Business

Barbara Vivolo stands in her new wig salon. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Hauppauge breast cancer survivor is hoping to turn her experience into a new business to help others feel good about themselves.

Barbara Vivolo opened Barbara’s Hair Studio in September, a custom wig salon with the aim to help women diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses resulting in hair loss. The shop, opening days before October, which marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is fortuitous for Vivolo — who prefers to call herself a “thriver” rather than a survivor.

“I asked myself how can I make them go from survivors to thrivers?” Vivolo said. “To become thrivers we have to move forward together.”

Barbara Vivolo wears a pink wig at a breast cancer charity kickoff event. Photo from Facebook

Vivolo is a trained cosmetologist with more than 30 years experience, whose life dramatically changed when her mother and aunt were both diagnosed with breast cancer within the same week.

“My aunt was a hairdresser too, and she was always my inspiration to become a hairdresser when I was young,” Vivolo said. “We worked together for years.”

Her aunt, Phyllis Borek, lost her hair while undergoing chemotherapy treatments, which led Vivolo to her first time visiting a wig salon on the hunt for the perfect do.

“My aunt was funny with her wigs and we had a good time,” she said. “She was all, ‘Oh, now I can be the perfect redhead or I can be the perfect blond.’ One week it was short, then long. She really rocked it.”

Vivolo also started picking out wigs to ship to her mother in Florida, who continued working through her cancer treatments, often first painstakingly custom cutting and coloring the wigs.

Vivolo was shocked upon being diagnosed with ER-positive ductal carcinoma, breast cancer whose growth is affected by the hormone estrogen, at age 40. With three young children, she made the difficult choice to undergo a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery.

While undergoing her procedures, the hairdresser said she found it difficult to relax and heal without planning for the future and began writing in a composition notebook simply labeled “wig salon.”

“My husband would watch me write in this book every day, thinking about opening up a wig salon,” Vivolo said.

One composition notebook full of dreams and business ideas was quickly filled, then another, as Vivolo was more focused on raising her family.

“I prayed to my mother and my aunt that if I was going to open this salon, a wig salon to help women with cancer, I needed to win this money. When I found out I did, I sat there and cried.”

— Barbara Vivolo

In March 2016, Vivolo made the decision she would move forward. She wanted to offer cancer patients and women affected by hair loss a personal one-on-one experience where they could feel safe and supported during the process of selecting their first wig.

“It’s a awful lot to swallow,” she said.

Vivolo said she experienced “divine intervention” when attending a breast cancer event last October.

“I prayed to my mother and my aunt that if I was going to open this salon, a wig salon to help women with cancer, I needed to win this money,” she said. “When I found out I did, I sat there and cried.”

The hairdresser had won approximately $1,000 in a 50/50 raffle, which she then used to pay for her first shipment of wigs.

Now, she’s got a private one-chair hair studio where clients, one at a time, can come in and go through the process of being shaved, selecting their wig and have it custom colored and cut. The wigs range in price from $200 to more than $1,000, synthetic to made with human hair. While going through the process, Vivolo said she often answers questions about her personal experience and offers support as a certified health and life coach.

“They can see my end results, while they are in the beginning phases [of treatment],” Vivolo said. “I say to them, ‘Let me hold your hand and walk through this with you.’”

Rocky Point resident Maryann Horton picks out fruit at the Stop & Shop on 25A in Rocky Point's grand opening Sept. 29. Photo by Kevin Redding

A new Stop & Shop on Route 25A in Rocky Point officially opened its doors to the public Sept. 29, offering its customers an expansive selection of organic and natural foods, fresh meats and locally-sourced produce, as well as the company’s only fresh herb garden and its largest deli department in the region.

The 58,000 square foot store replaces the former Super Foodtown and stands as the second Stop & Shop in the immediate area, with a location down 25A in Miller Place. It has created 20 new jobs for Suffolk County residents, while keeping 99 percent of Foodtown’s associates employed.

The new Stop & Shop in Rocky Point is located at 277 Route 25A, which was previously Super Foodtown. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We’re trying to give the customers absolutely everything,” said Bob Harman, the director of deli and bakery. “We’ve gone above and beyond to try to make this the best offering for them, and we’re trying to make the old Foodtown customer happy as well as any Stop & Shop customer — just trying to blend the best of both worlds to make everyone happy.”

Kelly Scott, of Ridge, said she’s happy to have a new Stop & Shop close by.

“It was definitely needed here,” Scott said. “And it seems to have a lot more of a selection of everything. I’ll be coming back here all the time.”

