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Business

Mount Sinai resident Michael Cherry arrives to be the first customer of the valet parking service in Port Jeff in July 2017. File photo by Alex Petroski

Grass is green, water is wet and Port Jefferson Village doesn’t quite have enough parking to accommodate all of the demand.

To try to alleviate one of the village’s longest standing criticisms, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District is taking another shot at a valet parking program to make finding a spot easier while patronizing downtown stores and restaurants on the weekends. The program was first instituted in July 2017 on an experimental basis, with cars dropped off in the Meadow parking lot, located south of Roessner Lane, west of Main Street and east of Barnum Avenue, adjacent to Rocketship Park. The increased traffic entering and exiting the parking lot and obstruction of spaces used for visitors of the nearby restaurants were among the complaints resulting from last year’s program that were tweaked for 2018.

Valet parking program
  • $7 per car
  • drop off at Village Hall
  • cars to be parked at Port Jefferson High School
  • service offered Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day

“Last year’s location was less than optimal, in that cars were being staged on a very busy entrance to our busiest parking lot,” said Kevin Wood, parking administrator for the village, who will receive regular reports from BID representatives on the execution of the program throughout the summer. “The village has a responsibility to look at all ways and solutions to bring optimal parking options to its visitors and residents and reduce ‘parking anxiety.’”

This year, the drop-off point will be the parking lot behind Village Hall on West Broadway. The building has separate driveways for entering and exiting.

“The location at Village Hall is a very natural setting for staging cars with an entrance and an exit and a semi-circle flow,” he said.

The program will still cost users $7 but will only be offered from 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Last year Sunday hours were also available. As was the arrangement last year, the cars will be driven by valets from the staging area to Port Jefferson High School, where they will be parked.

An agreement between the BID and Port Jefferson School District remains in place, in which the valet company, Advanced Parking Service, will take 75 percent of profits, leaving the remaining 25 percent to be split evenly between the village and school district. The BID supplied an upfront investment to get the program going for 2018. BID President Tom Schafer said the organization determined it would need about 120 cars to use the service daily to cover the cost of five employees for the company, and anything more than 120 would result in the program turning a profit.

“The village has a responsibility to look at all ways and solutions to bring optimal parking options to its visitors and residents and reduce ‘parking anxiety.’”

— Kevin Wood

Schafer said he and the BID’s members were glad to hear the program would be given another opportunity with a full season and with what all stakeholders view as a more practical staging area. Port Jeff’s board of trustees approved the use of the Village Hall lot during a meeting May 21. Multiple meetings took place between the end of the program last year and its ultimate renewal between representatives of the BID, Wood and village elected officials to work out some of the issues that arose in 2017.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if not for the fact that we have Kevin Wood as our parking administrator,” Mayor Margot Garant said during a May 7 board meeting.

Schafer also touted Wood’s involvement as an asset this time around.

“Everyone’s ecstatic,” Schafer said of the BID members. “Kevin Wood has been a great help. He understands that there’s just too many cars.”

The village has also approved hiring two parking ambassadors for this summer, who will be tasked with occupying lots to help parkers use meters, the village’s parking specific mobile phone application and to direct them to available spaces.

The continuation of the project will ultimately be determined by the village, which included a provision in its resolution to terminate the program “at any time or for any reason.”

Valet parking will be available in Port Jeff from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance Co-President Donna Boeckel, co-owner of Awsomotive Car Care in Mount Sinai, talks to members about new goals during the chamber's first meeting May 16. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance has sprung up from the ashes after the dissolution of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce and hopes to learn from its mistakes.

“We will help promote shop local,” said Donna Boeckel, co-president of the chamber and co-owner of Awsomotive Car Care in Mount Sinai. “We want to help people recognize how much value and how many personable small businesses we have in these two areas.”

The first meeting of the new chamber was held last wednesday and was

“We want to help people recognize how much value and how many personable small businesses we have in these two areas.”

— Donna Boeckel

She was joined by more than 30 local business operators and owners, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) who wanted to show support during the chamber’s first meeting May 16. The Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance expects to hold meetings the first Wednesday of every month.

