Library

'Kicking up the Dust'

By Melissa Arnold

Ask Sally Anne Keller what she loves most about painting with watercolors, and she’ll give an interesting response: She says it’s like painting backward.

“There’s no white paint in watercolor, so if you want to have a white cloud in your piece, for example, you have to paint around the area you want it to go. It’s a little tricky, and I enjoy that,” said Keller, 53, of Rocky Point.

The artist fell in love with painting when she was just a little girl, and since then her work has appeared in galleries, libraries, hotels and local businesses. Her next event is a solo exhibit entitled Atmospheric Watercolors, appearing at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham for the month of December.

“I grew up with a single mom and she worked a lot, and I was always doodling or painting something. Then one day when I was in elementary school, we had an art class about watercolors. That was it for me,” she recalled.

‘Path to Beach’

Aside from public school art classes, Keller is entirely self-taught, gathering much of her painting expertise from poring over books. Her family was supportive, she said, and pushed her to create and share whatever she could.

Ultimately, Keller began a career in the insurance industry, working jobs in various parts of the field for 30 years. On the weekends, she works as a consultant at an art gallery. And of course, whenever she can steal a few moments to herself, she’s painting in her home studio.

“You can be your own worst critic, and to hear other people say that they enjoy your work feels really good,” Keller said about the exhibition process. Her first exhibit a decade ago in Southampton brought her out of a solitary hobby and into the local art scene.

She’s now a part of the North Shore Art Guild and loves selling her work at affordable prices to raise money for causes close to her heart. Even the infamous radio host Howard Stern has purchased one of Keller’s paintings — at the time, he shared that he enjoyed painting with watercolors himself.

“I love getting people together, especially when it can help other people at the same time,” she said. “I’ve donated to veterans’ causes, animal rescues, and children’s hospitals in the past.”

With Atmospheric Watercolors, Keller has selected about a dozen watercolor paintings of varied sizes that depict Long Island landscapes. What makes her work special, she said, is the way she tries to pull viewers into the scene.

“I’m really into nature — I see shapes, shadows, and colors in ways that most people overlook. I like to create pieces that make you feel what you see. If it’s a sunny day, then I want you to be able to feel the warmth. If it’s a storm, you might feel the heaviness of the clouds coming in or smell the rain,” Keller said. “If people can experience that by looking at my work, then it makes me happy.”

Currently, the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, located at 3131 Nesconset Hwy. in Centereach, is featuring a collection of works from the North Shore Art Guild. The exhibit includes several of Keller’s paintings. All the artwork on display is for sale, and proceeds from sales of those pieces will benefit Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. 

Vito Marrone, incoming president of the North Shore Art Guild, met the watercolor artist when he first joined the organization in 2011. At the time, Keller was participating in a mixed exhibit of more than 50 artists. Marrone recalls Keller’s work catching his eye right away.

 “We have some really great artists that are part of the North Shore Art Guild, and Sally is one of them. I’ve had the chance to take classes with her and she’s so good at what she does,” he said. “Watercolor is difficult, and she’s taught me a lot about how to engineer a watercolor and maintain control of the paint so that the finished piece comes out well.”

Keller’s work has been featured in several exhibits at the North Shore Public Library, and Adult Program Coordinator Lorena Doherty said they’re excited to welcome her back again.

“Sally is a skilled watercolor artist. Her work is direct, and luscious in the use of color and light,” Doherty said. “Sally has a way of isolating the beauty of nature and creating the feeling of standing inside the work, not just on the outside looking in. Atmospheric artwork is timeless and enduring, and the exhibit is a beautiful addition to the library.”

For those interested in meeting Keller and learning more about working with watercolor, she will host a demonstration at the library on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. All are welcome and the event is free.

North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham will present Atmospheric Watercolors throughout the month of December. For library hours and more information, please call 631-929-4488. 

Army veteran Eugene Casper with his POW/MIA tattoo Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

By Melissa Arnold

Each Veterans Day, the country pauses to recognize the men and women who have served as members of the military. For some, it’s a day of pride and they’re humbled to be recognized. Others live with trauma, injury or regret and prefer not to talk about their service years.

Regardless of their circumstances or histories, the Northport-East Northport Public Library is honoring all veterans with a unique photography exhibit for the month of November.

The exhibit, titled Ink Stories: Symbols of Service, focuses on sharing veterans’ memories and experiences through photographs of their tattoos.