Monica Stone, from Mount Sinai, called Stop & Shop her supermarket of choice and said she understands why a second location was put on 25A.

“I’ve always shopped at the Miller Place one, but it’s always crazy in there,” Stone said, referring to that location’s crowds and it being under-stocked as a result. “This one is well-stocked and everything’s new and it looks great. I’m glad they handed out aisle guides because items aren’t exactly in the same places as in Miller Place, but it’s very nice overall.”

“When you only have one store, you have one choice. I don’t like when there are two next to each other because then they’re the only game in town.”

—William Pellenz

Manager Paul Gallo pointed out the “bigger and better” aspects of the store, including the organic herb garden.

“We’re here for the community ,and this is one of our bigger facilities where the customer can really shop more freely,” Gallo said.

The store has an all-new layout with wider aisles and selection. The deli department offers customers the same Boar’s Head sandwiches and grab-and-go coldcut offerings, but also boasts a new slider program and slab bacon.

There is a variety of fresh sushi available in the prepared food department and even fresh-fried tortilla chips. The bakery section is not only stocked with store-made cakes, but local Long Island pies and shelves of gluten-free, sugar-free and peanut-free treats.

Customers will also experience all-natural seafood, like shrimp, scallop, smoked salmon and crawfish pulled straight the Great South Bay.

“You name it, we have it,” said Al Apuzzo, director of meat and seafood.

Rocky Point resident Kathy Gallup said she feels good about what the store has to offer.

“I like to eat organic food and it definitely offers more of that than Foodtown,” she said.

The Stop & Shop on 25A in Rocky Point boasts the only local, fresh her garden. Photo by Kevin Redding

But Rocky Point’s Susie Capell said she’s going to miss Foodtown.

“I loved Foodtown,” she said. “I liked the setup and the sales were good.”

But Capell also understands why what Stop & Shop has its benefits to the community.

“For my nephew, gluten-free is a big deal,” she said. “My sister only goes to Stop & Shop for that reason. She’s thrilled, I know that.”

William Pellenz, of Sound Beach, raised concern over this one being so close to the one down the road.

“That doesn’t give you any choices,” he said. “When you only have one store, you have one choice. I don’t like when there are two next to each other because then they’re the only game in town.”

But Maryann Horton was all smiles while she picked out fresh fruit.

“I love it,” the Rocky Point resident said of the new store. “We always went down to the other one and we just love the store. Now that Stop & Shop’s here, I’m very happy.”

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Restaurants in Port Jeff Village are banding together to form a subcommittee of the chamber of commerce in an effort advance common goals. File photo

Restaurants in Port Jefferson Village will now be functioning under a new, joint mantra: strength in numbers.

An organization called PRO Port Jefferson Association has been formally assembled with the stated mission to “promote and protect the economic interests of the Port Jefferson food and beverage service industry.” The organization will function as a subcommittee of The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, which to this point had few restaurants on board as dues-paying members and lacked a partnership with many lower Port businesses that fall under the food service category. The arrangement could mean more joint community events, better prices as a result of consolidation of buying power and an overall better dining experience for patrons.

John Urbinati, the owner of The Fifth Season restaurant on East Broadway and a director of the newly formed restaurant association, said restaurant owners in the village have long discussed creating an entity to serve their interests and present a united front in the community. He likened the new arrangement to a union, where people with common goals can create an open line of communication to improve sales for restaurant owners, who Urbinati said have a unique set of challenges to deal with in building a successful business.

“Every group of businesses has their own issues,” he said during a phone interview. “In the infancy stages of this group that’s been forming, it really came out of frustration. One of the great things for the progression and evolution of this group — it started out with a lot of frustrated business owners and it’s molding into more of a productive group.”

As part of the arrangement, members of PRO Port Jefferson Association will be required to join the chamber of commerce and will have to pay the $250 in annual dues, according to chamber director of operations Barbara Ransome, but will not be charged an additional fee as  a member of the association. The group intends to hold restaurant crawls or other similar events in an effort to raise funds, which they will then use to advertise for members, make charitable contributions and reinvest in the community, according to Urbinati.

“The chamber is here to support them independently,” Ransome said in a phone interview. “I’m OK with this arrangement, in fact, I’m grateful for it. I’m happy that they are showing initiative and energizing amongst themselves.”

