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Stop & Shop announced on Jan. 4 that the company plans to acquire Long Island-based King Kullen. The purchase agreement will include 32 King Kullen supermarkets, five Wild by Nature stores and the use of King Kullen Grocery corporate office located in Bethpage. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, according to a press release. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“King Kullen is a well-respected grocery chain in the Long Island market that has an 88-year tradition of excellent customer service,” said Mark McGowan, president of Stop & Shop, in a news release. “We look forward to bringing our quality, selection and value to more communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties.”

King Kullen, which opened on Jamaica Avenue in Queens in 1930, is recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as the America’s first “supermarket.” 

“Our family has been in the grocery business for 88 years,” Brian Cullen, co-president of King Kullen Grocery Co., said in a statement. “Recently, we determined that the best option for our family and our associates was to merge King Kullen into Stop & Shop.”

“As a family-owned and operated business, we are very proud of our heritage and extremely grateful to all of our associates and customers for their support over the years,” he continued, adding, “We are confident the Stop & Shop brand will carry on our legacy of service in the region. It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of the fabric of this Island for all these years.”

In Suffolk County, King Kullen has locations in Blue Point, Bridgehampton, Center Moriches, Cutchogue, Eastport, Halesite, Hampton Bays, Huntington Station, Lake Ronkonkoma, Lindenhurst, Manorville, Middle Island, Mount Sinai, North Babylon, North Patchogue, Shirley, St. James and Wading River while Wild by Nature stores in Suffolk County are located in East Setauket, West Islip, Hampton Bays and Huntington.

It is not yet known whether the stores being acquired will continue to operate under their current banners or become Stop & Shop.

The LIPA plant as seen from Harborfront Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

A New York State Supreme Court judge approved the Town of Brookhaven’s settlement with the Long Island Power Authority over the Port Jefferson Power Station’s tax assessment. 

In the agreement signed Dec. 14, the $32.6 million tax assessment on the power plant will be reduced by around 50 percent incrementally over the next nine years to $16.8 million, starting with the 2017-18 tax year.

It’s a not-so-final finale to what has become years upon years of grinding legal battles and anxiety over what will happen to local taxes should LIPA, which claimed its power plant has been overassessed by hundreds of millions of dollars for nearly a decade. LIPA’s lawsuit wanted its assessments reduced by
approximately 90 percent.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement the settlement will benefit Brookhaven in the form of lower electric bills.

“This deal puts an end to the uncertainty of this plant over the course of nine years and gives finality to this issue,” Romaine said. “I have always believed that all property assessments should be fairly based on property value.”

Brookhaven officials said that without a settlement, taxpayers faced the potential of being liable for $225 million to LIPA, and the power authority has said LIPA customers will save a total of $662 million by 2027.

“It was a reasonable settlement, one we can justify to our 1.1 million customers,” LIPA CEO Thomas Falcone said.

While this settlement promises savings for Brookhaven residents, the agreement has made Port Jefferson residents, especially those living close to the two red-and-white smokestacks, question what their taxes will look like in the near future. In October the Port Jefferson School District released a series of slides showing they annually received a $17 million payment through LIPA’s tax payments, but this would be reduced to $13.8 million by 2027. While Superintendent Paul Casciano said he and his staff are still reviewing the impact of the settlement, he sees the outcome could be even worse. He expects school programs will have to be cut in the next few years, with tax increases for residents.

“It’s going to affect the tax base,” the superintendent said. “Even if our budget was voted down, there’s a high likelihood that residents will see a
double-digit increase in their tax rate.”

The settlement will also require the district to amend their plans for the 2019-20 budget next year.

Falcone said the school district already enjoys lower annual school taxes at $6,273 compared to neighboring districts calculated at little more than $10,000 based on 2015 tax data.

“It means they will go from a ‘great deal’ to a ‘good deal,’” Falcone said. “They’re still going to have the lowest taxes of their neighborhood.”