Army Veteran John Baptisto Fiore. Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

“My father was a Vietnam veteran who had tattoos. When he returned from Vietnam, he struggled to find acceptance in the community [because he was in the war],” said Kathryn Heaviside, community services librarian at the Northport-East Northport Public Library. “Hearing stories from his service and the stories behind the tattoos, I felt confident I would be able to find others who were willing to share.”

Heaviside said that art exhibits focusing on tattoos have been held in other places around the United States and believed the concept would be a great fit for the library because of its commitment to veteran outreach and proximity to the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The exhibit took nearly a year to plan, with flyers, email blasts, social media posts and word of mouth used to find local veterans.

“It was slow going at first, but once the word started to get out, we had more and more responses. The concept was really well-received by the veterans,” Heaviside said.

In all, 34 veterans came forward to participate in Ink Stories. They include 33 men and one woman from all branches of the military. The majority served in Vietnam, while others were involved in the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion or the modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among them is Eugene Casper, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran from Ronkonkoma. Casper didn’t want to go to college and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in 1968.

“I knew I was going to end up in Vietnam, but I wanted to see what it was all about. I was 18, young and dumb,” Casper recalled. He spent one year in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange and now lives with cancer and other health issues.

While many of Casper’s fellow soldiers got their first tattoo during basic training, it took decades for him to get inked. 

Army veteran Eugene Casper has his tattoo photographed by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios. Photo by Nora Nolan

“When I got back from the war, I had a bad taste in my mouth and pushed a lot of my feelings and experiences aside. But years later, this stuff will always catch up to you. I reached out for help at the VA and decided to get my first tattoo when I was 50.”

That first tattoo, the POW/MIA symbol on his left shoulder, was eventually followed by an eagle with an American flag background and his dates of service. Most recently, his granddaughter opened her own tattoo shop and did a piece on Casper’s forearm depicting a helmet, boot and rifle with the phrase “All gave some; some gave all.”

Casper and the other veterans came to the library over several scheduled days, where they filled out questionnaires about their experiences before posing for photos. Chris Cordone, a Huntington-based wedding photographer, volunteered to photograph the veterans for free.

“They would enter the room to be photographed and just totally open up. Some would cry,” Heaviside said about the photo sessions, which she described as emotional and moving. “The vets were thrilled to talk about their tattoos and share their stories. For some of them, it was the first time they had spoken about their history in 40 years. Some of them were hesitant, but once they started to share, they didn’t want to stop. I’ve formed a real bond with each of them through this experience.”

Army Veteran John Baptisto Fiore. Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

The exhibit is comprised of individual 24-by-36-inch framed posters featuring photos of each veteran, his or her tattoos and some of their own reflections as written and designed by Heaviside. Each veteran will also be presented with a blanket made by the library’s teen volunteers.

Casper was thrilled to be a part of the project after seeing an ad for it in a local newspaper. “I thought it would be a good thing to do. The more people that get to see what we went through, the better,” he said. “I’m 69 years old now, I have nothing to hide and I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m proud to be a Vietnam veteran.”

He added that seeking support at the VA made all the difference for his well-being. “There is help out there for everything, but you have to look and you have to reach for it. Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, tell people what’s going on,” he said. “You don’t have to deal with things alone.”

Ink Stories: Symbols of Service is on view at the Northport Public Library, 151 Laurel Ave., Northport and the East Northport Public Library, 185 Larkfield Road, E. Northport through Nov. 30. Identical exhibits are found at each library. 

The public is invited to an opening reception at the Northport Public Library this Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. For library hours and more information, call 631-261-6930 or visit www.nenpl.org.

A LIBRARY OF SWEETS

The children’s department of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket was transformed into a Life-Sized Candy Land on Oct. 11. The event, now in its 7th year, attracted over 220 members of the community.   Children ages 3 to 7 donned their Halloween outfits, picked cards and followed a colorful trail, visiting places like the Peppermint Forest and Gumdrop Mountain where they were greeted by teen volunteers bearing treats.

Photos courtesy of Emma Clark Library

A teen volunteer at last year’s pet adoption fair at Emma Clark Library. Photo from Emma Clark Library

By Leah Chiappino

Local libraries are setting aside time this weekend to focus on community, service, and volunteerism. On Saturday, Oct. 19, over 160 libraries throughout New York State are participating in the 3rd annual Great Give Back, a program started by the Suffolk County Public Library Directors Association and the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in 2017. It expanded to Nassau County in 2018, before turning into a statewide initiative this year. Each library selects its own service projects, from medicine disposal initiatives to crocheting mice for local animal shelters.

