Business

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 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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Keith Brown, right, and other representatives display site plans for self-storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are two new developments on the horizon for Port Jefferson Station, tucked away in the backwoods along Sheep Pasture Road. Despite first assumptions, they’re not hotels, restaurants or homes, but self-storage facilities. 

Beyond that, both projects could be located a three-minute drive from each other.

At its Jan. 31 meeting, the Town of Brookhaven board voted unanimously to change the zoning on a parcel located along Sheep Pasture Road, across from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption from B1 Residential to L1 Industrial for the purpose of creating the 87,550-square-foot self-storage facility on the nearly five-acre wooded area.

site plans for the self-storage site at the corner of Sheep Pasture Road and Dark Hollow Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We make our best efforts to balance all of the competing interests and factors and make decisions that take into consideration all concerns.” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. 

Enrico Scarda, founder of The Crest Group, a real estate firm based in Hauppauge that owns the property, said he expects to start building the structure within the next eight months.

“We had huge community outreach, both to the immediate residents and others, we couldn’t really do anything better than this proposal,” Scarda said. 

The development was initially proposed in 2018, but complaints about the structure being close to the road along with its large amount of parking spaces and its industrial-seeming facade made the company and town go back to the drawing board. 

Anthony Graves, the town’s chief environmental analyst, presented designs of the new structure that included an updated rustic facade, a limitation of 35 feet in height and 75 feet of natural buffering between Sheep Pasture Road, Dark Hollow Road and the structure. This pushes the facility back to the northern end of the property, near the LIRR train tracks. The site allows for 44 parking spaces and 41 spaces for the storage of vehicles. Graves and Crest Group’s attorneys said they promised to include solar panels on the roof and have the entrance onto the property come directly across from Harborview Avenue.

“The safest thing to do is not have people living on the site,” Graves said.

The town said they have received letters of approval from the Three Village Civic Association as well as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.

A number of residents spoke at the meeting, and while some spoke up in favor of the proposal, complementing its setback away from the road and for the convenience it could give some residents and businesses, others spoke their opposition to the development.

Anthony Graves, middle, speaks about projects site plans. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The value of my house is definitely going down because of this thing,” Port Jeff Station resident Richard Rowland said. His property was described as a “stone’s throw” away from the planned storage facility.

Cartright said the town worked hard to account for resident’s complaints.

“Every change that was made to the project was in response to a request or concern raised by constituents,” the councilwoman said.

The Crest Group president said they went ahead with this development instead of homes because of the unique nature of the property. In 2015 the town restricted development at the site as it was once owned by Lawrence Aviation Industries, which dumped harmful chemicals onto the property for years that then leached into the soil and groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the Town of Brookhaven, have been working on cleanup efforts. In the meantime, the town promised to restrict certain industrial and residential developments. 

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said self-storage facilities, at least compared to overall development, has relatively little impact in terms of cars, traffic or the environment. 

“It’s the least impactful on traffic,” the supervisor said.

Port Jeff Station resident Jim Fox contested the idea the old Lawrence Aviation property is unavailable for single-family residences
development in the near future. 

“The EPA has said there has been a significant reduction in the plume,” Fox said. “It’s going to be 100 percent drinkable in 10 years.” 

Baylis Avenue self-storage

Another self-storage structure has been proposed to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, one with a much smaller footprint than the one down the road.

This project, which would be located at 16 Baylis Ave., is currently a small set of undeveloped woods and an empty field zoned L1 Industrial sitting next to a pocket of residential homes and apartments.

Designs presented to the civic by Atlanta, Georgia-based developer Talon Inc., show six storage units spaced 30 feet apart, with five being one story and the last being a two-story storage space. Each single-story unit takes up 7,750 square feet and is accessed from the exterior while the two-story has a footprint of 40,500 square feet and will contain an office space as well. 

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said the developers had already talked to the civic and Brookhaven town in summer 2018, but that no moves were made before the Jan. 22 meeting.