The CEO added that it was unfair for the rest of LIPA customers to have to subsidize the Port Jeff school district through their higher bills.

“I think at some point you have to say what’s fair for those 1.1 million other customers because they pay their school taxes, too,” he said.

The Port Jeff superintendent said the village has been conciliatory about letting a power plant operate within its boundaries, whereas other places in Brookhaven would have barred the plant from existing in the first place.

“Are you, as a Brookhaven resident, really going to make out on your LIPA bills? I doubt it,” Casciano said. 

In April Port Jefferson Village board passed its 2018-19 budget of $10,642,146, about $233,000 up from last year’s budget. The new budget included $107,000 in reserve funds in anticipation of the glide path agreement with LIPA resulting in reduced payments.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said she agrees with the settlement, and it could lead to more use of the plant. In 2017 the facility was only powered on for 41 days, or 11 percent of the year, according to LIPA officials.

Falcone said the Port Jeff power plant operates based on the electricity needs of residents.

“This is an important step we made today to stabilize our tax base moving forward and the viability of any opportunity to repower our power plant,” Garant said in a press release.

The settlement also comes after big wins for LIPA in the courts against the towns of Huntington and Brookhaven, and Port Jeff Village, allowing LIPA to move ahead with its effort to challenge its assessments. Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has publicly asked New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to enact legislation that would protect residents taxes should LIPA get its way in court.

“Are you, as a Brookhaven resident, really going to make out on your LIPA bills? I doubt it.”
— Paul Casino

PSEG Long Island customers pay power plant taxes through monthly surcharges on their electric bills, but LIPA owns the electric grid and has agreements with National Grid for the power plants in both Port Jefferson and Northport. In 2009 LIPA challenged both the towns of Brookhaven and Huntington saying it had been overassessed for years, especially since the Port Jeff plant runs for so little time.

The Port Jefferson School District along with the Northport-East Northport school district and Huntington Town filed a lawsuit saying LIPA had made past promises not to challenge the taxes levied on their power plants, but they were dealt a blow in September when a state Supreme Court judge ruled LIPA “made no promises” about challenging the taxes levied. 

Garant and other Port Jeff Village officials have expressed past desires to renovate the power plant once the tax assessment issue was settled.
In September the village board advocated for the refurbishment and repowering of its base-load plant to update its decades-old technology and to justify the property’s tax assessment.

This is despite Cuomo setting a goal for 50 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources
by 2030.

Falcone said they do not currently have any plans to run the plant more or do any renovations to plant that has been there since the 1940s. 

Through being used so little and with the push for more green energy, residents have questioned how long LIPA will keep the plant running. The LIPA CEO said the plant will continue to operate for the next seven years, but in the future could be upgraded or transformed into some other space used by the power authority, such as a storage facility or a new, modernized facility.

A sign announces the coming of Main St. Board Game Cafe on Huntington's Main Street. Photo from Facebook

There’s something different about sitting down to play a board game. Unlike a video game or a movie, a board game with all its little cards and pictures is abstracted. When several people sit around a table with cards stacked in front of them, calculating their next move, they are all transported somewhere different, from haunted houses and mercantile guild halls to the legendary halls of King Arthur’s court.

It’s an experience that several Huntington locals are hoping to bring to Huntington village with the Main St. Board Game Café. Owner Neil Goldberg said he hopes to start construction on the board game parlor and cafe this holiday season.

“I have two kids, 9 and 6 [years old], and they love what their friends love,” he said. “They play video games and they’ll play it until I tell them to stop. I want them to have something where they’re not staring at a screen — where you talk, think, plan and interact with something that has value.”