Lisa DeVerna, head of public relations at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, praised the initiative. “All libraries do these types of activities throughout the year. But I love the idea that on one day, ALL of the libraries have community service events,” she said. “It’s a celebration of giving back. When you combine them together, there is a great variety of services throughout Long Island, thanks to libraries.”

To find out what your local library might be planning, visit www.thegreatgiveback.org. The following is a sampling of events open to all with no registration necessary.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

120 Main St., Setauket

“At Emma Clark Library we’ve decided to participate by focusing on animals because really, who doesn’t love helping animals?” DeVerna said. October 19 kicks off the library’s pet food drive, which will continue until the end of the month. New, unopened pet food (both canned and dry) is appreciated and all are welcome to donate (residents or nonresidents) and all residents and nonresidents are welcome to donate during library hours, as there will be a bin in the lobby. Call 631-941-4080.

North Shore Public Library

250 Route 25A, Shoreham

From 2:30 to 4 p.m., the community can write letters, draw pictures or make cards to be included in the Operation Gratitude Care Packages that are sent to troops. The organization has a special need for letters specifically written for new recruits, veterans and first responders. While you write and draw, husband and wife Susan and Don will present a concert titled Memorable Melodies and refreshments will be provided. The library is also conducting a sock drive, which will be donated to Maureen’s Haven, a Homeless Outreach serving LI East End for its weekly foot clinic. Call 631-929-4488.

Huntington Public Library

338 Main St., Huntington

At its main building campus, the library will host a Volunteer Fair from 2 to 5 p.m. featuring representatives from more than 25 local organizations including The Guide Dog Foundation, America’s VetDots, Huntington Hospital, League of Women Voters of Huntington, Literacy Suffolk, Northport Cat Rescue Association and Island Harvest. Call 631-427-5165.

Middle Country Public Library

101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach

575 Middle Country Road, Selden

At the library’s Centereach branch volunteers can write letters to service members from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be a tote bag decorating station for homeless shelters and food pantries from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a pet toy-making station to donate to local animal shelters from 1 to 3 p.m. At the library’s Selden Branch there will be an opportunity to make superhero kits for children in foster care from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., couponing for troops from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and planting of daffodil bulbs from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. All are welcome and no registration is required. Call 631-585-9393.

Cold Spring Harbor Library

95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor

A Pet Adoption Fair will be held in the library’s parking lot from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Stop by and adopt a new friend and enjoy delicious pet-themed treats provided by IBake and Flynn Baking Co. Call 631-692-6820.

Port Jefferson Free Library

100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson

The library will be conducting an all day food collection drive for a local food pantry for The Great Give Back. Donations of beans or canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, oatmeal, pasta, baby wipes, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, tissues, diapers, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, hand lotion and disinfectant spray are appreciated. Call 631-473-0022 for further information.

Smithtown Library

Main Branch, 1 North Country Road, Smithtown

The Smithtown Library will be hosting an Adopt a Soldier, Craft Program from 10 a.m.  to 3 p.m. in which families will be able to make a card or write a letter, thanking a current service member or veteran for their service. The cards will be given to America’s Adopt a Soldier program, a Virginia-based organization involved in veterans support services and outreach. Open to all. Call 631-360-2480.

Sachem Public Library

150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook

From noon to 4 p.m. the library will be taking part in Crochet for a Cause, in which people can crochet blanket squares that will be assembled to donated to local adult homes. Participants can also crochet toy mice for local animal shelters “We settled on that program because it’s a real hands-on program for all ages. Some basic crochet skills are helpful and people are welcome to bring their own supplies, but we will have [needles and yarn],” said librarian Cara Perry. For more information, call 631-588-5024.

Comsewogue Public Library

170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the library will host a Volunteer Fair for adults and teens featuring representatives from a variety of organizations seeking volunteers. Participants may drop in at any time during the event to learn about where and how they are needed to assist within the community. Call 631-928-1212.

A sensory-friendly screening of Beetlejuice was held at the library in September. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

By Melissa Arnold

Enjoying a movie can be a great way for the entire family to spend some quality time together. But for people who are especially sensitive to light or sound, the experience can be difficult to handle, if not impossible.

At Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station, the staff wants to ensure no one is excluded from its programs because of a lack of accessibility. Thanks to a suggestion from a visitor, the library now offers sensory-friendly movie opportunities once a month that are open to all. 

“We’ve always tried to really listen to the community about the needs that they have, and this was something we’d been looking to do for a while,” said Lori Holtz, head of adult services for the Comsewogue Public Library. “We see very regular attendance for this program, which shows us that people are really enjoying the experience.”