In October 2017, the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, which covered businesses from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, dissolved because the time commitment proved too much for such a large coverage area. It was then decided that the chamber would split up to take on original shapes, which focused on business in just a handful of hamlets.

“It got too big — the businesses of separate hamlets, whether they’re in Miller Place or Mount Sinai, know their needs and know their concerns,” Bonner said. “If you think about the Shoreham-Wading River chamber, their competition is the [Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.] That isn’t the same here.”

Boeckel said the previous group did not encompass enough volunteers but said that while these splintered chambers will remain separate organizations, they do expect to work with each other.

“We’ll probably do some joint meetings, maybe some joint events — we’ll bounce ideas off each other,” said Jennifer Dzvonar, owner of Bass Electric in Port Jefferson Station and president of the Port Jefferson/Terryville Chamber of Commerce. Her association began meeting in January of this year.

Chamber leadership anticipates forming connections with leaders at Heritage Park and Cedar Beach for plan or sign on to participate in events. Members also hope the chamber will help them and their business with networking and exposure.

“People have to remember to shop local — Amazon is not going to the schools, Amazon is not supporting your community, it’s not employing your children.”

— Jennifer Dzvonar

“It’s good to immerse yourself in the business community,” said chamber member Brett Hochreiter, managing director of Long Island Tint in Rocky Point. “You get your name out there, you get some exposure, hopefully you get some leads.”

One of the biggest issues that members said they face is maintaining clientele when the lure of online shopping, especially with Amazon, is so strong.

“People have to remember to shop local — Amazon is not going to the schools, Amazon is not supporting your community, it’s not employing your children,” Dzvonar said.

Anker echoed the Port Jefferson Station chamber president’s sentiment.

“Chambers are so important because you can energize your community,” Anker said. “You can make sure people understand they need to put their money where their house is. Made in the U.S.A and shop local are taking precedence over convenience.”

Boeckel emphasized that the work for the chamber was and will continue to be done on a volunteer basis. Every members work full time, but she said the important thing is that local businesses should continue to support one another by donating just a little time.

“That’s what it takes,” Boeckel said. “We’re all doers. It takes doers to do what we do.”

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A recurring battle along the North Shore that we’re noticing is the struggle communities go through to maintain historical characteristics while also satisfying modern business needs.

Where town or village codes may be lacking to maintain historical and/or architectural cohesion, community leaders are recognizing the importance of creating visioning plans. Our hope is that the want for sense of place is mixed with the needs of businesses in order to fill empty storefronts when crafting each plan in order to create a healthy mix.

Setting up guidelines to maintain its architectural heritage and cohesion is something Port Jefferson Village is paying attention to. At the end of last year, a draft resolution based on a meeting of the village’s architectural review committee was introduced. If passed, it would require new buildings in the village’s commercial districts to adhere to designs consistent with Port Jeff’s “Victorian, maritime heritage” and to avoid a “hodgepodge” of buildings. The policy is far from complete but standards are being discussed, and that’s a good start.

Constructing a visioning plan, with the assistance of residents and business owners, would be beneficial for revitalization in areas like Broadway in Rocky Point. Setauket and Stony Brook residents took a step in the right direction when community leaders, residents and business owners met in 2016 and 2017 to create the Route 25A Three Village Area Visioning Report. The report, approved by the Brookhaven Town Board and pending the adoption of a land-use study by the town’s planning department, creates guidelines for issues that affect the Three Village area including maintaining cohesive architecture.

It gave the Three Village Civic Association some backup when it opposed the owners of a Shell gas station in Setauket on Route 25A applying for variances to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The company submitted proposed plans to construct a large canopy and a lighted electric sign at the gas station. The board closed an April 18 hearing without a decision and, according to town guidelines, has 62 days to make one. While the owners say most gas stations have canopies, residents at the hearing provided evidence to the contrary along Route 25A between St. James and Port Jefferson.

If the gas station doesn’t get its way with its plans, we doubt it will vacate the premises. But what about other cases when a business owner feels an addition would attract more customers? This is when a visioning plan created with history in mind, but also present business needs can have the most impact. During discussions, compromise may be the key.