Ransome added she was glad the restaurant owners were not divorcing themselves completely from the chamber. With the formation of the association, long-standing businesses like Roger’s Frigate and The Steam Room are joining the chamber for the first time in their history. Ransome said the association has funneled a few restaurants toward the chamber, which weren’t members previously, though she expects more when it comes time for businesses to renew their membership in November for 2018. She said the chamber would make restaurant owners aware of their new option at that time. The agreement also requires any promotion done by the restaurant association to include the chamber of commerce logo, Ransome said. The association is also working on having its own, freestanding website.

Steve Sands, the owner of Pasta Pasta and another one of the new association’s directors, said he previously believed the chamber wasn’t doing enough to benefit Port Jeff restaurants, but through the process of forming PRO Port Jeff, he has had a change of heart. He said the idea came from a similar setup in Patchogue Village, which Sands said he wants Port Jeff to emulate.

“Over the last couple of years business in Port Jeff has definitely been down, at least I know mine has been,” Sands said.

He said he thinks parking is a major deterrent for business and, with the restaurants banding together and interacting, it will be easier to tackle those types of issues as a group going forward.

Urbinati said his goal and the goal of all restaurant owners in the village is to create a welcoming environment to attract more paying customers.

“It really gives us an opportunity to be a larger voice for the restaurant and service community,” he said.

Mount Sinai resident Michael Cherry arrives to be the first customer of the valet parking service in Port Jeff in July. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

With the conclusion of a trial valet parking program in Port Jefferson Village, which along the way included input from members of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District, The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, village government, the Port Jefferson Fire Department, residents, the Port Jefferson School District and restaurant owners, a resonating theme has emerged: It was a good idea that needs work if it will be brought back in 2018.

Tommy Schafer, restaurant owner, village resident and PJBID president, said in a phone interview the program fell short of reaching its break-even point for  PJBID’s initial investment with the valet company. He said about 150 people used the service on average each weekend at a rate of $7 per car. When the program began Schafer said if the service drew 100 users nightly it would be a profitable venture.

“It was some sort of step towards a solution,” he said. “The upside of it is everyone who used it thought it was the best thing ever. We got praise for trying an idea like this. Hopefully next year we can go back to the table with a better plan.”

John Urbinati, owner of The Fifth Season restaurant, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s a big project,” he said in a phone interview. “It was a lot of people working on it and any time you have any sort of new projects or new activities … nobody has the foresight to get it totally right the first time.”

He added the plan will be to look at ways to streamline the service in the lead up to the summer of 2018 with an eye toward improvement — not disbanding the program.

The route valets took to park cars during the summer of 2017. Image by TBR News Media

Restaurant owners who were involved in the planning of the program this past summer and others who were not said they were glad valet parking was tried as a fix to an age-old problem in Port Jeff. The service began in July after a group of business owners announced their intentions to pursue the program to the village board once PJBID reached an agreement with the private valet company and the Port Jeff school district, which allowed cars to be parked in the vacant high school lot during the summer. It concluded after Labor Day weekend.

Logistical issues occurred along the way, including complaints from residents about the route drivers would take upon exiting the municipal lot off Maple Place behind Ruvo East restaurant where customers were staged before their cars were taken to the high school; a lack of signage at the entrance of the lot off Maple Place which historically had been a two-way entrance and was repurposed as a one-way, exit only during the program’s hours of operation; traffic on the street, which is also the site of the fire department; not enough promotion of the program to make visitors aware of it; and a disruption of the regular uses of the lot behind Ruvo East, among others.

Sound Beach resident Arthur Rasmussen was critical of the program in an August letter to the editor after he was instructed to use the valet service to visit Ruvo East when he complained the staging area was blocking handicapped parking for the restaurant.

“We were so incensed by this ‘shakedown’ that we called the restaurant and cancelled our reservation and drove to a restaurant in Mount Sinai,” he said. “My wife is on a walker and that particular handicapped spot gives her easier access to the restaurant. I thought that the valet parking program was voluntary and not designed to cause hardship on handicapped seniors.”

Initially the village was not going to be involved in the operation of the program, but because the staging area is a village lot its approval was required. Restaurant owners and director of operations of The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ransome said the program would likely benefit with more village input.

“I would like to see it continue, I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” she said. “They have to have better [public relations], better advertising and for God’s sake more signage. There aren’t many options out there. I think this is one that could work, it’s just got to be looked at.”

Village Mayor Margot Garant and deputy mayor and trustee, Larry LaPointe, could not be reached for comment regarding the village’s involvement with the project going forward.

The program was set up to be cost neutral for the village. Had revenue exceeded the initial investment, 25 percent of profits would have gone to the valet company and the remaining 75 percent would have been split between the school district and village.