Earlier this year, an employee from a local group home for adults approached the library suggesting they try offering sensory-friendly movie screenings, said adult services librarian Christine Parker-Morales, who added that the program has been well-received and is continuing to expand.

According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), at least 1 in 20 adults in the general population may be affected by SPD. For people with these disorders, any kind of sensory stimuli — bright lights or darkness, loud sounds, intense smells, certain clothing textures — can be overwhelming, confusing or disturbing.

Setting up a sensory-friendly movie is a simple process, said Danielle Minard, the library’s outreach librarian. All that’s needed is a bit of extra planning by leaving the lights on, lowering the sound, adding captions and providing advance information about the movie’s storyline and elements. “We try to show films that are fairly current,” Minard added. 

“We began the program this past March with Inside Out and since then, we’ve shown Mary Poppins Returns, Guardians of the Galaxy, Singin’ in the Rain and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” she said. In anticipation of Halloween, Tim Burton’s classic Beetlejuice was screened in September.

There are no special requirements, fees or advance registration required to see the sensory- friendly movies — all are welcome to attend.

“Libraries exist for everyone and we’re here to serve people of every age, regardless of their needs,” said Comsewogue Library Director Debra Engelhardt. “Everyone deserves quality services, and we’re continuing to learn how we can deliver those services better. I’m very proud of everyone’s hard work. I would encourage any community member to bring their interests and needs to their local library. It may take a while to get something started, but it’s our job to make good things happen for everyone who lives in the area.”

Sensory-friendly film screenings are held monthly on Friday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station. Upcoming screenings will be held Oct. 25 and Nov. 29. The films are not chosen ahead of time, but are appropriate for all ages. For more information, including additional sensory-friendly library programs, call 631-928-1212.

This article has been updated Oct. 22.

Middle Country Public Library in Centereach hosted the 19th annual Women’s EXPO on Oct. 3. Thousands came out to kick off their holiday shopping at the one-day event presented by the Middle Country Library Foundation and the library’s Miller Business Center.

More than 80 women entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to introduce their products, which included jewelry, children’s books, soaps, candles, chocolate, fall crafts, clothing and much more. Fifth Season restaurant offered lunch in the EXPO Café. 

This year’s lead sponsor was Bank of America. The event was also sponsored by Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP of Ronkonkoma; People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union; BankUnited; TD Bank; Jefferson’s Ferry; and the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce. Vendors interested in participating in next year’s event are encouraged to visit www.womensExpoli.org. See more photos of the event at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Christmas came early for many little girls and boys as two members of the Radio City Rockettes, Mindy Moeller (left) and Taylor Shimko, stopped by the Smithtown Library’s Main Branch on Sept. 25 to meet their fans and take part in a kids craft program.

Each child took an instant photo with the Rockettes that was placed in a keepsake snow globe. The globe was then decorated with stickers.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim presented the two dancers with a proclamation thanking them for their time and “the joyful memories made today with the children and families of Smithtown.”

The day was especially meaningful for the supervisor’s 6-year-old granddaughter Danica (in the pink ballet outfit) who loves to watch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show and aspires to become a Rockette when she grows up.

Keynote speaker Erika Swyler will discuss her writing process at the event at 2:30 p.m. Photo by Photo by Nina Subin

By Melissa Arnold

From its bustling theater scene to scores of local artists, photographers and writers, Long Island has always been a hot spot for creative types. Book reviews and interviews with local authors are a regular part of our Arts & Lifestyles coverage, and many of the Island’s libraries are proud to offer a collection of stories written by people from the area.

At the Port Jefferson Free Library, the annual Local Author Fair allows writers of all genres to meet readers, share their work and even make some new friends. This year’s fair, held Saturday, Oct. 5, will welcome more than 20 authors for an afternoon of reading and conversation.

Now in its 5th year, the fair began as a response to the large number of local writers approaching the library looking to publicize their books.

“The library hosted author panels in the past for writers to talk about the writing and publication process together,” explained Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian at the Port Jefferson Free Library. “We’re constantly given books to add to our collection of local authors. In fact, area writers approached the library so frequently we thought it would be a good idea to have an event where people not only come to see an author they know, but to meet other authors whose work they might not be familiar with.”

Each author that appears at the fair has their own dedicated space to promote and sell their work. While book signings may leave an author rushing to get to each person on line, the fair provides ample opportunity for authors to take questions, chat and browse other tables.