Plans for the exterior of the self storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Keith Brown, a zoning attorney from Melville-based Brown & Altman LLP, said they chose the site because of its current zoning, its proximity to the railroad tracks, and the wooded buffer between it and the neighboring Heatherwood House at Port Jefferson apartment complex.

“The site is designed with a 76-feet-deep, contiguous, naturally wooded buffer that will serve as a buffer to the south and a 214-feet buffer to the north, and 48 percent of the site will be landscaped.”

Designs shown at the civic meeting indicate 53 parking spots with another four stalls designated for loading. The road leading up to the facility is currently pockmarked with potholes, and the property at the end of Baylis currently features a small-scale lumber operation. 

Brett Hatcher, senior vice president of investments at Columbus, Ohio-based real estate company Marcus & Millichap, who is working with Talon on the project, said they were already aware of the other self-storage site down the road, but wouldn’t comment on if that facility has changed their plans.

When asked, Scarda said he was unaware of the proposal for Baylis Avenue.

In a letter to the town, the civic relayed its appreciation for the 76-foot buffer and had no other comments on the property.

A customer paying 5 cents to purchase a plastic bag from IGA Fort Salonga. File Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By David Luces

It has been more than a year since the 5-cent tax for plastic bags at retail stores took effect in Suffolk County. The main goal of the legislation was to reduce bag waste by encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable bags and avoid the fee.

Some residents were reluctant to support the 5-cent  per plastic bag fee citing that the money would be going back to the store. Instead, they thought it should be given to charity or used for environmental causes.

Charlie Reichert, owner of IGA Fort Salonga Market, did just that when he announced in late January 2018 that he would be donating all proceeds from the county’s 5-cent fee to benefit local nonprofit institutions.

““It came to me when people were really complaining about the plastic bag, ‘Why are you charging a nickel? Why are you getting the money? That gave me the idea, why don’t we give the money to charity.”

— Charlie Reichert

“It came to me when people were really complaining about the plastic bag, ‘Why are you charging a nickel? Why are you getting the money?’” Reichert said to TBR News Media in January 2018. “That gave me the idea, why don’t we give the money to charity.”

The business owner estimated the nickel surcharge to generate approximately $6,000 to $7,000 a month for charity. Fast forward a year, and Reichert said his five IGA supermarket locations in Bayville, Fort Salonga, Greenport, East Northport and Southold have generated more than $40,000, which has been donated to Huntington Hospital and Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.

Reichert was hopeful he would be able to get other businesses to support his cause and donate as well, but the effort has not seen the same success. 

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta  (R-Fort Salonga) expressed similar hope in January 2018 that the initiative could potentially result in millions of dollars being donated to local charities.

Trotta said he reached out to ShopRite locations in Hauppauge and Patchogue, which allegedly planned on donating proceeds of the fee to Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares, a food bank and pantry, specifically to benefit veterans in need last January.

Susan Eckert, legislative aide for Trotta, said his office also reached out to 14 other stores. Many said they would contact their corporate offices and, if interested, would call back — not one did. Two national corporations, Walmart and Target, said if they chose to donate the plastic bag fee to charity, it would go to their corporate foundations.

Robin Amato, chief development officer and communications director at Long Island Cares, said her nonprofit organization did not receive any donations as a result of the new tax.

“Although everyone’s intentions were good I am sure we did not receive any of the bag fees as donations,” Amato said. “All the ShopRite stores and families are very supportive of Long Island Cares and if the fees did come through they were not noted as such.”

In April 2018, the nonprofit advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment conducted a survey of 6,000 people in 20 grocery stores throughout Suffolk. The study found 30 percent of respondents bought plastic bags and 43 percent were carrying reusable ones. This showed a drastic change from late 2017, when a similar survey found only 6 percent of customers used a reusable bag.

Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment announced intentions to conduct another study at the end of 2018 to gather a much larger sample size and determine the legislation’s impact. Phone calls to the CCE were not returned.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has called for a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in his 2019 Executive Budget proposal. The governor put a measure before the state Legislature in 2018, but it was not voted on.