WWE Wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley poses for a photo with the Castoro family during his event Sept. 7 where he raised funds for autistic families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Kevin Redding

Wanting to help in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, wrestling icon and Smithtown resident Mick Foley stopped by a local comic book shop Sept. 7 to sign autographs for a cause close to home.

The big-bearded and even bigger-hearted 52-year-old best known to WWE fans as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love visited Fourth World Comics on Route 112 in Smithtown to sign autographs, pose for pictures and raise money for KultureCity, a Birmingham, Alabama-based nonprofit advocating for autism awareness and acceptance.

WWE wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley poses for a photo with young children during an event at a comic book store in Smithtown where he raised money for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Photo by Kevin Redding

Foley helped raise $3,240 for the organization that is helping dozens of special needs families that have been affected by the Category 4 storm in Houston, Texas.

When he found out the group had members on the ground in Texas, and special needs families were struggling with torn-apart homes and lost items, he knew he had to get involved. The organization is also near and dear to Foley, because his son is autistic.

“Anyone who knows about children on the autism spectrum know they tend to thrive on regularity, and so to take everything they have and to suddenly turn that upside down is just devastating — even above and beyond what other families are going through,” Foley said. “This just seemed like a good way to make a difference. The money we raise may not change the world, but it will change the lives of these families.”

As a frequent shopper and celebrity guest at Fourth World in recent years, Foley took his idea for the meet-and-greet fundraiser directly to Glenn Fischette, the comic book store’s owner.

“It was really last minute, [but] as we can’t really go down there and help, we figured this is a good way to do it,” said Fischette, adding that he and Foley spent a day and a half blasting the event across social media after Foley proposed the idea Sept. 5. By 5 p.m. on the day of the event, an hour before Foley was set to arrive, a long line of super fans had already assembled outside.

WWE wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley meets young fans during a signing to raise money for Hurricane Harvey victims. Photo by Kevin Redding

“People just love him. I know a lot of people who’ve been here before to see him, and they want to see him again,” the owner said. “He’s really into the charity stuff, so it’s great.”

Set up behind a table inside Fourth World Comics, Foley put a smile on the faces of hundreds of adults, teens and kids eager to meet their hero as he signed shirts and his own Pop! Vinyl doll for $20 to $30.

The Castoro family, from Smithtown — parents Jason and Nicole, and their 9-year-old kids Marilena and Brandon — were at the front of the line, each of them donning a wrestling shirt. As excited as they were for Foley, they came to support the cause, too.

“I think it’s wonderful he’s using his celebrity status for a good cause,” said Jason Castoro, a lifelong fan. “Sometimes when we go to meet famous wrestlers, you have to wait on a long line, and that’s just to meet them and take a picture. This really adds something special to it. We realized we had to come to this.”

Nicole Castoro pointed to her daughter, Marinella, who she said came up with a similar idea on her own.

“The other day, she said, ‘why can’t all the wrestlers just give the people in Texas the money they make?’ and here he is, giving them all the proceeds,” she said. “That’s really cool.”

WWR wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley signs an autograph for Chance Clanton, of Austin, Texas, who is staying in New York for the week. Photo by Kevin Redding

Another lifelong WWE and Foley fan was Chance Clanton, an Austin, Texas resident staying in New York for the week. He said he has friends in Houston and is grateful for the overwhelming support from everybody, including his childhood idol.

“It’s really cool that he’s taking time out of his really busy schedule to show support for something like this,” Clanton said. “But it also really was no surprise to me when I heard he doing it, he’s so charitable.”

Throughout the event, Foley shared stories from his career, goofed off and laughed with fans, all the while thanking each and every one of them for being there.

“I’m really flattered by the length of that line — I didn’t think there would be this many people,” Foley said. “This shows the strength and the heart of the Smithtown community and the surrounding areas. We’re called Strong Island for a reason. We pull together. And that’s really nice to know.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, announces the kick-off of the Brew to Moo program with the Port Jeff Brewing Company. Photo from Brookhaven Town

By Alex Petroski

The next time you kick back to enjoy a Party Boat IPA or Schooner Pale Ale from the Port Jeff Brewing Company, just know you’re enjoying the suds for the greater good.

Brookhaven Town announced a partnership last week between the brewery, located in Port Jefferson, the town and Double D Bar Ranch in Manorville, a haven for abused or unwanted farm animals.