This year’s keynote speaker, Erika Swyler, is a native Long Islander whose nationally best-selling work has earned acclaim from Buzzfeed to the New York Times.

“I try not to get myself tied down to one particular genre,” said Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation. “I’m a very curious person and I’m interested in a lot of different things.”

Swyler’s writing career blossomed from her time in acting school, where she emerged as a playwright. It was a natural progression, said the author, who yearned for the chance to dig deeper into a character’s thoughts and feelings. Two novels later, she credits her success to dogged perseverance and a thick skin when it comes to rejection.

At the fair, Swyler will discuss her writing process and read an excerpt from her newest release, Light From Other Stars, which blends sci-fi with literary fiction and shades of horror in a coming-of-age tale.

“Long Island has its own unique and powerful culture that sets it apart. I love meeting other people in the area who are pursuing creativity,” Swyler said. “Living a creative life is difficult, and it’s important to develop a sense of community to remember that we’re all in this together.”

Stephanie Kepke of Plainview has been a part of the fair since its second year and enjoys returning annually to make new connections.

“I love this event because it’s a great way to meet readers, and it’s always wonderful to get to   hear from wonderful keynote speakers as well,” she said. “I find that often people will come to meet a specific author and then discover others in the process.”

Kepke was an English major before beginning a lengthy career in journalism and public relations. She dabbled in fiction all the while and began sharing stories with the world in 2015. Her work, which she describes as “women’s fiction with heart, humor and a dash of spice,” includes two novellas — A New Life and You and Me — and a novel titled Goddess of Suburbia.

“I’m so grateful to get my words out into the world, and it means so much when people come up and talk about how much our work has impacted them. The fair is an unparalleled way to come out and really talk to authors. We all want to meet everyone who comes to see us, and for me it doesn’t even matter if you buy my books. It’s about making connections,” she said.

In addition to the keynote from Swyler, a few of the authors will also have the chance to give 5-minute “lightning talks.” Visitors should be sure to visit as many tables as possible, collecting signatures from authors as they go. The more signatures you get, the more chances you’ll have to enter the day’s raffle. Winners will receive a bag of Port Jefferson Free Library merchandise and a signed copy of Swyler’s latest book.

“It’s very easy today for people to search for a book online and buy it, but getting to read something written by a local author who you get to meet and talk to gives you the chance to make a more personal investment in their work,” Filosa said. “It’s always a joy to watch people discover new authors and new books from this event.”

Participating authors:

Erika Swyler
Mindy Kronenberg
L L  Cartin
Ralph Brady
Joseph E. Vitolo
Lorraine Stacy
Mike Virgintino
Liz  Macchio
Celeste Williams
Lisa Scuderi-Burkimsher
Stephanie Kepke
Larry McCoy
Peter Busacca
Marilyn London
Oswaldo Jimenez
Erick Alayon
Jack  Batcher
TRACI Wendler
Marianne  Schwartz
Roland Allnach
Catherine Asaro

Sponsored by the Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library, the 5th annual Local Author Fair will be held on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson. Admission is free. For further information, call 631-473-0022.

Holly Hunt

Gloria Vanderbilt said, “I always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.”

We see this in action every year at the annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach. This year’s event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 3 and will feature 82 exhibitors.

Not just a craft show, the Women’s EXPO brings together some of Long Island’s great women entrepreneurs and business professionals to network, collaborate … and SHOP!

While only one day, the work of the EXPO continues all year at the Miller Business Center. Bank of America has been the EXPO’s Signature Sponsor since its inception 19 years ago.

“We’re proud to be back this year as the presenting sponsor of the Women’s EXPO, which provides women entrepreneurs the power to grow their business, attract new customers and showcase their talent,” said Bob Isaksen, Bank of America Long Island market president. “Collaborating with the library in support of these local women-owned small businesses fosters a healthy economy and creates opportunity for all.”

“Seeing the women talking with each other and connecting” is Miller Business Center coordinator Elizabeth Malafi’s favorite part of the event. With items such as soaps, candles, food, jewelry, pottery and home decor, there is something for everyone.

“All are welcome to soak in the excitement of the day,” says library director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. “The energy at the library on EXPO day is wonderful for everyone who visits.”

Below are just a few of the women entrepreneurs you will meet at this year’s event:

Alegna Soap

Angela Carillo

Angela Carillo really loves soap. Her love for soaps started in childhood when she would look forward to vacations, so she could visit gift shops to see what kinds of soap they carried. Carillo has been making soap for 20 years and once she put her kids and husband through college she turned her hobby into a successful business. Alegna Soap was born 10 years go with three focuses — retail, private label and workshops/conferences. Carillo says that having a diverse focus allows the business to always be steady.