A pile of board games owner Neil Goldberg said is compiling for Main St. Board Game Cafe. Photo from Facebook

Goldberg said the cafe will have a selection of close to 300 games on hand. He plans to have
a selection of classics, like the popular Settlers of Catan board game and following series,
where players gather resources in an effort to colonize an island. The owner also wants to introduce narrative-based games like Mysterium, where players take on the role of psychic detectives trying to help a ghost, controlled by another player, in finding the person who murdered them. The shop is prepared to host role-playing game groups playing games like Dungeons & Dragons with an in-house gamemaster.

“We love being on our phones, but to a certain extent we’re all sick of it,” said Didi Feuer, one of the upcoming cafe’s employees. “It’s an easy way to spend time, but at the end there’s something not fulfilling about it. I think people are craving a face-to-face social interaction without screens.”

Board game cafes have been cropping all across New York City, but they have yet to have a presence on Long Island. Goldberg said he started playing board games at a young age. He can still remember playing such classic games as Scotland Yard and Stop Thief!, but eventually forgot much about them as adulthood set in. For more than 20 years, the future cafe owner worked as a producer for New York One’s sports programming. Eventually NY1 canceled its sports broadcasting, but Goldberg was already starting on another tack when a friend of his alerted him to a remake of Stop Thief! on Kickstarter.

“You ever have a rosebud moment?” Goldberg said, referring to the catalytic moment of the 1941 movie “Citizen Kane.” “I’m in my mid-40s and I flashback to being 10 or 12 years old.”

The space will also include a cafe area, where Goldberg expects to sell coffee and other soft drinks. If the new business can secure a license, he hopes to sell wines and craft beers selected from local breweries in the evening.

Goldberg said he expects the board games will be the element that draws in the crowds. The last several years have been kind to the board game industry, according to Goldberg. With the advent of crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, new and unique games have had the opportunity to reach out and find support directly from the audience interested in playing them. The new business owner said he wants to bring these games into the limelight and take the stigma away from the industry that the only games available are Monopoly or Scrabble.

With tabletop board games there is infinite complexity, infinite aesthetics and an infinite number of things one can accomplish.”

— Neil Goldberg

“With tabletop board games there is infinite complexity, infinite aesthetics and an infinite number of things one can accomplish,” Goldberg said.

So far, he has hired a number of experienced people in the gaming industry, including Feuer, who previously worked at the Brooklyn Strategist and another board game cafe in the city. Feuer plans to help run its after-school programs, one group for kids in first and second grades, with another group for third- through fifth-graders. There will also be a Dungeons & Dragons group available for older children.

The after-school programs will be designed to start out with simple games, such as Othello and Azul, before progressively introducing more difficult games and choices players can make more complex. Feuer said tabletop games are unique in how they teach kids basic skill, like reading comprehension, mathematics and deductive skills, in a social environment.

“Everyone’s sitting down and agreeing that right now there’s an island called Catan, and right now our job is to find resources and settle Catan,” Feuer said, “It’s teaching kids they have the capability, that they can show that they did focus for two hours and still have fun.”

Goldberg said he expected to start renovations after the Thanksgiving holiday. The location will be at 307 Main St. in Huntington and, hopefully, open for business in early 2019.

From left, Billy Williams, co-president of Three Village Kiwanis; Dr. Laura E. Hogan, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology; Denise Williams, treasurer; and Christine Intrabartola, co-president of Three Village Kiwanis Photo from Billy Williams

On Nov. 15, the Three Village Kiwanis Club donated a check in the amount of $5,000 to Stony Brook University Hospital for its work in the Pediatric Oncology unit to help children and their families in need during this trying time of the holiday season.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Kiwanis Club here locally please contact Billy Williams at 631-828-9048 to find out how you can help with supporting those in need in our community. They meet at Mario’s Restaurant, 212 Main St., Setauket on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

From left, Frank Recco, CFO Recco Home Care; Nancy Geiger, director, Gurwin Home Care Agency; Claudia Hammar, president NYS Association of Health Care Providers (NYSHCP); and Taryn Birkmire, executive director of Recco Home Care Photo courtesy of Gurwin Home Care Agency

Nancy Geiger, director of the Gurwin Home Care Agency, recently accepted the Norma Recco Advocate of the Year Award from the Long Island Chapter of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers (NYSAHCP) for her outstanding contributions to public advocacy to advance home and community-based care. 