A by-product of brewing beer is literally tons of spent grains, which until now in Brookhaven would be tossed in the trash and transported via municipal garbage trucks to the landfill. A new town program, called Brew to Moo, will see regular pickups of the spent grains from the Port Jeff Brewing Company that will then be transported to the Manorville ranch, which will then be mixed into feed for the livestock on the premises. The spent grains have reduced caloric content but provide protein and fiber that can supplement corn for feed, according to a press release from the town. The Port Jeff Brewing Company is just the second brewery in Suffolk County to climb onboard with the town initiative, joining BrickHouse Brewery in Patchogue, which agreed to participate in the arrangement earlier this month.

“The fact that the beneficiary in this program is rescue animals really ices the cake for us.”

— Mike Philbrick

“When the town approached us about the Brew to Moo program we were instantly on board,” said Mike Philbrick in an email, the brewer and operator of the Port Jeff establishment. “Since our opening in 2011, we have searched for a secondary use for our spent grains. Unfortunately, we have been throwing them out most of the time with the exception of a few folks who use them as fertilizer accelerants. In other parts of the country, where agriculture and livestock is more prevalent, a brewer doesn’t have any difficulty finding a farmer to source the spent grain to. Long Island’s limited amount of livestock and Suffolk’s large amount of breweries created an anomaly not really seen elsewhere.”

Rich Devoe, the operator of Double D Bar Ranch, which is a nonprofit organization, said during a phone interview the roughly 400 animals living at the ranch never go hungry, but having a steady source of food from the two breweries will allow the organization to spend its donations and money from his own pocket elsewhere, like on barn repairs and fencing. He called the arrangement “great” and “very important.”

“The fact that the beneficiary in this program is rescue animals really ices the cake for us,” Philbrick said. “You have a product that is otherwise waste, being transported by trucks on empty routes that are already on the road, feeding animals that really need it. That’s three wins, not just two. So naturally we wanted to be a part of it and we are happy to help [Supervisor Ed Romaine] make this program a success.”

Romaine (R) said the days prior to the Brew to Moo program’s inception were a missed opportunity to carry out a personal mantra he has adopted during his years at the helm of the town.

“We’re interested in reduce, recycle, reuse,” he said in a phone interview. “This may be something that would be a model project for other towns to do. I think you’ll see in the future, we’re looking at other industries that have waste that we can reuse for allied industries. We’re looking at that every single day because we want to be on the cutting edge of waste management.”

Romaine added the town plans to reach out to more breweries and ranches to gauge interest and try to get others to participate in the sustainably sound project.

Officials say the subcontractor for PSEG/LIPA is violating town code

Material outside Asplundh Construction, located across the street from Mount Sinai schools. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Brookhaven Town leaders are determined to stamp out what they’ve deemed an illegal eyesore in Mount Sinai — a commercial retail area turned industrial facility on Route 25A near the entrance to the school district campus. Officials said by being there, the owners and tenants of the property are willfully violating town zoning codes and damaging quality of life in the process.

During a press conference Aug. 22, town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), along with town officials and a civic leader, stood across from a fenced-in lot where concrete is crushed and dozens of the Asplundh Construction company’s trucks, as well as poles and large spools of cable, are stored.

A lineup of Asplundh Construction trucks on the company’s lot. Photo by Kevin Redding

Romaine said the type of activity on the property, which is owned by Nkp Properties LLC, of Farmingdale, is illegal under J-2 zoning and is restricted to industrial property only — a fact he said Nkp is aware of as it paid a town-issued fine of $4,000 in April. Despite paying the fine and pleading guilty to violating the town code, Nkp continues to use the property. The group was met with more fines July 24, which included a ticket for a second offense of the code violations and for not having site plans to try and legalize the activities on the site.

According to the town’s deputy attorney, David Moran, the attorney for Nkp  at the time “acknowledged that the use was not appropriate and said he was going to try to get all the necessary site plans and approvals in.”

No one from Asplundh Construction returned phone calls for a request for comment, and visits to the site for questions were directed back to the telephone number.

Officials during the press conference called on the company, a subcontractor of PSEG and LIPA, to vacate the property as soon as possible.

“The parents that drop their children off at the school, employees and civic members— residents in Mount Sinai certainly don’t appreciate what’s going on across the street from us.”

Jane Bonner

“The last time I looked, LIPA was a public utility whose subcontractor is willfully flouting zoning laws in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “That type of zoning violation is one we will not stand for. We are particularly concerned because this is adjacent to the Mount Sinai schools. We’re asking that they come into compliance or we have to take further action.

