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Main Street

Gunther's Tap Room in Northport is ready for business. Photo from Facebook.

The iconic Gunther’s Tap Room is reopening for business.

The Main Street watering hole in Northport built by Peter Gunther Sr., the late ex-chief of Northport Fire Department, has been rebuilt by the community it once served. Now, it’s ready to become the “bar of the people” again.

“As long as all goes well, we are looking to open for business Thursday or Friday,” co-owner Brad Vassallo told TBR News Media Aug. 31. “We have 20 to 30 people a day who pop their heads in here to ask, and we are excited.”

Everybody loves Gunther’s, it’s the late-night place to go. “It would have been really upsetting to see it not reopen and become something else.”

— Vince Terranova

It’s been more than a year since an early morning fire gutted the historic bar May 23, 2017, where one from locals to American novelist Jack Kerouac have sat down to have a pint.

“It was very emotional for all of us, as we’ve all felt the pain,” Northport native Bob Hagan said. “Being personal friends with the original owner, it was really difficult to see that happen.”

Hagan and his business partner, Eddie Carr, donated custom hardwood flooring to replace the former linoleum tiling. The 10-inch planks were installed and sealed with the final coat of stain earlier this week.

“It was probably more emotional than financial on our part as we wanted to see it rebuilt as quickly as possible,” he said.

Northport resident Vince Terranova also stepped forward and helped the Northport bar by donating to the reconstruction and renovation of the bathrooms, according to Vassallo.

“Everybody loves Gunther’s, it’s the late-night place to go,” Terranova said. “It would have been really upsetting to see it not reopen and become something else.”

Gunther’s co-owners, Vassallo and Eddie McGrath, had only taken over running the bar for roughly a year before it burned down, which hit home as they appreciated the local history it contained.

It has that same Gunther’s feel that it always had, which is always what we were trying to do.”

— Brad Vassallo

The walls have been repainted in the same original orange-and-brown color scheme with a red door that’s all “part of the history,” according to Vassallo. A few of the old pieces of memorabilia, photos and mirrors dug out after the fire, will be hung back on the wall over time. Vassallo said he has reached out to Gunther’s daughter, Lori Kerman, in an attempt to get replicas of the old newspaper articles that used to decorate the bar.

“It has that same Gunther’s feel that it always had, which is always what we were trying to do,” the co-owner said.

One infamous piece that’s been removed is the structural support pole near the pool table, according the owners. It was no longer needed when the 100-year-old building was reconstructed to modern safety standards.

“It’s a big change,” Vassallo said. “We plan on putting the pole back up near the bar for the nostalgia.”

He said one key piece at the heart of Gunther’s Tap Room that was salvaged is the original bar top. The piece has been painstakingly restored by Northport painter Robert Sturner. He said it required stripping the bar top down to its original wood, restaining it and layering six coats of polyurethane over it to preserve it.

“I polyurethaned right over the burns,” he said. “It adds something to it — it tells the story.”

“So many situations have happened in Northport like this, and over and over again, the community steps forward to pick up the pieces and help out.”

— Brad Vassallo

Even more important than the bar itself, Vassallo said the tap room’s bartenders and staff will be returning to pour a glass for their regulars. Many have already committed to their old shifts.

“It’s the people who make Gunther’s what it is,” he said.

Many had taken up a hodgepodge of shifts at other local establishments in order to offset the financial hardships for the last 16 months. Community fundraisers were launched to raise funds to help employees pay their bills, with more than $8,000 raised via GoFundMe for employees of the business.

“Northport is a close community and people here seem to take care of each other,” Vassallo said. “So many situations have happened in Northport like this, and over and over again, the community steps forward to pick up the pieces and help out.”

Sturner said he’s just glad to be one of the dozens who lent a hand in helping Gunther’s start its next chapter.

“I am grateful to have been a part of it,” he said. “They are my friends, and that’s my bar.”