The award was first presented in 2011 to honor the memory of Norma Recco, a tireless advocate who advanced HCP from a local interest group to a statewide association, and who was the governor’s appointee to the New York State Home Care Council from 1987 to 1997.  

Currently the vice president of the Long Island Chapter of the NYSAHCP, Geiger has specialized in the home care agency field for more than 30 years. She joined Gurwin as director of the Gurwin Home Care Agency in 2007. Under her leadership, the Gurwin agency provides home health aides and companions for Long Islanders who are in need of compassionate care and support.  

“Nancy’s empathy for people is evident, whether she is advocating for her employees or her patients,” said Stuart B. Almer, president and CEO of the Gurwin Family of Healthcare Services. “She is committed to helping to get home care services to those who need them, and we are fortunate to have her leading our Gurwin Home Care Agency.”

Taryn Birkmire, executive director of Recco Home Care, presented Geiger with the award, applauding her for her years in the home care field, her work for the past six years for the chapter and her continued efforts in reaching out to legislators as well as her participation in advocacy events in Albany.  

“I am truly humbled to receive this award and be recognized in the name of Norma Recco,” said Geiger. “Norma was a true pioneer in the home care industry, and she overcame many obstacles back in the early days in the field. Unfortunately, our challenges have become even greater in recent years. Home care plays an important and vital role in the lives of many in our communities, and I am honored to be able to fight for people to continue to receive the services they need to keep them living safely at home.”

Civic leaders Charlie McAteer, Edward Garboski and Sal Pitti discuss local developments. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents may be willing to give a proposed apartment complex a tentative thumbs up, but a new potential fast food restaurant is having its feet put to the fire.

Members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association listened to the developers of several prospective businesses and apartment complexes at a Nov. 27 meeting, one the once-maligned Concern for Independent Living apartment complex off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

The 77-unit complex, slated for north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue across from the Sagamore Hills Condominiums, originally came under fire from residents when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that New York State was setting aside $8.1 million for the project to promote affordable homes, particularly for the homeless.

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said after talking with representatives of the apartment’s developers he realized there was much misinformation about the project. “It was a culmination of nonsense,” Pitti said.

The civic leader said Ralph Fasano, the executive director for Concern for Independent Living, has also been extremely forthcoming and attentive to addressing the community’s concerns.

Fasano said 75 units in the complex will be single bedroom, and only two are two-bedroom, one of which is reserved for the apartment manager. Veterans would get preference when applying for these apartments, and the remainder will be available for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income, which is about $40,000 to $60,000 a year according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

A majority of the civic voted to write a letter of conditional support to the Town of Brookhaven, with specific requests for the town to compel the developer to work to obtain a traffic light on Route 112, provide as much fencing as possible between adjacent housing, provide a landscaping screen for the adjacent property and preserve open space.

“They seem to be trying to address [those concerns],” Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said.

While the apartment complex received support, a potential Popeyes, to be located on property east of the TD Bank on Nesconset Highway at the corner of Old Town Road, garnered the opposite reaction. The proposal was spurred by residents angry over the amount of existing fast-food restaurants on Route 347 and fears of an increase in traffic.

While the land has not yet been sold,  Jim Tsunis, the CEO of Hauppauge-based The Northwind Group, said preliminary designs  call for a 2,400-square-foot restaurant with access from Route 347. Tsunis said they are seeking a change of zoning application to allow for the restaurant use.

Residents were especially concerned about traffic on a road that has already seen its share of accidents. Tsunis said that he doesn’t expect the project to put any more cars on the road, but rather some drivers would decide to pull into the Popeyes rather than visit other existing restaurants further down the highway.

