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Chamber of Commerce

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.”

North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce is was in charge of the historic train car on the corner of Route 347 and Route 112. The Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce will take over responsibility of it. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Desirée Keegan

Plans for the future of businesses formerly joined under the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce are coming into focus in the wake of the organization’s dissolution.

The North Brookhaven chamber is disbanding, leaving behind smaller chambers for area communities, an idea that already existed before the formation of the now dissolved chamber. Wading River, Shoreham, Rocky Point, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville originally had businesses forming smaller chambers before the lack of membership forced the groups to consolidate.

Many point to Port Jefferson Station business owner Jennifer Dzvonar as the reason the nine year North Brookhaven chamber has remained afloat. Dzvonar will head up the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce.

“We were losing membership because we were too spread out and some of our members were concerned,” said Carol Genua of Coach Realtors in Mount Sinai. “What Jen did is phenomenal and for her to do it that long I can’t even comprehend how much time she had to put in, and her husband and kids were even helping out.”

Barbara Ransome, president of Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition, which represents almost 20 town chambers who is also director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce in the village, said she thinks the group made the right decision to reorganize its efforts.

“We all sat around the table saying, ‘OK, what’s the next move?’” she said. “There was a strong consensus that there needed to be some level of consolidation. I’m very happy that Jen is not dropping out. She’s trying her very best, she’s the glue that’s keeping it together right now.”

Ransome said smaller membership will mean less money, so the chambers will have to be frugal in their operating budgets.

“People will volunteer when it is beneficial to them and their business, which, often times, will be within their direct surrounding area town,” Dzvonar said in an email. “Many are just too busy trying to keep their local business alive. Chain stores, big box stores, online shopping and outsourcing are what is killing local businesses. However, the small local businesses are the ones supporting the communities and donating to the fundraisers in the schools and other local organizations, with minimal loyalty from the consumers.”

Some are concerned the same issues may arise with the new arrangement as the ones that plagued the larger chamber.

“What happens is a lot of merchants join, but don’t take part in the work that needs to be done — people don’t realize it,” said Millie Thomas, of Landmark Realty in Wading River, who used to belong to the Rocky Point chamber when she owned a business there before joining the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce prior to it combining with the North Brookhaven chamber. “What happens is a lot of people want to join the chamber, they pay their dues and they get their name out on the brochures, but when it comes time to do all the work it seems the same specific people do it every year and it gets overwhelming, because we’re all running businesses and trying to do all of these things too.”

Thomas used the example of Wading River’s Duck Pond Day to make her point.

The realtor said putting together the event, which started as a wetlands coastline cleanup effort at the pond and has grown into a picnic following the cleanup with vendors, a parade and a 5K walk/run, takes a lot of time. She has to go to the town and fill out paperwork and pay fees for permits when needed, contact two different police departments to close off the roads, gather vendors, organize everyone involved in the parade and get sponsors whose names go on T-shirts.

“Someone needs to get involved to make all of these things happen — they don’t happen by themselves,” Thomas said.

Genua, who will be working with Donna Boeckel of Awsomotive Car Care to start up the Mount Sinai chamber, which may include Miller Place businesses, agreed that part of the problem was trying to support everything from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River. She’s hoping the step back in time will help regrow a better base of home businesses in hopes of recharging that community connection.

Genua is currently working on creating a list of all of the businesses in the area to make contact with, and already has reached out to local fish markets, restaurants, cleaners and the new Heritage Pharmacy drug store to generate more interest and enrollment. She said she is hoping to bring in local parent teacher organizations and even Heritage Park to create a chamber more entrenched in the community.

“We want to try a new way to get businesses involved,” she said. “We all still have to support each other. My husband had his own business for a while and it’s hard to compete with the big box companies. We want to keep our money local instead of it going out of state. We’re also neighbors. The people who live here, work here, or a lot of them.”

Marie Stewart of Brooklyn Bagels will be pushing forward with her already in existence Rocky Point local business owners group and is welcoming chamber members from Rocky Point and Sound Beach. Dzvonar will lead the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville chamber with help from Sheila Wieber of Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Diane Jensen of Teachers Federal Credit Union. Thomas will be reforming the Shoreham-Wading River chamber once again. All of which will take place in the new year.

“If you have the heart of a volunteer, it’s well worth it,” Thomas said. “Helping to adopt a family and provide relief to a single mom with four kids, or to see children and their families getting excited when Santa is coming down the street on the fire truck, it’s very rewarding. It is a lot of work, but sometimes people get caught up with their daily routine and don’t want to volunteer, and that’s the problem.”