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Renee Goldfarb, the owner of Origin of Era. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Karina Gerry and Kyle Barr

The winds of change have began to blow in Port Jefferson village as the new year brings a host of changes to the area’s small businesses.

A few restaurants in the area are closing. Japanese restaurant Oceans 88, famous for its sushi bar, planned to be closed Jan. 31. Owners did not respond for requests to comment.

“There’s no more sushi in the village, that’s a real shame,” said village Mayor Margot Garant.

Though not all is bad as a number of new shops, both new names and old names, take shape all around the village.

Billie’s 1890 Saloon

Billie’s 1890 Saloon, a Port Jefferson staple, has reopened its doors after a kitchen fire forced it to close two years ago.

The bar and restaurant located on Main Street is back in business under its original ownership. Founded in 1981 by Billie E. Phillips and his late first wife, Billie’s 1890 Saloon soon became a community favorite. In 1987, after six years, Phillips sold his business, but after the fire in June of 2016 he purchased the restaurant and bar back with his son, Billie S. Phillips, and set about renovating the space. 

Billie’s 1890 Saloon. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the layout of Billie’s has remained relatively the same, the crowd has changed.

“It’s a more grown-up establishment,” Phillips Jr. said. “The same tables, and bar length and everything like that but it’s just been cleaned up and refurbished and we’re just going for a little more of an adult crowd than what it had turned out to be before the fire.”

Before the 2016 fire, Billie’s was considered a college bar, tailoring to the younger crowd with its infamous wheel, which was spun every hour and wherever the wheel landed was the drink that would be offered at a reduced price. Now, it has an age limit of 23, pushing away the crowd that made it so popular before.

“The new Billie’s seems to have a very different vibe,” Christopher Gulino, a former East Setauket resident said. “The renovations look great, but I think the customers that were regularly going to Billie’s when it was previously opened were looking forward to seeing the same old Billie’s.”

While the younger crowd may not be too happy with the changes to Billie’s, Phillips Jr. said they were necessary for the business to succeed.

“Billie’s had become the local meeting place and people have very fond memories of it,” Billie the younger said. “But I don’t think the business model they had would have survived much longer.”

New shop from East Main & Main

Food lovers can rejoice as one of the owners of East Main & Main is opening a new restaurant in Port Jefferson village.

Lisa Harris and her husband Robert Strehle opened the popular donut shop in June 2017, offering customers new flavors of donuts daily. After the success of the donut shop, Harris is ready to take on a new solo venture, a restaurant that offers brunch, lunch, dinner and shareable appetizers.

“It’s always been my dream to own a restaurant and run a restaurant,” Lisa Harris said. “It just seemed like the natural next step — it seemed like it was something that we were ready to take a chance.”

The new restaurant is slated to open around the end of February on Main Street. Harris said she plans for the space to have a casual comfortable vibe.

East Main and Main in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by David Lucas

“We didn’t have to do any building, any construction, or anything like that,” Harris noted. “We were very lucky because the restaurant there had pretty much everything we needed, it was just something we had to make our own by changing the color scheme and doing a lot of cleaning.”

Harris plans on having some crossover between the staff at the donut shop and the new restaurant, but she is also looking to hire a full-time crew.

“So we will be creating some new jobs,” Harris said. “Probably seven to 10 new jobs will be created in Port Jefferson, which will be great.”

While rumors have been making their rounds that East Main & Main is closing, Harris assures that’s not the case.

“We’re not moving the donut shop,” Harris said. “The donut shop is staying right where it is.”

And if donuts are more your thing, don’t worry, as Harris insists her and her husband are open to the idea of opening up another space somewhere else if the right opportunity comes along.

“It’s finding the right spot is always a challenge,” Harris said. “We’re kind of so spoiled here because of the foot traffic that we get. It’s just always exciting and fun, so we’re looking for a spot that is very similar to Port Jeff and there aren’t a lot of towns like Port Jeff.”