Northport Village has been able to strike such an agreement. Last summer, the village board was approached about building a hotel at 225 Main St. — something unheard of before then. While residents criticized the proposed plans, the village approved a code modification to make way for the inn. Then the village’s architectural review board toured the 1950s building to determine firsthand if it had any historic value, before allowing the proposed plans to move forward. This two-step process allowed for a democratic proceeding, while protests may have otherwise left empty storefronts or rundown properties standing as eyesores, which is not the best option.

With some discussion, civic-minded folks with a respect for historical aspects can keep business districts from looking like an unattractive mixture of buildings. Taking in the concerns of business owners, can keep those buildings filled.

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington homeowners can anticipate to see taxes increase in 2018, but town officials have pieced together a plan that won’t require piercing the state tax cap as opposed to 2017.

Huntington Town’s budget will slide in just under the state-mandated 1.84 percent tax levy increase cap with its proposed $194 million spending plan for 2018..

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) presented his last and final budget proposal at the Sept. 15 town board meeting, calling for a $4.2 million spending increase compared to 2017.

The single largest driving factor behind the town’s budget hike is high health care costs for town employees, according to Petrone. Town personnel salaries and benefits “is the single biggest influence on municipal budgets,” reads the proposed 2018 budget, citing it accounts for more than 50 percent of the town’s major expenditures. The state has predicted health care insurance premiums will rise by 8.3 percent, which would cost the town an additional $22.5 million in 2018.

To help cut back these costs, Petrone has proposed to reduce the number of full-time town employees through attrition for a second year. So far this year, the town has eliminated six positions, for a savings of $400,000 in paid salaries and benefits, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act.”

— Frank Petrone

Successful changes in two of the town’s ambulance districts — Huntington and Commack — will result in residents seeing decreased taxes for ongoing services. Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps began billing patients’ insurance companies in 2016, a move that was followed by Huntington this year and resulted in a significant increase to its revenue. Carter said residents without health care insurance will not be billed by either company, as those costs continue to be covered by the town.

The preliminary budget calls for $16.6 million in capital spending on local projects, holding steady at 2017 levels. These capital projects include $3.75 million to begin construction of the James E. Conte Community Center at the former Armory in Huntington Station and $3 million to construct a new animal shelter adjacent to Mill Dam Park in Halesite.

Town officials have already unveiled plans to build its first of two spray parks, or interactive water playgrounds, in 2018 — one in Elwood Park in memory of New York City Police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2017, and one next to the Conte Community Center.

Other major projects included in the 2018 preliminary budget are improvements to Manor Park in Huntington Station, restoration of the waterfront bulkheads in Halesite and $1 million toward improvement of the Huntington sewers.

In issuing his final budget, Petrone called for changes to the state’s Tax Cap Act.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs, such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act, and to develop new economic drivers, like the formation of special improvement districts which deal with issue-specific concerns and solutions, and the establishment of new Business Improvement Districts to further enhance our small business communities,” the supervisor said.

Petrone called for specific programs or capital projects to be approved by voters in a town referendum vote, then excluded from tax cap calculations, otherwise he feared programs could be discontinued to stay under the cap.

For 2017, Petrone got residents’ support in piercing the tax cap by approving a 2.85 percent tax increase for his $191 million budget. The supervisor had claimed it was necessary in order to maintain the town’s services along with social, youth and art programs without severe cuts.

Residents will have the chance to share their input on the proposed 2018 budget at the Oct. 17 town board meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sidewalks on Main Street in Port Jefferson will be repaired in March. Photo by Kevin Redding

Starting in March, while walking on Main Street in Port Jefferson, don’t look down.

Repairs to sidewalks on both sides of Main Street will take place beginning March 1, weather permitting, and are expected to last about four weeks, according to Port Jefferson Village.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said during a board meeting Feb. 8 that $200,000 of the total expected cost of $235,000 was secured from the state’s capital improvement account thanks in part to efforts of state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Garant said Suffolk County contractor Deal Concrete Corporation will be doing the job along Route 25A. One side of Main Street will be done at a time, and temporary bridges will be utilized to allow shoppers to enter and exit businesses while the concrete is wet, according to Trustee Larry LaPointe.