The property was previously the site of a party equipment rental business. When Asplundh moved in, a structure on the site was demolished.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said it’s negatively impacting the town.

“One of the things that the Mount Sinai community is desirous of is a corridor that is user-friendly and appealing to the eye,” Bonner said, looking at the Nkp property behind her. “I’ve been in office almost 10 years and for the past eight years, the property behind me has been a constant source of complaints from the community, the parents that drop their children off at the school, employees and civic members. Residents in Mount Sinai certainly don’t appreciate what’s going on across the street from us.”

Bonner said she would like to settle this problem before the start of the new school year. More than 30 Asplundh trucks, she said, drive in and out of the lot every morning, which can become a safety concern once buses join Route 25A traffic.

Ann Becker, president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association, also expressed her concerns.

Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker talks about her feelings toward the construction company across the street from Mount Sinai schools during a press conference Aug. 22. Photo by Kevin Redding

“The civic, which recently celebrated 100 years, has been working to maintain the quality of life here in Mount Sinai for all that time and we continue to do so, and we continuously get complaints about this location and now it’s becoming even worse than it was before,” Becker said. “We’re really wanting to have nice businesses here and we’ve done a lot of work on beautification … what’s happening behind us is absolutely against everything the civic has stood for.”

She said she hopes the current owners ultimately cease and desist so that the location is turned into something more appropriate for the community.

Moran said he believes the businesses will try to get away with the violations as long as they can in order to maximize every dollar out of it to help fund construction projects.

“From a prosecutorial standpoint these types of flagrant violations will not be tolerated in the Town of Brookhaven,” he said. “You can’t just buy property and use it to your will. We have codes that must be followed and, in this instance, I can assure you that we will ensure that they follow our codes.”

Patty Lutz, manager of Fetch Doggy Boutique & Bakery. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

As it does every day in the summer, the Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry lowers its huge drawbridge door to reveal a host of cars growling like they are about to stampede into the town. Instead, they file out one by one. Every car is greeted with Port Jefferson’s Main Street and its stores lined up on both sides of the road like a buffet.

Unknown to many tourists though, only a few yards from the ferry dock and Main Street, stores offer a whole host of out-of-the-ordinary services from spiritual crystals to handmade jewelry. Almost all the stores on East Main Street are owned or operated by women, and they have developed a communal sense of offbeat character. Most of the owners believe it’s what keeps them alive.

“If they want to be successful on East Main Street they have to be different and unique,” owner of Pattern Finders & Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street Stacy Davidson said during an interview. “I think at this point the stores we have now, I can’t see any of us having a problem.”

Anna Radzinsky, co-owner of The Barn. Photo by Kyle Barr

Davidson has owned Pattern Finders for 23 years, and in that time she had to reinvent herself to keep up with the times. Now her store is a boutique that sells different and unique sets of clothing, dresses, jewelry and other home items.

Many of the stores on East Main host classes inspired by what they sell. The Knitting Cove, owned by Toni Andersen and her partner Barry Burns, is one of those stores. Along with the specialty yarn offered in the shop, the store also hosts classes for experienced and beginner knitters or “knit-alongs” where customers all try to complete a design using whatever choices of yarn they want.

Breathe Inspiring Gifts sells a number of spiritual items, such as crystals, minerals, tarot cards, incense, oils and many others. A door in the shop empties into another large room where owner Jena Turner does meditation and yoga sessions every day of the week.

“Some people don’t even know this street exists — isn’t that crazy?” Turner said. “I love it, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. Main Street gets more foot traffic because there are more tourists who know of it, but there are a lot more Long Islanders aware of East Main Street.”

One consistent aspect of daily life East Main Street stores face is they do not depend nearly as much on tourists as they do on Long Islanders, specifically the regular customers that they come to know well.

Joann Maguire, the owner of Max & Millie Women’s Fashion boutique on East Main sees her store as dedicated to her regular customers. In the 13 years she’s owned the store, she said she has learned regulars keep her in business.

“Most of my customers are local residents and what I mean by that is from the Commack area or the Hamptons,” she said. “They come out here for dinner and then they find me. And then they become regulars. I’m a destination store, not a tourist store.”

In Fetch Doggy Boutique & Bakery, manager Patty Lutz is often there talking extensively with the customers she knows well.

Susan Rodgers, owner of Susan Rodgers Designs. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Last night, I was home and it was 8 [p.m.] and a customer called me regarding their dog; their dog wasn’t feeling good, and their vet had closed,” she said. “You know what I mean, like there’s no cut out. We have hours that the store is open; but, if someone needs to talk to me and they have my number, they’re always welcome to call.”