Origin of Era

A new clothing shop that just opened Jan. 26 in Chandler Square is looking to attract women of all shapes and sizes with a fashion-forward, inclusive ideal.

Renee Goldfarb, the owner of Origin of Era, is a Long Island native but has spent much of her life living in Queens and Brooklyn and abroad while working in the fashion industry. 

“I worked in film and fashion for 15 years — moved abroad and worked in Prague and Berlin. I worked in two corporations in branding, but I didn’t want to make money for anyone else anymore, I wanted to do it for myself,” she said.

Origin of Era in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kyle Barr

The owner opened and operated another store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for several years before she and her husband bought a home in Amityville Harbor. When coming to Long Island Goldfarb wanted to find a town that had the same sense of community she originally felt in that city neighborhood. Her selection was between Babylon village and Port Jeff village, but she chose the latter because she said the elected officials had small businesses in mind, especially with events like the annual Charles Dickens Festival.

While she said her previous store focused on vintage clothing, her new shop emphasizes the modern. In terms of her clothing selection, Goldfarb supplies sizes from extra small to extra-large, and offers free alterations to any items purchased in the store. The brand selection encompasses companies from the U.S., Spain, the U.K., India and China, though she stressed she only selected ethically produced clothing.

Most important in her selection, she said, was the emphasis on getting clothing only designed by women.

“If I owned a woman’s store I would make sure we represented all women and made it inclusive,” Goldfarb siad. “That’s why I wanted to make sure we only carried female designers … If we think logically, we are catering to women, nobody knows women best but a woman.”

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Debra Bowling, the new owner of Pasta Pasta, and her husband Jerry. Photo by Kyle Barr

Debra Bowling, the new owner of Pasta Pasta in Port Jefferson village, knows the customers who walk through the old wood doors. She herself started 20 years ago as a waitress and has kept loyal to the restaurant ever since. Now, after two decades, she’s in charge.

However, despite owning the restaurant, she expects she will still continue to wait tables.

“That’s not going to change,” Bowling, a Setauket resident, said. She was almost successful at suppressing a laugh. “We still have two kids in college, so I really put a lot of hours in here. I said if I’m going to work so hard, I might as well work for myself.”

The restaurant serves what the new owner described as American food with an Italian flavor, providing everything from fish to pasta to salads. The eatery is also famous for its flaky and moist garlic bread.

Previous owners Steve Sands and Jules Buitron bought Pasta Pasta back in 1998, already owning another restaurant on the South Shore. Sands said they already knew and liked the Port Jeff restaurant, back when its menu was limited to pizza and pasta, so they decided to purchase it and bring in Bowling, who was at that time planning on moving to the North Shore.

Pasta Pasta in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kyle Barr

Once Sands and Buitron decided they wanted to sell, Bowling was the first person they talked to about buying the restaurant.

 

“She’s a hard worker, she knows the business and she knows the customers,” Sands said. “She’s got a great team. Much of the kitchen crew has been there before we even bought the restaurant.”

Sands said he still plans to visit the restaurant when he can.

“The reason I bought it because it’s always been my favorite restaurant,” he said.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a big transition for Bowling and her family. The new restaurant owner’s husband Jerry is also there on a regular basis where he can be seen manning the phone and helping with whatever needs doing. 

So much of Bowling’s life has been spent at the restaurant, and her children have also moved through the restaurant as a part of growing up.

“Five of my six kids have worked here, and two of them still work here,” the restaurant owner said. 

While many have moved on, the kids have been supportive of their mother’s new venture, with her son Ryan Burns posting a heartwarming social media message to his mother saying how much she inspired him.

And even with these new expectations laid on her shoulders, Bowling still has two families to assist her, one at home and one at work, including kitchen manager Anthony Vadala, who has helped Bowling and her team throughout the years. Now with her running the show those two families are more intertwined than ever.