Attorney Philip Butler, an associate of Weber Law Group, explains a puzzle that might be inside one of Puzzle Break's escape rooms. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

A new interactive game center has the green light to excite and perplex Smithtown Main Street shoppers this coming summer after eight months of extensive negotiations with town officials.

Puzzle Break Long Island will offer escape-the-room style games for individuals eight years of age and older in its new Smithtown location. Participants, working in teams of up to 12 people, are stuck inside a room and must work together to solve a number of unusual puzzles in order to make it out of the room within a one-hour time limit.

We got into the escape room business because we wanted to bring people together in a fun, interactive environment.”
– Ian Kelly

“We got into the escape room business because we wanted to bring people together in a fun, interactive environment,” said Ian Kelly, general manager of Puzzle Break LI, said in an email statement. “We’re excited to bring a fun, family friendly establishment to Smithtown that’s good for everything from birthday
parties to corporate team building events.”

Smithtown Town Board members voted unanimously April 26 to give the project a special exception permit to create the 4,432-square-foot game center located in the shell of what once was Cornet Music on Main Street. The building was zoned for retail use only, and the company was required to demonstrate meeting 17 zoning requirement to allow the game center to open as well as a parking variance.

“This was one of the more enjoyable applications because the applicant and the town were on the same page,” said Bram Weber, an attorney with Melville-based Weber Law Group representing Puzzle Break LI. “I know Smithtown is looking for new ways to have vibrant downtowns, and this is a perfect use

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he is excited to see if this new type of business in the area will help increase traffic to Smithtown’s downtown businesses.

“I think it’s going to be good for the business community.”
– Ed Wehrheim

“I think it’s going to be good for the business community,” Wehrheim said. “I think we have to move toward things like that, that make a destination point for the business district. Generally, once you have them there like this, they’ll use one of the restaurants, ice cream parlor or something like that.”

The company hopes to build four different puzzle rooms, each with its own theme and challenges. In its current Syosset location, the escape rooms themes are modeled after “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” a carnival, exploring inside an ancient Egyptian tomb and one is based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Representatives for Puzzle Break LI said renovations are getting underway, with hopes of opening for business this summer. Their puzzles are harder than your average crossword, according to Kelly, with only a 15 percent managing to successfully escape.

“Our escape rooms are definitely challenging,” he said. “Our escape rooms bring people together without the use of Siri or Google. Yes, that means people actually interact with one another.”

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Downtown Kings Park. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

There’s renewed hope among Smithtown town officials that they might be able to pave a parking lot to bring Kings Park downstreet one step closer to paradise — or at least revitalization.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) asked his town council members to consider moving forward with getting a real estate appraisal of two vacant lots off Pulaski Road in Kings Park for future use as municipal parking at the Feb. 20 work session. The issue will go before the town board Feb. 22, at 7p.m. for approval.

“[The town attorney] believes that things may have changed,” Wehrheim said. “This might be a good opportunity to look at it.”

The two adjacent wooded lots measure approximately 12,800 square feet, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo, and are located south of Park Bake Shop off the intersection of Pulaski Road and Main Street.

This is the second appraisal the town will solicit of the properties owned by Matthew Lupoli, as Smithtown officials previously considered purchasing the land in 2013-14.

A petition started by Park Bake Shop owners, Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, in 2013 received more than 600 signatures from Kings Park residents asking town officials to purchase the lot for municipal parking. Wehrheim said a 2014 appraisal determined its fair market price at $230,000, but Lupoli wasn’t interested in selling at that time.

There is a Smithtown Town municipal parking lot across the street from the Kings Park Fire Department on Main Street, next to the Kings Park branch of the public library. But truth be told, Kings Park could possibly use a little more.

The western portion of Main Street — dubbed “Restaurant Row” — is the one area that could possibly use more municipal parking, according to the results of a 2018 market analysis study of downtown Kings Park presented by Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, to Smithtown Town Board Jan. 25.