Alex Petroski contributed reporting

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Shoppers can start their crawl with a free coffee at the Starbucks on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson is trying out a new business initiative on Saturday, April 2, in which shoppers can get free drinks.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the event, called “Port Jefferson On Sale,” from noon to 5 p.m. that day. Participants can start their “shopping crawl” with a free coffee at Starbucks on Main Street and then head to any three businesses in the village, including retail and service businesses.

According to a chamber flyer, shoppers who make purchases at three different locations can bring their receipts to Schafer’s restaurant on West Broadway or to Tommy’s Place on Main Street to get a free drink. As part of the event, some village businesses will also offer their own shopping incentives, such as discounts and freebies.

Barbara Ransome, the chamber’s director of operations, said other places in Suffolk County have seen positive results from shopping crawls.

“We are trying to encourage more foot traffic for the village and get a level of economic stimulus,” she said.

If this pilot program goes well, the chamber could hold another one to kick off the holiday shopping season in December, according to Ransome.

For more information, call the chamber of commerce office at 631-473-1414.

A view of the downtown Kings Park area. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Kings Park’s Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association have joined forces to seek out improvements to downtown Kings Park.

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce has been working for years to try and revitalize the downtown. It has now partnered up with the civic association and together they have hired Vision Long Island to do a community vision prospectus with hopes of creating a bucket list of items that could transform the community.

“For a long time it has been a sore subject that our downtown is struggling as it is,” said Anthony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. “We’re hoping to create a vision of what they’d like to see. Hopefully everyone feels that they’re vested in the process. Then we will take that plan to the town board.”

According to Tanzi, this includes a series of public meetings where they will meet with community members to try and get the broadest representation of what the community wants. Tanzi said he hopes to see residents flooding those meetings and sharing their desires for downtown Kings Park. He also said he wants to engage as many groups as possible, including school districts, fire districts and more, to get a diverse amount of opinions.

“I want to hear all the wants and dreams,” Tanzi said. “Whether it’s for more restaurants, housing, apartments or brick sidewalks.”

The next meeting was set for Oct. 24 at William T. Rogers Middle School on Old Duck Road at 10 a.m.

Tanzi said that the chamber and civic are each paying $5,000 to Vision Long Island, and Vision is underwriting the final $5,000 for its overall $15,000 fee. Tanzi said he hopes Vision Long Island will identify Kings Park’s marketability and assets, highlight the resources and then couple that with residents’ desires for a new downtown.

“Then, hopefully, the Town of Smithtown will have to make a commitment to implement these changes and identify sources of funding.” Tanzi said.

Vision Long Island will be meeting with the town later in October, according to Tanzi, and said it hopes to have a full plan within the next six months.

Wastewater management and high taxes are two specific problems Tanzi said downtown Kings Park faces currently.

“We don’t have the ability to move forward because of the lack of sewers,” Tanzi said. “This makes it difficult for someone to come and want to invest in downtown.”

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he agreed and has written to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressing how desperately Kings Park needs sewers.

“I am writing you today to implore you to do all that is in your power to obtain funding to expand sewer access in the hamlet of Kings Park,” Trotta said in the letter. “Downtown Kings Park, with its railroad station just off Main Street and a beautiful state park in the heart of the town is ripe for economic revitalization.”

Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said that this issue has been relevant in the civic association for years.

“Every year we give out membership forms, and on the forms we ask each member to list their top three concerns,” Lehmann said. “For the past four or five years downtown has been the number one concern.”

Lehmann also said the conditions of buildings in town are a concern as well as parking.

“We don’t have the type of businesses to drive customers out to shop here also,” Lehmann said.

He did say that some restaurants on Main Street are actually doing very well, including Ciros, Cafe Red and Relish. “But we’d like to invite more,” Lehmann said. “And sewers would really help with that.”

Lehmann also said downtown should have a focus on housing opportunities. “We want affordable housing opportunities,” Lehmann said. “It would be great for our kids who are just coming out of college.”

More than anything else, Tanzi said that resident participation is the most crucial factor.

“If we all fight for it and spend time and everyone feels that they’ve been heard, I think they’ll be more inclined to march to town hall and say what they want,” Tanzi said.

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One of the tables at last year’s event beautifully decorated for the fall. Photo from PJCC

The annual A Taste of Port Jefferson is back and is better than ever. Now in its 8th year, the one-day event will feature food samplings and wine and beer tastings from more than 35 local shops and restaurants.

There are only two requirements — come with an empty stomach and be prepared to feel full from the delicious foods!

Presented by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, the event, for ages 21 and over, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101A E. Broadway overlooking beautiful Port Jefferson Harbor.

As in previous years, guests are invited to be judges and vote on Best Food and Drink. “Keeping the event fresh, we also have a new contest this year — voting for favorite dessert. We also have many new vendors, which is very exciting,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber.