“It’s a balance, not a give and take,” Tsunis said.

Craig Fazio, a lifelong Port Jeff Station resident, said he disagreed with others about the Popeyes, especially since Tsunis still owned the property. Fazio said Tsunis could push to build a 14,000-square-foot medical office complex in that same spot, which he believes would be even worse for traffic.

“If you put health care there, how many doctors will see patients every 15 minutes versus a much smaller restaurant?” Fazio asked.

Tsunis said that he has considered building medical offices and the property is zoned for a two-story office building. 

“I hope we can work together in the future to mitigate some of these points,” he said.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, asked why  Popeyes wasn’t considering building on Route 112, other vacant land or existing empty retail space.

McAteer said he didn’t believe the civic was totally against Popeyes, but it needs to be located on a better and safer site. “We were not saying, ‘We just hate your restaurant, we just want you out.’ Just put it in an area that could use a little boost,” he said.

The civic’s next meeting will be held at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

A sign in front of The Gift Corner on North Country Road at Mount Sinai invites those passing by to shop Nov. 24. Photo by Kyle Barr

A sign on North Country Road in front of The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai during the Black Friday weekend could be easy to miss. Cars passing by had only seconds to read the words “Small Store Saturday — If you haven’t been here, today is the day!” as they drove on the winding road.

Marion Bernholz, the owner of The Gift Corner, was busy on Small Business Saturday and the entire Black Friday weekend, marked on the calendar by shop owners and customers alike as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season. The small space, packed with small decorations and knickknacks, had customers squeezing past each other as they picked out their holiday gifts. Despite the bump in business Bernholz saw over the weekend, she wondered why relatively few people have even heard of Small Business Saturday.

“How long has this been going on, eight to 10 years?” the gift shop owner said. “It still cracks me up we have people coming in on Saturday and, holy Christmas, they say, ‘What is small store Saturday?’”

Small Business Saturday originally started in 2010, sponsored by American Express, as a way to incentivize people to shop local during the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

American Express reported the weekend after Thanksgiving was quite a busy time for small businesses across the nation. Consumers spent approximately $17.8 billion nationally while shopping local, according to data released Nov. 26 from the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the nonprofit National Federation of Independent Business. The survey noted 42 percent of those surveyed reported shopping at local retailers and restaurants, just 1 percent down from last year. Still, 41 percent reported also shopping online that same day.

Those small business owners surveyed in the report said they expect an average of 29 percent of their total yearly sales to come through the holiday season, yet the owners of local small stores on the North Shore know they have a disadvantage compared to big box stores and the online retail giant Amazon and the like.

“People should understand how hard it is to run a small business,” Maria Williams, the owner of Sweets N Scoops in Shoreham said. “A small business’ costs are necessarily greater because we can’t buy in bulk like [large businesses] can.”

Business owners across the North Shore reported a range of outcomes from the busy shopping weekend.

Port Jefferson

Outside Ecolin Jewlers in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Ecolin Jewelers, 14 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson

Linda Baker, co-owner of Ecolin Jewelers, said while most of her sales come in the last two weeks before Christmas, and not the Black Friday weekend, the year overall has been very good for her business.

“This whole year has been better,” Baker said. “This is probably the best in maybe eight years.”

She said she she’s experienced more people coming in toward the end of the year, with the phones constantly ringing off the hook with people’s orders, adding she’s feeling good about her numbers for the season.

“I’m glad to see that people are happy, walking around and coming into stores,” she said.

Outside East End Shirt Co. in Port Jefferson. Photo Courtesy of Google Maps

The East End Shirt Company, 3 Mill Creek Road, Port Jefferson

Owner of The East End Shirt Company, Mary Joy Pipe, said her business participated in the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce annual Holiday Shopping Crawl, offering a free hoodie valued at $20 for those spending $50 in store. She added turnout on Small Business Saturday was comparable to last year, and that has always had to do with the foot traffic and the weather.