“The municipal lots are inconvenient for restaurants,” reads the 62-page report.

The Restaurant Row area, which includes several eateries such as Cafe Red and Relish, averages 4.7 parking spots per 1,000 square-feet of retail space. This is less than the two other areas of Main Street, known as the “civic heart,” near the Kings Park library and Long Island Rail Road station; and “car-centric retail,” which is centered around Tanzi Plaza and the Kings Park Plaza shopping center.

Ortiz’s other suggestions for improving the current parking situation in the downtown area include restriping several existing lots — such as Relish’s — to accommodate more spaces and increase their efficiency.

“When we all ran, we promised to help the downtown,” said Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R). “We need to work on it.”

Downtown study results suggest improving existing parking, better storefront signage and promotion

Larisa Ortiz, planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, presents the study results Jan. 25. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

Kings Park’s downtown is going to need more efficient parking, better walkways and a facelift if it wants to experience a revitalization, according to the latest studies.

Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of downtown planning firm Larisa Ortiz Associates, presented the results of a market analysis study focused on what’s needed to revitalize downtown Kings Park at a Jan. 25 Smithtown town board meeting. While getting funding to sewer downtown Main Street has been a long-term priority, there are several key points business owners and the town could begin working on, according to Ortiz.

“What we found is that you don’t have just one downtown,” Ortiz said. “Kings Park is actually three distinct areas.”

The study broke down King Park’s downtown into the three areas: “restaurant row,” including Park Bake Shop, Cafe Red, Relish and Ciro’s; “the civic heart,” the area near Kings Park library and the Long Island Rail Road station; and “car-centric retail,” which revolves around Tanzi Plaza and Kings Park Plaza shopping centers.

In a survey of residents and business owners, Ortiz said one of the most common complaints was the lack of parking for customers in the downtown areas.

“There’s more than enough parking at the civic node where we have a municipal lot,” she said, with similar findings in the other two areas slated for revitilization. “It feels like it’s tight, but when we look at the parking ratio there’s sufficient parking there.”

Rather, Ortiz said the study suggested the municipal lot is inconveniently located far from restaurants and stores, and that several parking lots could be restriped to fit more vehicles for better efficiency.

“If I had one surprise, I thought there would be a lot more parking required than what was recommended by the market survey,” Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “ We need some, but not as much. In that analysis, there were some parking areas, municipal and commuter parking lots not being 100 percent utilized.”

Ortiz said her firm’s analysis showed Kings Park shoppers have a difficult time crossing Main Street, particularly at the intersection with Church Street near the Kings Park branch of The Smithtown Library.
“If people can’t cross from the library to Main Street, you have lost customers,” the urban planner said.
Ortiz’s other suggestions were to improve sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, and consider relocating the farmer’s market held in the municipal parking lot — 60 percent of whose customers are from out of town — to a new location on the south side of Main Street.

“It was exciting to see that the Kings Park farmers market creates stronger economic spillovers and benefits our local businesses,” said Linda Henninger, president of Kings Park Civic Association and founder of the farmer’s market.

Other suggestions for downtown improvement included encouraging business owners to upgrade the look of their facade, changes to town code to allow for better signage for businesses and creation of a restaurant group for group marketing and greater exposure.

“This market study is another tool which will be useful in our continued effort to revitalize Kings Park’s downtown,” Henninger said.

Next, Wehrheim said Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and civic association will work to combine the market study results with the revitalization plan previously made by LI Vision to come up with a final conceptual plan.

The full presentation made before Smithtown Town Board can be viewed on the Kings Park Civic Associations website at http://www.kingsparkcivic.com.

Smithtown United Civic Association published the above master plan aimed at revitalizing Main Street and the downtown area on its Facebook page Oct. 6. Photo from Smithtown United Civic Association

A small group of Smithtown citizens have come together to draft and present a plan they hope may lead to big changes for Main Street.