“We’re all a family here, the kitchen staff has been here before me,” she said. “Most of the waitresses were here between 10 and 15 years.”

“We’re all a family here, the kitchen staff has been here before me.”

— Debra Bowling

Bowling intends to keep the food and the atmosphere the same as it has been, though she does have a few design changes in mind, including some new paint on the walls, new bathrooms and replacing the windows up front so they can be swung open on atmospheric summer evenings.

The customers who have gone to the restaurant for years probably couldn’t accept too much change, and there are quite a few regulars. Even before she owned the restaurant, Bowling was a well-known face to her multitudes of regular customers, often those who have their own set of menus internalized in the minds of the Pasta Pasta staff. Some of those longtime customers who constantly travel make it a point to stop in her restaurant, even going out of their way to call ahead of time and beg the restaurant for a bowl of pasta, the kind the restaurant staff knows they like in particular. Baby showers have been hosted in the restaurant, and just last year, the restaurant hosted a wedding as well.

“On New Year’s Eve we had a wedding here,” Bowling said. “They met on their first date here on New Year’s Eve two years ago. She met here, she has to get married here … That’s just from them getting to know us over the years.”

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Casa Luis on West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Karina Gerry

A Smithtown mom-and-pop restaurant has been able to reopen its doors more than a year after a horrific blaze left many questioning its fate.

Casa Luis, located at 1033 W. Jericho Turnpike, served up lunch to customers Jan. 10 for the first time since a devastating single-car crash set the restaurant up in flames in October 2017.

At around midnight Oct. 1, a 2004 Nissan Quest crashed into a 2011 Ford pickup truck and then plowed into the Spanish restaurant. The sedan burst into flames, killing the driver and setting the 30-year-old restaurant ablaze. Owner Jose Luis Estevez, commonly known as Luis, and his wife, Carmen, were asleep upstairs when they received a call from their neighbor alerting them to the fire.

“You know how many customers call me, ‘Luis, are you OK?’” Estevez said. “‘Do you need help?’ It’s so nice, so nice.”

“I’m not a famous guy. I’m a real guy, but I love what I do. I have my place and I love that people like my food or enjoy my restaurant. I still work because I love it.”

— Jose Luis Estevez

The owner said the resulting fire destroyed the restaurant’s kitchen, but left the dining room untouched. The couple’s upstairs apartment was damaged and the outside of the building was pitch black from smoke damage. Estevez, an immigrant from Spain, and his wife found themselves suddenly forced out of a home and a business they had spent years nurturing it.

“My mom took it really bad,” said Delia Arias, who works at the restaurant with her parents. “She was very fragile for months after, but she pulled through. My parents are strong people.”

Arias, who along with her siblings grew up helping around the restaurant, was surprised at the extent of the damage from the fire.

“The next day, I came to see the place,” she said. “It was a big shock, it was emotional, it was a little bit of everything all at once.”

Both Arias and her father said there was an outpouring of love and support from the community during the 15 months it took to rebuild. The local deli offered Estevez free coffee and lunch, and his fellow restaurant owners offered Casa Luis’ employees jobs to ensure that they could return to work when the business reopened.

“I never expected that in my life,” Estevez said. “Out of this world.”

Arias echoed her father’s sentiments, noting that customers, friends and family members all reached out to make sure her family was okay.

“You didn’t even ask and people were just coming and like ‘You need this, here take this,’” she said. “It was amazing. Such a horrible thing happened and everyone was so amazing to us, it was a really nice thing in such a crazy time.”

For Estevez, there was never any question about whether or not he was going to rebuild after the fire.

“This business gave me a lot of things,” he said. “So for respect of business, of the people in the town, on Long Island. I opened again.”

During the first two weeks of reopening customers came to celebrate with Estevez and eat at the local restaurant they had come to love over the past 30 years.

“I’m not a famous guy,” he said. “I’m a real guy, but I love what I do. I have my place and I love that people like my food or enjoy my restaurant. I still work because I love it.”

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