“It just needs to be done because the sidewalk is a disaster,” Garant said during the meeting. “After we replace this sidewalk we are putting all of the building owners and merchants on notice that they really have to clean the sidewalks. They have to get out there with gum-busters, hoses.”

According to the village code, business owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks in front of their establishments. During the board meeting, a community member suggested fines be imposed on businesses that are not in compliance, and Garant agreed.

“Once we’ve got a clean slate then we can do exactly that,” LaPointe said during the meeting in response to the community member.

The sidewalks to be repaired span from the three-way intersection of Main Street, East Broadway and West Broadway near Port Jefferson Harbor, heading south and stopping at East Main Street.

The three business owners and one manager of establishments within the area who were available to be interviewed all said they hadn’t been notified by anyone of the impending project as of the afternoon of Feb. 14.

Vincenzo Chianese, owner of Vincenzo’s Pizza on the east side of Main Street, said he anticipates it might be bad for business if the sidewalk is inaccessible for an extended period of time, but said the temporary bridges would be helpful for customers.

“If they do it the right way I think it’ll be ok,” said Bill Familia, owner of Yogo Delish frozen yogurt shop. “It’ll be a little bit of a hassle for the walkers, but we can handle March in my business.”

Joseph Ciardullo, owner of C’est Cheese, an artisanal cheese, boutique wine and craft beer restaurant on the west side of Main Street, said despite his shop’s rear entrance, lengthy construction projects are rarely good for business.

“It’s definitely not going to be the most ideal situation,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a slight decline [in business], but hopefully it won’t be too inconvenient.”

Ciardullo added he’s looking forward to the project’s completion.

“I think any village improvement is
always a good idea,” he said.

Linda McLoone, manager of Thomas Kinkade art gallery on the west side of Main Street, also expressed concerns about access for patrons, but admitted repairs are probably for the best.

“It probably will affect business, but I don’t know,” she said. “I guess it needs to be done because the sidewalks out there are horrible — they’re tripping hazards.”

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Gold Coast Bank’s Setauket branch, at the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road. Photo by Donna Newman

By Wenhao Ma

In little more than eight years, John Tsunis’ Gold Coast Bank has gone from one location in Islandia to a publicly-traded company with six branches on Long Island, and another opening in downtown Brooklyn.

Now he’s contemplating the bank’s first branch in Manhattan, because many of the customers and stockholders on Long Island are also residents of New York City.

“I don’t want to build a wall between us and New York City,” Tsunis said.

Tsunis, 65, has multiple business interests. He is not only the chairman and chief executive officer of Gold Coast Bank, but is also on the board of directors of the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association, and the founder and CEO of Islandia-based Long Island Hotels. He opened the first Holiday Inn Express franchise on Long Island in Stony Brook in 1991, which was the first in the United States.

According to Gold Coast Bank’s 2016 second quarter report, its net income reached $573,000, a 178 percent increase compared to the same quarter last year. Its assets, deposits and loans have all increased compared to 2015.

The bank also reported year-to-date net income of $991,000.

Gold Coast Bank went public in June, issuing about $9.5 million in shares.

“We are encouraged by our original investors who continue to support our community bank, as well as new investors who have come aboard,” Tsunis said in a statement.

John Tsunis is chairman and CEO of the bank. File photo.
John Tsunis is chairman and CEO of the bank. File photo.

After his first bank, Long Island Commercial Bank, was taken over by New York Community Bancorp in 2005, many clients felt the new, larger bank no longer offered a personal touch. So Tsunis created Gold Coast Bank.

“We used the same model [as we did for Long Island Commercial Bank], almost like a private bank, where we could meet with our neighbors and help them,” Tsunis said. “The bank has a tremendous opportunity to help the development of the growth and the success of the neighbors in our community.”

He said Gold Coast Bank reinvests clients’ deposits right into the community where they are located.

“You deposit money here and we don’t send it to Europe, China or South America like a multinational bank,” he said.

Tsunis remembers when he and his bank helped a Stony Brook restaurant that had trouble funding an expansion.

“That’s not a big enough fish for them,” he said, explaining why the big banks wouldn’t lend money to the restaurant. “For small banks like ours that are in our community, every fish is a big fish.”