The Smithtown United Civic Association unveiled a detailed conceptual plan for downtown revitalization Oct. 6 on its Facebook page. The group is asking residents to review the proposal and provide feedback via social media before they present it to town officials.

Timothy Small, president of Smithtown United, said the organization’s goal is to give local residents a voice in the future of their town. It was formed when Smithtown residents came together earlier this year after two events: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allocated $20 million for sewers in Smithtown and the proposed sale of Smithtown school district administration headquarters on New York Avenue to the town for a sewer treatment plant to support a condominium development. Small said the two events set in motion real opportunity for revitalization of the town.

“If you look at the downtown areas of Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James, they are tired looking,” he said. “There’s a lot of vacant shops and properties. We live in a wonderful town. The schools are wonderful, we love our homes, but it’s our downtown business districts that are deeply suffering.”

Small, a retired engineer who held an executive position at a utility company, said for approximately six months the group assessed the community needs and drew inspiration from surrounding towns including Huntington, Patchogue, Sayville, Bay Shore, Farmingdale and Babylon for changes they’d like to see in Smithtown.

Smithtown United’s plan for the western downtown area focuses on several key points including consolidation of the town offices into the New York Avenue school building and retaining the sports field behind it for public use.

“It’s the last green space that remains in all of downtown,” Small said. “I would consider that an anchor for the western edge of redevelopment. It would be tragic to see that property lost to dense development.”

The civic supports the town’s acquisition of the property in exchange for selling off its other buildings scattered across the business district, but discussions of the deal have been tabled by the Smithtown school officials. The plan also proposes several existing downtown storefronts be made into two-story, mixed-use buildings with retail on the first floor and apartments above. These housing options, according to Small, would be attractive to young adults and senior citizens. Behind the existing New York Avenue school district property, the plan calls for construction of a new sports and community center.

“We need a place for our kids to go in the evening,” Small said. “There needs to be a community space for our residents and young adults.”

The conceptual design also calls for several changes to Smithtown’s existing roadways, including a rotary at the intersection of Main Street and New York Avenue and rerouting Edgewater Avenue to run parallel to Main Street. This would cause Edgewater Avenue to empty onto Maple Avenue, and there would be a new set of village townhouses built on the southwest corner of the new intersection.

To further increase available housing, the proposed plan suggests the construction of three-story, transit-oriented housing near the Long Island Rail Road train station and municipal parking lots.

Initial feedback on the plan from residents on the civic’s Facebook page has been a mix of positive and negative, along with offers to help refine it. Supporters have praised the organization for taking action, while critics expressed traffic concerns.

“Main Street is already undersized for what it is used for,” said John McCormick, 29, of Smithtown. “[The] parking does not look to be sufficient for customers of the first-floor shops and people renting out upstairs apartments.”

McCormick, a young homeowner, feared adding townhouses and apartments would change the character of the local community and the plan’s possible impact on the school district.

Smithtown resident Michael Tarquinio, 20, said the plan was a step in the right direction but needed to be more innovative.

“They need to stop thinking with a Robert Moses mind-set,” Tarquinio said, who is studying environmental science at the University of Maine. “I’m all for it, but you can’t wipe out your heritage and start fresh. You need to know where you came from to know where you are going.”

He said he believes successful downtown revitalization will require the civic to work with town, county and state officials to improve roadways and mass transportation options to reduce traffic.

Small said he agreed the proposed overhaul of both the business and residential space in downtown Smithtown required cooperation at several levels of government. It would only be possible if sewers can be brought to the downtown area.

“Anyone who is going to invest money into redevelopment won’t unless there is adequate sanitary sewer conditions,” Small said. “It’s essential.”

The civic group has tentative plans to present its proposal to Smithtown officials at the Oct. 26 town board meeting at 7 p.m. at town hall.

The spot at 225 Main Street will be where Northport Village will begin construction for a new inn. Photo from John W. Engeman Theater

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Blueprints and floor plans can be drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn, which overcame its first legal hurdle last week.

