years ago,” Bongiovanni said. “You’re competing these days with not only other retailers but big box stores and online [shopping].”

The main store’s general manager said local jewelers like himself still offer services that are hard to find elsewhere. 

“If you need a ring sized, a chain fixed, a watch fixed or something custom designed — that is something that can’t done on the computer — you have to see a professional for that,” he said.  

Bongiovanni-LaBellla said you learn how to read people and get a sense of what they want.

Many customers have become personal friends over the years. 

“Some of these customers I’ve been seeing for close to four decades,” Bongiovanni said. “You know them, you know their children, now we are meeting their grandchildren.” 

Bongiovanni’s sister said she sees her customers at the post office, at Stop&Shop and at the bank. 

“Generations of families have come here,” she said. “We try to keep people happy — your biggest advertisement is word of mouth, it really is.”

“We try to keep people happy — your biggest advertisement is word of mouth, it really is.”

— Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella

Theresa Armone, who has worked at the store for more than four years, said it’s the level and quality of service they provide that has kept customers coming back all these years. 

Those who work at Rocky Point Jewelers agree the store works hard to earn the customers’ trust. 

Bongiovanni said people entrust them with their valuables and sentimental objects and it means never compromising their standards. 

“Times change, but it doesn’t mean your level of quality or service has to change — we try to improve on services as much as we can,” he said. 

The general manager said with the work ethic instilled in him by his father, good employees and a little bit of luck, the store is still around 40 years later.  

“It’s a tough retail environment out there,” he said. “There’s no two ways around it, but you always have to strive for better.” 

Rocky Point Jewlers is located at 29 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road and 137 Main Street, Stony Brook.

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A longtime Port Jefferson business, Cappy’s Carpets building, may soon triple in size to accommodate new retail space and nearly 50 new apartments.

The Capobianco family, who owns the property, along with real estate firm Brooks Partners LLC, have unveiled plans for creating a three-story, mixed-use building on 1.15 acres of property at 440 Main St. The development will replace the existing carpet store along with the boat storage lot to the rear of the property.

The proposed plans call for 1,200 square feet of retail space, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant and a 750-square-foot fitness center on the ground floor. Above that would be 44 one-bedroom and two, two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. 

Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said she was adamant the new space should have retail on the first floor.

Site plans for new development. Photo from Port Jeff planning department

“We feel very strongly, despite everybody saying ‘Retail is getting killed [and] Amazon is killing small business,’” Garant said. “In providing a space where a small store that is attractive, it makes Main Street a vibrant street for everyone.”

Cappy’s Carpets currently exists on a single-level building, but this development could raise its height to match the surrounding three-story structures. Renderings for the space provided by Hauppauge-based engineering firm VHB show a rustic aesthetic building trying to keep in tune with its neighbors. 

The Port Jeff mayor said original plans for the structure put it at four stories, but the village trustees voted to change the code to restrict its height to 35 feet or 3 stories. She has seen the updated plans and said she appreciates the look of the structure’s facade.

“We learned a lesson when the Shipyard building came in,” Garant said. “We’re trying to maintain our character while allowing these property owners to build within the code … there has to be a careful balance between our very sensitive downtown.”

The westernmost portion of the first floor will consist of surface-level parking. The garage will encompass 37 spaces. The available parking outside the structure will have 41 additional slots and one loading space. The parking would be accessed off Main Street and through an egress on Barnum Avenue. The parking garage and 29 of the outside stalls will be reserved for apartment tenants. Another 12 remaining outside spaces will be available for employees and patrons of the commercial Main Street businesses. 

Cappy’s Carpets owners did not respond to requests for comment.

According to a traffic study conducted by VHB, the weekday average traffic for Main Street was less than 18,000 vehicles per day in the vicinity of the project site as of March 2016. Saturday and Sunday daily volume during the same week was recorded at less than 20,000 and 15,000 cars, respectively. The study does not give the volume of traffic for Barnum Avenue. 

The study states the development would only lead to an increase of 61 new trips during peak a.m. times, 71 new trips in peak p.m. times, and 115 new Saturday midday trips. It concludes by saying the project would not have any major effect on traffic in Port Jefferson village.

Rendering of new development from the Barnum Avenue side. Photo from Port Jeff planning department

Garant said the New York State Department of Transportation has already approved renovations to the three-way intersection between Barnum Avenue and Main Street as well as traffic features south along Main Street. Current plans call for removing the triangle median where the two roads connect, making one egress and ingress, eliminating the need for pedestrians to make two crossings along one road. The next project is to install a traffic light at the intersection of Old Post Road and Main Street in hopes of eliminating some problems of the accident-prone intersection during rush hour. The mayor added she hopes to see these changes in the next year, or at least before any new Cappy’s Carpet development finishes.

“We’re in the last stages of negotiation phases with DOT, but the traffic light is definitely happening,” Garant said. “The changes to Barnum are also something we hope will alleviate some of the problems with pedestrians crossing that intersection.”

The Village of Port Jefferson has released the draft site plans for the site and has them available at the Village Hall, the Port Jefferson Free Library and the Building and Planning Department at 88 North Country Road. As of press time, the site plans are not yet available on the official Port Jefferson Village website.

A public hearing about the proposed development is set for March 14 at 6:30 p.m. Residents can submit comments to the Planning Board until March 24.

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