Tsunis said he was familiar with the owners, who had been in business for a long time.

“We took that as an opportunity to support the community and a local merchant,” he said, adding that he responded right away.

Tsunis said his father worked in a restaurant in Manhattan. When the son was 12 or 13 years old, he used to go to work with his father every Saturday. His job was to bring coffee and egg sandwiches to the customers, which helped him develop a good work ethic.

Growing up, Tsunis always wanted to be a lawyer and get into the real estate business. He graduated from New York University with honors in banking and finance in 1973, and earned his doctor of law degree from Syracuse University College of Law two years later. Before long he started his own law firm with a personnel comprising himself and a secretary.

“By being a lawyer, I thought I would understand the language of the real estate world and legal world,” he said. “I have tremendous passion for whatever I did. I didn’t want to do anything just for the sake of doing it. I enjoy law, I enjoy practicing land use and I enjoy developing real estate.”

A blueprint for a happy life is what Tsunis would most like to pass on to the next generation.

“Whatever it is that you want to do,” he said, “make sure that you have a smile on your face and the passion for what you want to do because you are going to spend an awful amount of time at work.”

Tsunis is establishing a scholarship at the College of Business at Stony Brook University to help young people who want to enter the business world. He is personally donating $25,000, and the bank will add to that.

Andrew Polan, president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said that Tsunis, who is a very active board member in the chamber, likes to get the community involved, recalling that two years ago Tsunis spent $1,000 on tickets to a barbecue at West Meadow Beach, and gave them out free to guests at the Holiday Inn Express.

“Currently, he wants to get all parts of our community, including the faculty, staff and maybe students of our great Stony Brook and Three Village community together to do a huge New Year’s celebration — maybe centered at the new sports arena on campus,” Polan said.

Cris Damianos, vice chairman of the bank, said that Tsunis is a charitable person and a big donor to charitable organizations, adding that he understands doing business is not a one-way street.

To help the community, Damianos said that the bank lends money not only to businesses, but to religious institutions as well.

Tsunis said he believes that his and the bank’s efforts to help the community will pay off.

“I think if we germinate those seeds, those young students, the residents of the New York metropolitan area and international students as well, will help this economy, this county, this state and country to be a better place to live,” he said.

Women’s EXPO returns to Middle Country Public Library for 15th year

Liz Carroll of Wild Lizzy’s with her staff, from left, Sue Nicola; Lynn DiCarlo; Libby Carroll and Camille Sena; not pictured, Samantha Luongo. Photo by Elizabeth Malafi

By Donna Newman

Has the news got you down? Are you worried about the state of our world? The Middle Country Library Foundation offers a “stop the world-I want to get off” event guaranteed to lift your spirits and recharge your batteries. “On Thursday, October 1, from 11 to 6, our Centereach building will once again be transformed into the bustling marketplace that is the Women’s EXPO. It’s one of my favorite days at the library,” said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of adult services and the Miller Business Resource Center at the Middle Country Public Library.

“We’re thrilled to be hosting our 15th annual Women’s EXPO,” added Library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. “Each year, new and former vendors come together to celebrate and showcase their unique talents and embody the spirit of entrepreneurship and community. We’re very thankful to our many sponsors and volunteers who help us make this day possible.”

Intermingled with the shopping is a matchless opportunity for a diverse group of women to network, support and inspire each other. “I love doing the EXPO!” said Jena Turner, owner of Breathe in Port Jefferson. “Having worked in advertising 13 years, I know how important it is to get yourself out there. The EXPO is better than a full page ad!”

Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion, is also excited to return this year. “The EXPO gave me an opportunity to showcase my products surrounded by amazing women entrepreneurs sharing their stories of struggle and triumph,” she said. “I sold out, got positive feedback and leads.” When interviewed, the common theme expressed by EXPO vendors is passion — and the discovery of the capacity to be successful doing something they love.

Since its inception in the year 2000, the Women’s EXPO has earned a loyal following. Attendance surpassed 2,400 last year for the 83 vendors. The event showcases female Long Island entrepreneurs: artisans, importers, designers and distributors of products such as jewelry, clothing, fine art, pottery, children’s items, culturally diverse crafts, fiber art, specialty food items, gift baskets, household goods, paper products and much more. Fitting its “harvest-themed” October time slot, the EXPO provides a veritable cornucopia of unique creations and gifts.