Northport Village trustees voted 3 to 1 to approve a code modification that paves the way for the construction of hotels and/or inns within the village’s downtown business district. Mayor George Doll and Trustees Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen voted in favor, and the sole dissenting vote was cast by Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin.

The village code approved Aug. 22 sets basic guidelines to regulate any future construction of a hotel and/or inn including maximum height and required parking spaces.

“There’s a tremendous need for lodging in this area” said Kevin O’Neill, managing director of John W. Engeman Theater. “Long Island is one of the most underserved locations in the United States for lodging.”

An artistic rendering of what the proposed hotel and restaurant at 225 Main Street in Northport Village may look like. Photo from Kevin O’Neill

O’Neill, along with his business partner Richard Dolce, the theater’s producing artistic director, first presented a proposal for a 24-room Northport Inn and restaurant to be built at 225 Main Street in May, feet away from the Engeman.

“With the entrepreneurial juices that we both have, we were trying to figure out different ways that we can hedge the risk of a show being successful or not to help keep us afloat,” O’Neill said. “The vision came into play where we could create a restaurant that synergizes with the theater and an inn.”

The main inspiration for the proposal came from The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, according to O’Neill, in addition to several boutique lodgings that Dolce and O’Neill visited in Camden, Maine, last year. The partners said their goal is to bring first-class harborside lodging to the village along with a restaurant to serve meals and drinks to both overnight visitors and theatergoers.

“We have no intention of this becoming a glitzy Hampton-type thing,” O’Neill said. “We think it could be a charming harbor town like you have in Maine, but seven hours closer.”

Since the initial presentation in May, the main public criticism voiced by residents and the sole dissenting trustee, Tobin, has been what the potential impact the addition of the hotel and restaurant would have on the village’s parking and traffic congestion. Public comments were accepted by the village board from May 16 to July 18.

“We’re already stressed for parking on Main Street,” Tobin said. “I support the hotel, I support the restaurant. The question is what size restaurant will work within downtown Northport?”

The proposed plans as set forth call for a ground-level, 200-seat restaurant, according to O’Neill. Tobin said a parking and traffic study should have been conducted prior to the trustees’ vote to modify the village code to allow for the construction of the hotel/inn.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark.”

—Kevin O’Neill

“[A parking and traffic study] would give us guidance on how many seats a restaurant could have and yet have minimal parking and traffic problems,” Tobin said. “We could use a study to determine the balance between the economic needs of the hotel and the logistical needs of the village and its residents.”

O’Neill stressed that he and Dolce are “very conscious” of parking concerns in Northport, citing that the village currently has approximately 600 public parking spaces, largely at the west end of the business district. He said it is their plan to convert the existing two parking lots, of 12 spaces each, currently on the property into a total of 54 parking spots. This is more than the number required under the village code passed on Aug. 22, according to O’Neill.

“We have done tireless research and we are confident that the parking we are providing, along with our valet that we’ve provided for the last 10 years, that we will have a seamless process to handle this,” he said.

The John W. Engeman Theater currently offers a valet parking service for  its attendees, managing to service and park vehicles for 390 patrons up to twice a day for weekend matinees and evening performances.

A secondary issue raised by Tobin and residents was a concern that the 200-seat restaurant could be used for catering large events, causing a large influx of vehicular traffic at a time. However, O’Neill said he and Dolce have no interest in providing catering service for weddings, bat mitzvahs or other special occasions.

O’Neill said he hopes to have blueprints and a site plan drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn by Nov. 1 to present to the village, with the hopes of beginning construction in early spring 2018.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark,” O’Neill said.

Both O’Neill and Dolce said they welcome any village residents with questions or concerns about their proposal to contact them directly for further discussion.