The lasting connections and collaborations of the EXPO have been invaluable to Carillo. “It’s a totally different event than any other I do,” she says. Over the many years she has been participating, Carillo has communicated and collaborated with several of the other women entrepreneurs, including other soap vendors. In addition to the EXPO, Carillo takes advantage of the offerings of the Miller Business Center. Most recently attending Instagram for Business where she learned about using the story feature and promptly began using it on her business Instagram account.

Simply Nicki Supreme Nut Butters

Nicki Gohorel

Nicki Gohorel moved to Istanbul with her husband and was surprised that, while there were plenty of delicious nuts, there were no nut butters. In 2013, she started making her own and gave some as gifts. They were so delicious, friends encouraged her to sell them and Simply Nicki was born.

Gohorel creates nut butters with a focus on high-quality ingredients. Her most popular flavor is Peanut Butter Supreme, which includes amino acids to help the body process the protein in the peanuts more efficiently. What makes Simply Nicki stand out from other nut butters is the variety of flavors and customization capabilities. A traveler, Gohorel has “a mental Rolodex of flavors” that she loves to combine in what some may think are strange ways. Another popular flavor, Almond Supreme, contains almonds, goji berries, nutmeg and sea salt. Not your average nut butter!

But she is not just passionate about flavors and nut butters. Simply Nicki nut butters are packaged with as little paper or plastic as possible at the Made Conscious Kitchen in Cutchogue. This eco-friendly, cooperative kitchen allows small, local entrepreneurs to work together and as Gohorel put it,”lift each other up.”

Holly Hunt Photography

Holly Hunt

Holly Hunt grew up surrounded by photos taken by her grandfather, a professional who photographed the likes of Kennedy and the Beatles. It’s no surprise that his work inspired her to pick up a camera and take up photography. Hunt didn’t intend for her explorations of abandoned places to go past the walls of her own home, but after gifting photos to friends and family, she received encouragement to share them. And it’s no wonder, as her haunting works of art create a beautiful story of forgotten places.

“I was a patron of the EXPO for many years but I never expected to be an exhibitor. I never thought I was good enough,” she said. Thankfully, that didn’t stop her from applying in 2018. Hunt sold most of the inventory she brought to that first EXPO. More importantly were the connections she made with other women. She met so many other entrepreneurs and business professionals. The EXPO even helped organically grow her social media platforms, a hard thing to do these days. She’s looking forward to showing her new work at this year’s event.

From the Page

Callie Meaney

Callie Meaney’s mom loves candles. Growing up, they were always in her house. They became a hobby for Meaney and then a business. With all the candles available on the market she knew hers would need a unique twist. Since she loves to read, Meaney gravitated toward book-themed candles and From the Page was born. With a permanent collection of about 20, each season she introduces new scents. Top sellers right now are Magic Pumpkin Patch and Sleepy Hollow. Each natural soy candle comes in a reusable jar and each label has a picture that has been hand-drawn by Meaney herself.

She is looking forward to her first EXPO so she can meet other women entrepreneurs and business professionals. Before starting in 2013, Meaney had no business experience and hopes to hear other’s stories. As she’s hoping to expand to wholesale as well as a retail location, the knowledge she gains at the event will be invaluable.

Precise Gluten Free Foods

Mayra Robayo

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but how many of us actually put it to practice? Mayra Robayo does. After her daughter was diagnosed with an allergy to gluten, Robayo began making everything from scratch. But her son wanted good pancakes and the gluten-free ones she was making weren’t cutting it. After a lot of experimentation with different mixes, she created a pancake her son liked. Knowing how hard it is for families dealing with food allergies, she started Precise Gluten Free Foods in 2018 to share the mix with others. Robayo is off and running. In spring 2019, she added an oatmeal cookie mix to the line. Her mixes are gluten, nut, allergy and chemical free and can be found at local stores.

Even though this is Robayo’s first time exhibiting at the EXPO, she has been utilizing the resources available at the Miller Business Center for the past several months. Recently, she attended Grow Your Business with Google and learned that even without a retail location she could create a Google business page. Robayo says this doubled traffic to her website.

Kick off your holiday shopping at the 19th annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free and there is ample parking. Lunch from the Fifth Season Restaurant will be available for purchase in the EXPO Café. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393, ext. 296, or visit www.womensEXPOli.org.

All photos by Elizabeth Malafi