“Our Santa Parade brings a lot of people down into the village, and more folks are around for the extended holiday after Thanksgiving,” she said. “We need feet on the ground and nice weather, and we got that on Saturday.”

Pipe’s business has changed with the times. East End Shirt has both a website and brick-and-mortar storefront, but her online component is a comparatively small percentage of her sales compared to her shop, which has existed in Port Jeff for close to four decades, she said.

“Is Cyber Monday or Cyber Week having an effect? — yeah it is,” she said. “People are not coming out, but anything that has a shipping component I know the potential for retail is still there if they can’t get it shipped in time.”

Outside Red Shirt Comics in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Red Shirt Comics, 322 Main St., Port Jefferson

Joshua Darbee, the owner of Red Shirt Comics, said he had multiple sales going on, including buy-one-get-one-free on new comics, 25 percent off back issue comics, and 20 percent off on most of the toys and graphic novels in the shop. As a store that only opened in 2017, Darbee has been working to build a loyal customer base.

“If people are going to buy on Amazon, they’re going to buy on Amazon,” he said. “There’s really no competing with them.”

The comic industry relies on periodicals, driving customers back monthly for the next issue in an ongoing series, and Darbee said without return customers there is no way his business can thrive. He saw a steady stream of traffic come into his shop during Black Friday weekend — a better turnout than last year — and he hopes those sales, along with his card game and tabletop role-playing events hosted at the shop, will bring in return customers.

“The hope is that people will see the long-term damage [Amazon and other online retailers] can do to the local economy,” he said. “You just have to try to engage with people, be friendly and be part of that community. It’s been awesome to see people go out on weekends like this and support small businesses.”

Shoreham to Mount Sinai

Game On, 465 Route 25A, Miller Place

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of video game shop Game On in Miller Place said his business did well the days after Thanksgiving, this year seeing a 30 percent increase in customers compared to last year. He attracted customers with select sales of up to 60 percent off specific products, which incentivized people to come in and spend time on the few video game consoles he set up around the shop.

“It’s making sure the customer knows that we’re there to give them a good shopping experience,” Whitworth said. “I always try to keep it so that it’s not about customers rushing in to make a sale. People were there for an hour or two even though it was Black Friday.”

Whitworth said he knows there is a huge market for used video games online, but he always tries to make his business about the customer service.

“You can get every single thing we sell online, so it’s really about having the experience of going to the shop and buying stuff, talk to the guy who owns it about what game you should buy or try out,” he said. “That’s what you need.”

Sweets & Scoops in Shoreham. Photo courtesy of Sweets & Scoops Facebook page

Sweets & Scoops, 99 Route 25A, Shoreham

While Maria Williams, owner of dessert haven Sweets & Scoops, said most of her business occurs just before holidays, rather than afterward, but she was pleased with the sales she had for people ordering custom chocolate arrangements and other party favors.

She said she sees the importance of local business as a means of giving vitality to an area.

“People need to stop shopping on Amazon,” Williams said. “If they stay local and shop local in small business we do well, and we can hire more people.”

The sweets shop owner said the best product she and other small businesses can offer people is something unique. She said she tries her best to make items customized for the individual, products that one cannot get anywhere else.

“It’s eight years now that I’ve been in business and thank god it became a success because of its uniqueness,” Williams said. “[Large corporations] don’t have that extra touch, and everything is so commercial with them. Here no two things are ever alike.”

Outside The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Gift Corner, 157 N. Country Road, Mount Sinai

Bernholz said last year’s Black Friday weekend was one of the busiest in years, with lines going out the door of her small North Country Road gift shop. This year was also good for her business.

“We did well on Friday, but Saturday was awesome,” Bernholz said. “It was very packed all day, and so many people came in that are my regulars — really showing their loyalty.”