While going through items in his mother’s house Three Village historian Beverly Tyler discovers more about his family’s history, which included ownership of Tyler General Store circa 1890. Photo from Beverly Tyler

Beverly Tyler

Growing up in Setauket, first in my grandmother’s house and post office and then in the family home that dates to about 1740, I was aware that my ancestors had lived there for four generations. However, I was not conscious of the details of those families, nor did I realize that the material collection of those four generations was still in the house, packed, in most cases, carefully away in trunks, chests, barrels, boxes, tins and other assorted containers.

My mom died in August of last year, and my family members and I began the process of preparing for an estate sale of the contents of the house. We didn’t have to concern ourselves with the house itself as Mom made a wonderful deal with the Three Village Community Trust, which will eventually take ownership of the house and three acres.

While going through items in his mother’s house, above circa 1900, Three Village historian Beverly Tyler discovers more about his family’s history. Photo from Beverly Tyler

As we began opening trunks, boxes and closets, we discovered clothing, china, glassware, photographs and many other objects dating from the 19th century and even a few items dating to the 18th century. One of the discoveries was music composed and written by my great-grandfather, George Washington Hale Griffin, who worked at various times with both Christy’s and Hooley’s Minstrels in New York City and Chicago. I even discovered at least one piece of church music he wrote.

While I was growing up, I learned, through her letters home, about my great aunt, Mary Swift Jones, who voyaged to China and Japan from 1858 to 1861, in a 150-foot bark built in East Setauket Harbor by her Uncle William Bacon, whose father left England in 1796 to come to Long Island to work in the Blue Point Iron Works. His journal entries were among family papers I researched, even traveling to his hometown in Derbyshire, England, to discover where he came from and why he left. Many of these archival papers and artifacts, dating to the last three centuries, have been given to various Long Island museums and historical societies, while others are to be included in the estate sale.

What I didn’t realize was that the first two generations to live in the house were direct ancestors of my wife Barbara and that the original part of the house had just three bedrooms, which was home to families that each had five children.

When the house and farm were sold to my ancestors in the first decade of the 19th century, it became home to two generations of nine children, still in a home with three bedrooms. It was not until 1879 that an addition was added with two additional bedrooms upstairs, well after my grandfather and six of his eight siblings had married and moved on.

When the house and farm were sold to my ancestors in the first decade of the 19th century, it became home to two generations of nine children, still in a home with three bedrooms.”

I knew from an early age that my great-grandfather, Charles B. Tyler, and my two unmarried great aunts, Annie and Corinne, had remained in the house their entire lives. My family ran a general store for about 100 years in front of our house on the corner of Main Street and Old Field Road. After Charles died in 1899, Annie ran the post office, except for two terms of the President Cleveland administration when the postmaster position was given to party loyalists, and Corinne ran the general store. In the 1930s they closed the store and donated the building to the local American Legion post. The legion moved the building up Main Street where it sits today near the Setauket Methodist Church.

I treasure the knowledge that my ancestors left so many records of their existence. However, many of the individual photographs and photo albums, especially those dating to the 19th century, are of people I do not recognize and are, for the most part, unidentified. Only their clothing, hair styles and poses give hints to their time period and possibly their identity. Everyone I meet who has come face to face with family material from the past says the same thing, “I wish I had asked more questions when I had the opportunity.”

There are many avenues to explore to discover more about the people we love and the ancestors we know so little about. Take the time to learn more about your heritage and the history of the community where you live and label your photographs. The Three Village Historical Society and the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library are both good places to start, with helpful people who have the time, the talent and the desire to help you discover the links to your family and community history.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society located at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Seventh Squad detectives are investigating a crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist and his passenger in Rocky Point May 12.

Thomas Lowth and his passenger, Sherry Hansen, were traveling eastbound on Main Street when he collided his 2000 American Eagle motorcycle with a 2002 Hyundai being driven by Andrew Netusil at approximately 5:20 p.m. Netusil was pulling out of a parking lot on Main Street.