Some of the shop owners on East Main sell products produced by hand, often in their own studios. Anna Radzinsky, the co-owner of The Barn, sells custom woodwork and signs. She also takes old furniture like wardrobes and cabinets, refinishes them and puts her own designs on them. At the same time her partner, Shawn Keane, does landscaping and completed the small garden laid into the bricks just outside of her shop.

Susan Rodgers of Susan Rodgers Designs traveled the country for 15 years selling her artwork in art shows. When eventually it came time to settle down in order to sell her work and the work of her friends, she chose East Main Street because she said it feels like what she imagined a small town to be.

“I think people are tired of things being the same,” Rodgers said. “The cookie-cutter sacrificing quality, and I think people are beginning to realize, compared to big box stores, the link to an individual person.”

Business on East Main is rarely stagnant. Miranda Carfora, a young entrepreneur, said she soon plans to open a store on East Main Street called BiblioFlames that will sell books and candles inspired by books. 

“It’s really hard for independent bookstores, but I’m hoping that since I tied in my candles into the books I’ll have more customers that way,“ she said.

Carfora fits right into the scene that exists on East Main Street. Though the future for perspective small-business owners is always uncertain, Davidson’s advice for someone opening a shop on East Main Street is rather simple.

“Be unique,” she said. “You have to be unique and have what nobody else has.”

Billie Phillips, the original owner of Billie's 1890 Saloon, will retake control of the Port Jefferson property on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

A decades-old Port Jefferson institution that has remained closed since a June 2016 fire could be moving toward reopening, thanks in large part to an agreement between Port Jefferson Village and the building owner.

Billie’s 1890 Saloon had to close its Main Street doors June 27 last year after a fire in the kitchen caused severe damage, and exposed several building code violations that required remedy before the business could be reopened. During an Aug. 7 village board meeting, Mayor Margot Garant and the board of trustees approved a resolution that should expedite the process.

Among the code violations — of which there were about 20 — from the village’s building department was a requirement for the installation of a bathroom that meets requirements laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act. An ADA compliant bathroom would not fit on the main level of the building, which houses the bar, according to Garant, so instead, the building owner planned to move the kitchen to the basement and turn the former kitchen on the main floor into the new restrooms.

Because of the change of use of the building, an aspect of the village code was triggered requiring additional parking spaces be added. Being that no space was available on the property for the additional parking, the building owner could instead submit a payment in lieu of parking to the village, which is allowed under the code.

Instead of squaring the requirement with actual dollars, the village and building owner Joey Zangrillo entered into an agreement for Zangrillo to deed over land in the rear of the property, which is currently used for parking, over to the village. As a result, Zangrillo will essentially own the property that houses the building, and the remainder of the parcel will be deeded to the village.

“In talking with parking committee and Larry [LaPointe, deputy mayor], we find the land to be extremely valuable,” Garant said during the meeting. “You can’t really put a price point or tag on the size of the lot.”

The deal would be subject to approval by Suffolk County prior to finalization to ensure moving the kitchen to the basement is adherent to county regulations. As a result of the deal, Billie Phillips — the original business owner for more than 35 years who was not at the helm at the time of the fire but has since entered a lease agreement with Zangrillo to reopen Billie’s 1890 Saloon — said he is hoping to be ready to reopen in early 2018.

“This is a more than fair bargain from the village’s point of view,” said LaPointe, who is also a trustee, during the meeting. According to Garant, the area being acquired by the village is used as an informal parking area, though it will now have actual spaces painted and associated with municipal meters.

Brian Egan, the village attorney, explained that the difference in owning municipal parking spaces and leasing them to property owners from the village’s perspective is that it prevents disputes, confusion and potential lawsuits when property changes hands.

“Unlike every other municipality you would assume owns the municipal parking fields, we are a patchwork in that back parking lot,” he said.

Zangrillo praised Garant and the village for their hard work in helping to facilitate the deal and get the establishment back on track for reopening.

“The village has been nothing but extremely helpful to me as a landlord,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to many, many years of a great relationship with my tenant. I’m looking to get Billie’s up and running for my concerned friends and villagers who have been asking.”

Michele Rice-Nelson at her Miller Place home turned short-term rental facility thanks to Airbnb. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Miller Place resident Michele Rice-Nelson noticed the back corner of the dust ruffles under the couches in her Airbnb were slightly folded, and with an “oh” she dropped to her knees and straightened them.