Admission to the EXPO is free. Lunch is available for purchase from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the EXPO Café, catered by Fifth Season Restaurant of Port Jefferson. Baked goods from Sweet Street will be sold from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The library is located at 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach. For a complete list of vendors, visit www.womensEXPOli.org/shop. For more information, call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.

Here are some of the women you’ll meet at this year’s EXPO:

Jena Turner realized a dream when she opened her shop on East Main Street in Port Jefferson Village in 2006. The previous year had brought a pair of tragedies. Her father, “an accomplished man [who] built everything from scratch – houses, boats, cars, and his last project – his airplane,” died during the plane’s inaugural flight. Seven months later, she lost her brother. An incident at work following the second loss propelled her into action to sign a lease. She had prepared herself for the business by becoming a Certified Yoga Teacher and studying Reiki (hands-on healing).

Jena Turner at her shop, Breathe, in Port Jefferson. Photo by Amber Sroka
Jena Turner at her shop, Breathe, in Port Jefferson. Photo by Amber Sroka

In tribute to her late father, Turner named the store “Breathe,” which summed up his philosophy of life. Given its stated mission “to help others understand their gifts and full potential,” Breathe is more than just a store, and Turner wears many hats: “I am the owner,” she said, “and with that, I am the buyer, the manager, the bookkeeper, the healer, the teacher, the reader, the unpacker, the shipper, the banker, and the cleaning lady!”

She stocks an assortment of jewelry, clothing, candles, home accessories, and spiritual items, and also offers meditation, yoga, reiki, psychic readings and other workshops. Visit www.breatheinspiringgifts.com for more information.

Liz Carroll spent her life serving others. She raised three children on her own while working for the Town of Oyster Bay in a succession of increasingly responsible jobs. “I’m holding on to my job for now,” she said, “as I’ve worked hard to be where I am, and still have children who depend on me.”

But when her children were in college, she began thinking. “I wanted to do something for myself that would be productive, something where I could earn extra money and, of course, something that makes people happy!”

Carroll turned her signature cookie, one she had always made for family and friends, into a gourmet cookie line and created “Wild Lizzy’s.” At first, the cookies sold via word-of-mouth, at street fairs and other events, and at a few specialty stores. Soon they began winning prestigious awards.

“I always offer samples,” said Carroll, “and the reaction is always ‘Oh, my God!’ So now I have an OMG bell. When you say it, you ring it!”

Last September, the bell attracted a customer with a link to QVC and plans are now underway to take Wild Lizzy’s to the TV shopping network. She ships nationwide, due to customer demand.

Visit her website at www.wildlizzys.com.

Jackie Maloney discovered her passion early and parlayed it into a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. “One of the main reasons I chose MICA was their dedication to making sure artists could actually make careers with their degrees. In my degree program, we all took a class dedicated strictly to business, taught by a successful/working art rep.” She likes that she can live and work at the beach, yet have clients all over the world, that she can work for different ‘bosses’ while being her own boss.

Jackie Maloney with some of her artwork. Photo by Amber Sroka
Jackie Maloney with some of her artwork. Photo by Amber Sroka

In truth, the career she describes is her dream job. “Every day is different,” she said. “An average day in the studio, I could spend the morning painting the instructions for baking an apple pie, the afternoon Googling locations to complete a custom map for a wedding gift, and then finish the day unloading/loading my kiln. I get to travel all over and meet tons of people. Then I get to retreat into the peace of my quiet studio to create.” In addition to contract work for independent projects, she exhibits her art at outdoor arts and crafts fairs and has a shop in the online marketplace Etsy. Visit her website: www.jackiemaloney.com.

Tiana Le began a poem with the words, “We left during the fall of Saigon in 1975, blessed that we were alive.” Her family emigrated to the United States and eventually settled in Flushing. When it came time for Le to train for a career, her parents steered her toward information technology – a good job in great demand. She began a career in IT.

Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion. Photo by Sal DiVincenzo
Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion. Photo by Sal DiVincenzo

Later, her mother was diagnosed with cancer soon after retirement. “It was the hardest time of my life,” Le said, “caring for my Mom and watching her wither away. She was my top priority, and when she expired I needed time to recoup and recharge. I came out stronger, with a greater appreciation of life – and the emotional and physical freedom to pursue my passion.”

That passion is food as related to her Vietnamese heritage. In May 2014, she launched “Le Fusion,” thinking “Why not combine the best of both worlds? East and West!” Her menu items are healthy, handmade, all natural, and baked. “Vietnamese foods are light and refreshing, with exotic herbs,” she said, adding, “The French-influenced dishes are my all-time favorites.”

Her cuisine is created at the Stony Brook University Incubator in Calverton and marketed through the Port Jefferson Farmer’s Market, scheduled tastings at Whole Foods, and the Le Fusion website: www.lefusion.co.

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Keith Barrett believes he can improve Huntington Town by running it more like a business.

“I bring commonsense solutions to everyday problems,” Barrett said in a phone interview. “It’s what I’ve done as deputy director of general services for Huntington Town.”

Keith Barrett is the town’s deputy director of general services. Photo from Barrett
Keith Barrett is the town’s deputy director of general services. Photo from Barrett

Barrett is a Democrat running for one of two seats up for grabs on the town board this November. He’s running alongside Councilwoman Susan Berland (D), and both are backed by the Huntington Town Democratic Committee.

Barrett is a Huntington native. He went to Walt Whitman High School, and started his own business, Barrett Automotive, in 1997 in Huntington Station. He’s been involved in multiple organizations in Suffolk County, including the Huntington Station Business Improvement District, or BID, and Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Grant Program.

“I’ve seen the inner workings of town government, and it’s prepared me for the role of town councilman,” Barrett said.

Appointed deputy director of general services about a year ago, Barrett has learned how to maximize the work of the department to make it work better for the residents of Huntington Town.

Previously, state inspections for Huntington Town-owned cars were not done inhouse, which he said was costing much more than having Barrett’s department perform them.

“I had the business sense to see that if the inspections were done inhouse, it would save the taxpayers a significant amount of money. It saves approximately $450,000 annually.”    

Barrett also made sure all his employees were certified and earned their inspector licenses, so that he was not the only employee who could perform state inspections.

As president of the Huntington Station BID since its inception in 2004, Barrett has been able to continue to bring improvements to Huntington Station. Improvements include decorating the community with flower baskets, putting more garbage cans out on the streets and installing 43 security cameras that the Suffolk County Police Department has access to.

Brad Rosen, a member of the Huntington Station BID, said the reason he and Barrett get along so well is because they both come through on everything they commit to.

“All town government is a business, and one thing I know of Keith is that he’s a businessman,” Rosen said in a phone interview. “America is a business now and it needs to be run like one.”

He also praised Barrett’s ethics as being nothing but “perfect.”

The annual Huntington Station Awareness Parade, which Barrett co-chairs, is another project the BID is involved with.

“I try to make business propositions better in Huntington Station,” Barrett said. “I’ve always wanted to make Huntington Station a destination, not a drive-thru. My assumption of Huntington Station was that you drove through there to get to the village, or you drove through it to get on the expressway. We want people to stop there, shop there, live there, work there and play there.”

Barrett’s involvement spans further than just Huntington Station. As a member of the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Grant Program, Barrett said he has worked to get grants for Northport and East Northport to help better those areas as well.

Currently in the works, and a project that Barrett helped pushed through, is a grant for Northport to develop kiosks and an information center. This would help spread information about events going on in Northport to the many visitors the village gets during its busy summer season.

Grants to improve the intersection marking entrance to Northport Village and to revamp crosswalks in East Northport are other projects Barrett has fought for while a member of the grant program.

In terms of issues facing Huntington Town, Barrett said public safety is among the biggest. “It needs to be addressed.”

A committee for Huntington Station public safety is one idea Barrett is interested in pursuing if elected. He wants to hear insight from community members.

“I believe police presence makes a big difference,” he said. “I’d love to see more patrols,” Barrett said, when asked whether he agrees with recent outcries from residents for an increased police force after several incidents of violence this summer.