Bernholz business has been around for close to 30 years, but she said she is not very active on the internet, nor is she proficient with technology in general. She still relies on her dedicated customers, some of whom bought holiday gifts from her as kids and continue to buy them as adults.

Her dedicated customers even advertise for her. The Gift Corner has signs along Route 25A promoting her shop, but it was one put up for free, without even originally letting Bernholz know they were there.

“I don’t advertise, I have never advertised,” she said. “A customer does that on their own … It’s unbelievable.”

Lidl US and Best Market recently announced an agreement in which Lidl will acquire 27 Best Market stores in New York and New Jersey, including 24 on Long Island.

“Best Market has played an enormously positive role in the area, and we look forward to working closely with Best Market employees to build on that success,” said Johannes Fieber, CEO of Lidl US. “We are excited to expand into many great communities on Long Island and across the New York City area and introduce more customers to our simple and efficient approach to grocery shopping, which will mean high quality and huge savings for more shoppers.”

Best Market stores in our area include Selden, Commack, Lake Grove, Riverhead, East Patchogue, Huntington, Farmingdale and East Northport.

Lidl plans a step-by-step transition process that will begin next year and will involve the remodeling, reinvestment and reflagging of Best Market stores to converted Lidl stores. All Best Market employees in New Jersey and New York will have guaranteed employment opportunities with Lidl following the transition. Team members will be welcomed into positions with the Germany-based chain that offer wages and benefits that are equal to or better than what they earn with Best Market. The terms of the acquisition agreement are not disclosed, and it is expected to close over the coming months.

“Partnering with Lidl on this deal offers our employees a secure future with a growing grocer and continues the great tradition we started more than twenty years ago. We are delighted to be part of such a win-win and Best Market customers have something great to look forward to with Lidl,” said Aviv Raitses, co-owner of Best Market.

Compared to chains like Aldi and Trader Joe’s, Lidl stores have been proven to drive down prices for shoppers in areas where they open new stores. Earlier this year, a study from the University of North Carolina found that retailers in the immediate vicinity of Lidl stores dropped prices on individual products by as much as 55 percent on average in areas where Lidl operates.

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

The halls of the Miller Place High School are dead quiet, and footsteps echo far down the long halls. All the students are sitting down and being lectured to from one period to the next, all except one class where their raucous noise can be heard through the door.

Walking into business teacher Thomas Fank’s fourth-period Virtual Enterprise class is like walking into the main floor of a Manhattan business startup. There is an onrush of sound, a cacophony of fingers clacking on keyboards and students shouting across the short space of the computer room. As a stranger walks in, Miller Place High School student Andrew Friedman strides over with a hand outstretched. He doesn’t say, “Welcome to Miller Place” or “Welcome to Fank’s fourth-period.” He says, “Welcome to Amplify Audio,” the name of their virtual company that sells headphones and other audio equipment.

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Everyone here enjoys what they’re doing so they don’t go off topic much at all,” said Friedman, the president and CEO of their virtual company. “I look forward to this class every day.”

The business had only gotten off the ground at the beginning of October. Despite having only a 40-minute period every day, the students already have a portfolio as thick as a phone book, with sheet upon sheet of statements of goals, human resources forms, invoices and so on. The class has a living breathing website including a Spotify music playlist, a link to the virtual company’s Instagram account and a page where one can buy their products. Though the site and company are still under construction, just like a real business, Amplify Audio buys from wholesalers and then sells items for a profit, though all with virtual funds.

The business started with $150,000 in virtual investments from the renowned McNulty’s Ice Cream Parlor in Miller Place, the agrochemical company the Halex Group and Autonomous Ballistics, a Manhattan-based firearms company. All these investments were made with calls by the students themselves, and though they don’t involve actual dollars, the sales pitches are very real.

“If we didn’t have those investors, we would have had to take out a loan and we would have been in debt before we even started,” said Tyler Cohen, vice president and CEO of Amplify Audio. “This is one of the issues that a real company deals with. Where are they going to get the money?”