They were only a few small things, but they mattered to Rice-Nelson. The blinds were a hair’s breath askew and she aligned them. She checked to see if there were waters in the mini fridge next to the bed. She flitted over to the bedspread to straighten and pat it down. She expected her guests to arrive later, and she wants her external suite turned Airbnb to be flawless before they arrived.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” Rice-Nelson said, then laughed. She is the franchise owner of the travel agency Cruise Planners World Tour, and her Airbnb is one way she reaches a huge, more personal market for clients. “Its that attention to detail, you know. In this chaotic world that we’re living in now, just those little things, those random acts of kindness, those are the things that we introduce that make people go ‘wow,’” she said. “As long as people can feel appreciated then I know I’ve done a good thing.”

The personal touch has made Airbnbs, an online service that allows people to use their homes as short-term rentals, a growing trend on Long Island. The number of guest arrivals rose 57.4 percent to 74,000 from 2015 to 2016. The number of guests and hosts is expected to grow on Long Island in 2017. Hosts on Long Island earned a median yearly income of $9,800, according to Airbnb spokesman Andrew Kalloch.

That income has been an unexpected boon for Port Jefferson resident Sophie Partridge Jones, who didn’t assume much when she first put her extra room up on Airbnb. “The beginning of last summer we just took some pictures and set it up on Airbnb and started getting bookings immediately,” she said. The money also aided Jones and her family in their day-to-day living expenses. “I mean, it doesn’t replace having a job, but having been booked the entire summer averaging about $70 a night comes out to be pretty significant.”

Matt Lohse, a surgeon at Stony Brook University Hospital, has been renting out the small, serene cottage on his property in Rocky Point since March 2015. He said that while the extra income is nice, the real fun is from providing a living space for travelers.

“We would always talk that if for some reason my wife and I ever had to quit our day jobs or maybe as a retirement gig, a bed and breakfast would be kind of a fun thing,” Lohse said. “We get people from all walks of life. We’ve had families, we’ve had couples, we’ve had single people. We had people who came over all the way from Germany.”

While Airbnb hosts can find joy in hosting strangers, the hospitality industry has been less welcoming to the new business model. Opinions of Airbnb from hospitality industry groups range from skepticism to outright hostility.

According to John Tsunis, owner of the Holiday Inn Express on Route 347 in Centereach, any vacancy “is going to impact not only my hotel but all the hotels in the general area. It’s very important to the viability of a hospitality venue. If we can’t sustain that then it not only impacts the hotel itself but also staffing, employment and the whole ecostructure of the hotel.”

Airbnb sees its business as only helping to expand the interest and number of customers for the entire leisure industry. “We think that home sharing is increasing the tourism pie. It’s not a zero sum game. The hotel industry had one of their biggest years last year,” said Kalloch.

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that employment in the leisure sector has been steadily rising year over year since 2010. Local inns have not found a lack of customers either.

“We were busy last year but we’re already busier this year,” said Elyse Buchman, who co-owns The Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn with her husband Marty. “Our area does have a shortage of rooms and an abundance of visitors due to [Stony Brook] University as well as private events that are held in the area.”

“We’re very selective, and Airbnb hasn’t hurt us at all. We turn away people all the time,” said Dan Tarantino, the owner of The Ransome Inn in Port Jefferson. “I’m old, I’m retired, my wife and I cherry pick because we don’t want to be that busy.”

But for Tsunis, the one item that has been the most visible concern are things dealing with safety. Unlike regular hotels, Airbnbs are not inspected for things like working sprinklers or fire alarms as well as the sanitary conditions inside the rooms. Airbnb uses software like behavioral analysis to try and root out any problematic hosts or guests from its service along with a verified ID system, but these do not necessarily protect guests or hosts once they finally come together. While Airbnb will sometimes send a photographer to new listings to take pictures, it does not send anybody to check for safety issues.

Some local and state governments have tried enacting laws against Airbnb for some of these reasons. In January the Town of Huntington drafted a resolution that proposed potentially banning Airbnb rentals. However, due to public outcry from Airbnb hosts, the town this month proposed restrictions on advertising their homes and the length of guest’s stay.

But for people who host an Airbnb and have been doing it long enough to have a 5-star rating and a list of glowing reviews, these problems are mostly irrelevant, and hotels’ complaints of Airbnb are beside the point.

Before moving to Long Island Jones worked as finance manager at several hotels in California. “When I was working in a hotel I probably would have been more against Airbnb then I am now, because, you know, it was competition. But I think things are changing in this economy — you see it with things like Uber, you see it with Airbnb.”

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