Participating businesses will include C’est Cheese, The Village Way, Tommy’s Place, The Fifth Season, The Arden, Ruvo, The Amazing Olive, The Pie Pizzeria Napoletana, Penntara Lao-Thai Catering, Smoke Shack Blues BBQ, Uncle Giuseppe’s, Z-Pita, Messina Market & Catering, Cornecopia Cafe, Pasta Pasta, Costco, Custom Cafe & Deli, Danfords Wave Seafood Kitchen, La Parilla, Port Jeff Lobster House, Schafer’s and  Smoke Shack Blues BBQ.

Dessert samplings from A Cake in Time, Chocology Unlimited, La Bonne Boulangerie and Starbucks will also be available. Wine and beer tastings will be offered by Mora’s Fine Wines, the Port Jeff Brewing Co., Vine 2 Vine, Brewology295 and the L.I. Pour House.

Sponsors this year include Long Island Creative Contracting, UnitySEO Solutions, Yelp, Times Beacon Record Newspapers, Arras Agency, Jolie Powell Realty, AXA Advisors, St. Charles Hospital, Live It Up!, Smoke Shack Blues and Port Jefferson Live.

Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. For further information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.ATasteofPortJefferson.com.

Andrew Polan serves on Three Village Chamber of Commerce as well as the North Shore Jewish Center, where he was recently sworn in as the newest president. Photo from David Woods

Andrew Polan has had a busy year.

The North Shore native was recently re-elected to serve another term as president of Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Over the summer, he was appointed the next president of the North Shore Jewish Center over the summer, and was sworn in in late September. Polan has been a tireless servant to the North Shore for more than the past decade and those close to him said they were happy to have him at the helm.

“Andy speaks softly, acts quietly, and gets things done,” said David Woods, executive director for Three Village Chamber of Commerce.

Polan has held many positions at the North Shore Jewish Center, including a trustee on the board for 12 years, building chair, treasurer and executive vice president. He has been a congregant there for 15 years.

Projects he has worked on include a brick engraving fundraiser, where members of the congregation could buy a brick in memory of a loved one.

Charlie Lefkowitz, chamber vice president, who, aside from working with Polan in the chamber also worked with him in the Jewish Center, helped with a recent brick dedication ceremony. He said Polan did a really nice job creating a beautiful front entrance, and that Polan is “really a unique individual.”

“This was meant to deepen community ties, and keep us all together,” Polan said of the project.

Lefkowitz also spoke of the work Polan has done to improve the annual beach barbecue held at West Meadow Beach. Lefkowitz said it started with approximately 150 attendees and has grown into more than 600 guests.

“People love to come and enjoy the camaraderie. It takes a great deal of planning; it’s really the chamber’s signature event,” said Lefkowitz.

And Polan is really all about the camaraderie, he said. He considers himself a community-based individual, and believes in the importance of people stepping up to the plate to further the quality of the community.

“I really just don’t know how to keep my hand down,” Polan said about why he volunteers for so many different organizations.

One of Polan’s favorite chamber events, and the newest one, just started this year, is the Shop Local event. Polan believes this event helps enhance the local community.

“It truly ties the students and local businesses of Three Village together, and highlights the importance of keeping money in the community,” Polan said.

Polan has been an optician for more than 30 years, and is part of a family of opticians. He was the vice president of the New York State Society for Opticians less than a decade ago. He has owned Stony Brook Vision World since it opened 17 years ago.

Former board president Robert Brown worked with Polan for many years when Polan was just a trustee on the board. One project Brown thought Polan handled very successfully was the creation of a new welcome sign located on the northeast corner of Nicolls Road and Route 347.

“It makes a pleasant intro to the community, blending both the town, the university, and the university hospital together. Polan has always proven to be a stable, thoughtful individual that knows how to get things done in a quiet way,” said Brown.

Rabbi Aaron Benson, the rabbi of the North Shore Jewish Center, is optimistic about Polan’s future with the center.

“I think he will be able to bring a great sense of community, he has a good head on his shoulders. He will make a good president because he’s the type of businessman who is always looking to try and help people. He will open up new opportunities and help us grow together,” Benson said.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce held its sixth annual Health & Wellness Expo on Saturday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School gym.

The free event, with the theme “Healthy Living — It’s Your Choice,” kicked off with a 2K Fun Run hosted by the Port Jefferson Royal Education Foundation, and included free health screenings by Stony Brook University Hospital, St. Charles Hospital and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital. More than 40 vendors showed up and there were prizes, giveaways, games and raffles for free movie tickets to the Port Jeff Cinemas every 15 minutes. A mini-farmer’s market was held outside that featured Fairway Market and Sweet Melissa’s Dips, Cornucopia Cafe gave cooking demonstrations of healthy recipes and Starbucks and Phountain Water provided free refreshments. In addition, there were performances by members of the Port Jefferson high school choir and the Port Jefferson Jazz Combo.

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