When asked his position on over-development, Barrett said, “as long as it’s regulated, I don’t see it as a terrible problem. To an extent, we need to do it. As long as it doesn’t end up looking like Queens.”

Overall, Barrett said he’s got a unique perspective to bring to the board.

“We have lawyers on the board. I am a businessperson. I’m going to take a business aspect. I want to best utilize our labor for the best use for the community,”

Recently, Barrett used his labor force to better the community by redoing a basketball court in Otsego Park in Dix Hills. He asked Highway Superintendent Peter Gunther to repave the court, which was full of cracks, instead of hiring an outside contractor, which would cost much more.

Barrett then had his team repair the backboards and, soon enough, a new and improved basketball court was ready for the kids. He said he hopes to continue this idea and repair two more basketball courts at Veterans Park in East Northport.

“I want to see more things like this being done in all departments,” Barrett said.

Restaurant is first in village to attempt rooftop dining

Skipper's wants to create outdoor rooftop dining. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Skipper’s Pub of Northport Village has set its sights on the sky with plans to create rooftop dining at its Main Street eatery — but the proposal saw a bit of grounding by village zoning officials and residents on Wednesday.

Representatives of the restaurant came before the Northport Village Zoning Board of Appeals at a public hearing with hopes of gaining area and parking variances to create a 109-seat seasonal rooftop dining area atop Skipper’s. The plan raised eyebrows and exclamations from ZBA chairman Andrew Cangemi, who questioned whether the ZBA even had jurisdiction over the proposal and brought to light parking issues with the plan.

This is the first time a restaurant has attempted to gain approvals for rooftop dining in Northport Village.

“What we’re doing is a little different than a couple of tables and chairs, Mr. Chairman,” Chris Modelewski, the attorney for the applicant said.

Skipper’s needs a variance from the code for about 37 parking spots, as they want to build a 2,750 square foot rooftop deck. The deck would add 33 additional seats to its eatery and plans to remove a number of sidewalk dining seats and tables.

A view of what a proposed outdoor rooftop dining space would look like at Skipper's Pub in Northport. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A view of what a proposed outdoor rooftop dining space would look like at Skipper’s Pub in Northport. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The plan also includes adding a bar and bar stools, a stairway and fencing to the roof.

Officials and residents at the hearing questioned where those spots would come from, in a village that is already strapped for parking spots during the busy summer months.

Another issue Cangemi raised was whether the ZBA should even be reviewing the application. Modelewksi said the rooftop dining complies with the village’s outdoor dining code, which allows restaurants to create sidewalk dining for a $50 annual permit fee. Those applications don’t require ZBA variances, Cangemi said, according to the code.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

Modelewski said he needed variances for parking and other issues, and that he wanted to secure them in case the law changed in the future. Cangemi replied that the applicant basically wanted the ZBA to assume a legislative role and “play village board.”

“Chris, I hear what you’re saying, but it seems like you’re asking this board for cover.”

The representatives delved into the details of the application. When pressed on parking figures — Cangemi asked where the applicant would create 37 additional spots — Modelewski said he reasoned many of the individuals who come out to eat at night are out-of-town visitors who arrive by boats and moor up to the neighboring marinas and village dock, therefore not requiring parking. Representatives also mentioned there are available spots open to the public at Woodbine Marina.

About 10 residents weighed in on the proposal at Wednesday night’s hearing. Those who critiqued the plan did so on the parking issues. One person who spoke in favor of the plan noted that the village is home to a number of large-scale events like the farmers’ market and the Great Cow Harbor 10K Race, and people manage to find parking at those events.

Former Northport Village Trustee Tom Kehoe also made an appearance and spoke on the application. The original author of the outdoor dining legislation, Kehoe said it was initially drafted years ago when vacancies and inactivity were a common sight in Northport. Officials then were looking for ways to stimulate activity in the downtown.

He said everyone has had a hand in “the Renaissance of Northport,” turning it into a destination.

“Sometimes you just have to be careful what you wish for.”

Cangemi said the public hearing would be held open until Sept. 16 for any additional comments to be entered into the record.