Lowth, 49, of Sayville, and Hansen, 45, of Rocky Point, were both transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in serious condition. Netusil, 20, of Miller Place, stayed at the scene and was not injured.

The vehicles were impounded for a safety check. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact the Seventh Squad at 631-852-8752.

Residents braved chilly temperatures Sunday, March 12, to cheer on the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bagpipers, Girl Scouts, and more marched down Main Street in Huntington to celebrate the Irish.

The front entrance of Carl’s Candies. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

If you’re looking to treat your sweet tooth, Northport has just the spot for you.

Carl’s Candies, at 50 Main St., has replaced the well-known Harbor Trading, when it closed its doors earlier this year.

Sisters and co-owners of Carl’s Candies, Angela Nisi-MacNeill and Gina Nisi, are no strangers to Main Street. The Northport natives jumped at the opportunity to open a candy shop together and said they have had nothing short of a blast since opening in October.

Gina Nisi and Angela Nisi-MacNeill are the co-owners of Carl’s Candies. The new candy shop replacing Harbor Trading on Main Street in Northport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Gina Nisi and Angela Nisi-MacNeill are the co-owners of Carl’s Candies. The new candy shop replacing Harbor Trading on Main Street in Northport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“When we heard the former owner was retiring and the building was up for sale, my sister took that as an opportunity to take over and keep it as a candy store,” Nisi said. “Everyone loved Harbor Trading so much, and I think the village always should have a candy store.”

Her sister said she’s had so much fun since opening at the end of October.

“I honestly don’t think I will ever get sick of it,” Nisi-MacNeill said. “I won’t get sick of coming in here every day — no matter how many years I work here. I just think that it’s fun and it’s a good creative outlet. I enjoy making candy and being creative with the window displays.”

Nisi-MacNeill was also able to get creative when a young girl came into the store suggesting they have a book exchange set up at the location.

“Her father came in with a little cardboard stand and asked if we could put it in the store, and I thought ‘I want to make it more special for her’ so we did this,” she said as she pointed to a large wooden shelf holding dozens of books and decorated with pages of other books all around it.

“It’s a really nice idea, and a lot of people are enjoying it,” she said.

Although this is the first joint venture for the sisters into co-owning a business, Nisi-MacNeill certainly has some valuable past experience as an employee of Harbor Trading back when she was a Northport High School student.

“I remember the smell of the candy store,” she said, thinking back of her time working there. “When we took over the candy store it was empty, so once we started to bring in the candy that’s when the reality hit and the memories really started coming back. Just that smell of all the candy together, it brings back really nice memories.”

“I won’t get sick of coming in here every day — no matter how many years I work here. I just think that it’s fun and it’s a good creative outlet.”

—Angela Nisi-MacNeill

Nisi-MacNeil said she is excited to get back to work in her community.

“[Northport] still maintains that old hometown feel,” she said. “That’s really hard to find.” Nisi said the shop already has a lot of regulars coming in.

The name Carl’s Candies is a tribute to the sisters’ late grandfather, Carl Foglia, another Northport native who worked at a butcher shop that used to be where Skipper’s Pub is now, as a limo driver for Northport residents, a real estate agent and more. He died in 2014.

Nisi said he would hang out in the village every day, stopping at many places like the Ritz Café.

“He was sort of like a fixture in town,” she said. “Obviously we miss him dearly, and when we saw the opportunity we agreed we had to name the shop after him.”

The co-owners said many shoppers have come in with stories and memories about Foglia. “We hear really funny stories that we haven’t heard before, which is fun,” Nisi-MacNeill said.

The sisters said there is plenty to come for the freshman candy shop. They plan to start making their own chocolate to sell in January, offer candy catering for events, set up monthly circle readings with local children’s authors, host make your own chocolate nights, sell homemade hot chocolate and more. They’ve already started creating some new ice cream flavors, the first name Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, after the popular breakfast eatery next door, which is a vanilla bean ice cream  with waffles and maple syrup ribbons in it.

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