Virtual Enterprise classes have been becoming more and more popular in schools throughout the U.S., though Fank’s two VE classes have only been in place since the start of the school year. The business teacher said when he originally proposed the class to the school board, he expected it to be a much harder sell, but nearly everyone was on board with the idea.

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

“It’s student driven, and that’s why they like it,” Fank said. “The kids have more responsibility and more accountability than other classes, and there’s more peer-to-peer learning.”

Fank, who himself has his own small business, a wedding DJ company called Encore Events, teaches two VE classes. His fourth-period class is the Amplify Audio group, while his eighth-period class’s company is called Snap Shack, which sells photobooths for use at party events.

Everything within Amplify Audio is virtual, from the products to the money they use to sell them, though the students don’t treat it as such. Throughout the 40-minute period they have, each and every minute is spent in meetings, making sales, working on company documents, or like the much-maligned party planning committee from the hit television show “The Office,” planning for holiday events or birthday parties for every employee. Those in the human resources department complete employee evaluation forms of their fellow students as if they were real employees.

“We’re the ‘Toby’ of our office,” said Julianne Cerato, the human resources director of Amplify Audio and member of the party planning committee. “When it comes to the evaluations, they may be friends, but we’re still a business, and you have to focus on them as if they’re just a co-worker.”

Students in Thomas Fank’s Virtual Enterprise class at Miller Place High School work on their virtual business. Photo by Kyle Barr

Students on the sales team make real efforts to pitch their products to teachers and students around the high school. Alex Constantis, the president of marketing, made 10 sales alone from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9 to teachers and students he found while wandering the halls.

The next step for Amplify Audio is finishing out its business plan by Dec. 12. Every member of Amplify Audio staff has to pitch in at least three pages of a 60-page report, though this is just the start to the company’s adventure.

In October both VE classes traveled to Long Island University Post to participate in the annual Virtual Enterprise competition. Fank said his classes didn’t place, simply because of how new they were compared to other schools that have been working on their businesses for several years. He hopes by January, when the next competition takes place, his classes will make top honors.

“The accountability is the main thing I tell them about,” Fank said. “We don’t have any kids who come in here and sit on their phones. They know they have to do work because it’s part of that team-oriented feel that we have, and it really guides them to want to do well.”

The holidays are just about here again, and before panicking about buying gifts, consider a unique, first time event slated for Setauket called.

TBR News Media is hosting Retail Lives, a private shopping experience Tuesday, Nov. 13, at The Bates House, located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket, at which local retailers and service-based businesses will set up booths to offer attendees a chance to knock out some holiday shopping early, and all in one place. The event will feature discounts on certain products and services as well as prewrapped items ideal for gift giving.

“We are going to have a wonderful, select group of local retailers who have decided to join us,” said Evelyn Costello, TBR News Media event planner and organizer of the first incarnation of the event, which will also be live streamed on tbrnewsmedia.com. “It’s a real community feel event.”

Publisher Leah Dunaief shed light on the thinking behind putting together the experience.

“We very much want to support the retail businesses in our communities,” she said. “They are the backbones of our villages in the sense of places to go when we need support for the Little League, or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the musical groups. They are, physically, the center of our towns. It’s the stores that make the physical presence. We want to help them to stay in business against the mammoth Amazon and other businesses that are threatening their existence.”

The event is sponsored by The Bates House, Simple Party Designs, Empire Tent Rental & Event Planning and Elegant Eating. It will feature retailers and businesses Ecolin Jewelers, Hardts and Flowers, DazzleBar, Blue Salon & Spa, East Wind, North Fork Fire, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Chocolate Works, Three Village Historical Society, East End Shirt Co., Signs by All Seasons, Nicole Eliopoulos of State Farm and The Rinx.

For more information contact Costello by phone 516-909-5171 or by email at ec@tbrnewsmedia.com.

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