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Selden

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a construction worker in Coram Aug. 14.

Gloria Taylor was holding a sign to slow or stop traffic on the east side of northbound Route 112, which was under construction, when a 2000 Isuzu box truck traveling northbound drifted to the right near Pauls Path at about noon. The truck struck Taylor, 55, of Islip. She was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition.

The driver of the Isuzu, Dominick Sconzo, 19, of Selden, was not injured. A safety check was conducted on the truck, owned by Casa Piazza, located at 509 North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station.

Girls basketball leader for nearly four decades inducted into state hall of fame

Rich Castellano in the huddle with a Northport team. Photo from Rich Castellano

By Desirée Keegan

When Rich Castellano was asked to fill in for a season as the girls basketball coach at Northport Middle School, he had no idea the chain of events that followed would change the rest of his life.

That decision to head the team led to a 38-year stint as the varsity coach, 613 wins, 24 league titles, 10 Suffolk County championships, five Long Island championships and three trips to the state semifinals. He was named 2011 Russell Athletic/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National High School Coach of the Year after first receiving the WBCA District Coaches of the Year award, has been welcomed into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into the New York State Public High School Athletic Hall of Fame July 26.

Northrop girls basketball head coach Rich Castellano talks to his players. Photo from Rich Castellano

“I had no idea what it would lead to,” the retired math teacher said. “I’ve been blessed —  I was there at the right time. The sport started to take off. Everything was in the right place.”

After starting at the middle school, he moved up the chain with a handful of students, taking over the junior varsity team the following year, and began his career at the varsity level in 1979.

The Tigers won a league championship that winter, the first of three in a row, and next thing he knew the team was hanging a county championship banner on the gymnasium wall.

“I felt we were going in the right direction,” Castellano said. “The little kids in the stands who were watching us play wanted to become Lady Tigers. Everyone who watched our success early now had the opportunity to be on the court. There’s nothing like playing for your high school in front of your family and friends — it’s a whole different atmosphere.”

He credited the initial achievements to being able to work with the girls year after year until they reached the varsity level with him. But the success didn’t stop there. Northport took home six straight county championships from 1989 to 1994, a feat that had never been done nor never been duplicated.

Rich Castellano speaks to young Northport basketball players during a previous Tigers camp. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“The girls wanted to be basketball players,” Castellano said. “Now, it’s like a self-perpetuating thing. They know what to expect. We’ve really been consistent all the way through.”

Coaching that middle school team was the first time he’d led a group of females. The Selden resident had previously been a football and baseball coach, and has since also coached boys and girls volleyball and softball.

“It was unique, it was different,” he said of his first time coaching girls. “I think they taught me to be a better coach. You take things too seriously sometimes even though it’s just high school sports, and I think they gave me a better perspective.”

To feed into his program, he runs summer camps to keep the kids involved and get the younger generation’s feet wet.

Katie Kelly, a former player who is now the junior varsity coach at Northport, teaches at the camp.

“It was always my dream to end up playing for him,” she said of Castellano. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had, and I’ve been on many different teams. He’s so dedicated to this program, his team and his girls. Everyone has the same nice words to say about him. He know a lot about the game, he know a lot about being a coach.”

Northport girls basketball head coach Rich Castellano watches from the sideline with union varsity coach Katie Kelly. Photo from Rich Castellano

Kelly, who was a part of two county championship and two Long Island championship seasons with the Tigers, said learning how to be a part of a team was the most important thing she took away from her time at Northport.

“He has always emphasized the importance of being on a team, playing together and cooperation,” she said. “I think that’s what makes the team so successful. And obviously in his career he’s been successful, so it seems to work.”

The head coach has seen the trickle-down effect, too.

Even with a myriad of accolades to his own name and with the induction into the state hall of fame, he said it’s never been a one-man show, crediting his other coaches and players like Kaylie Schiavetta.

“She’s an unsung hero who played her butt off and never looked for credit and did it all for the love of the game and the love of her teammates,” Castellano said. “I never wanted all the attention, I didn’t play one minute in any game. It was all their success. It was all their hard work and all the stuff they had gone through to get to where we were. If you look around the gym, there’s a lot of championships. It’s something I take a lot of pride in, but I wouldn’t be where I am without kids like her. She taught me that.”

Still, he was shocked when he heard of the nomination to the NYPHSAA hall of fame.

Northport girls basketball coach Rich Castellano with former player Kaylie Schiavetta as she signs her letter of intent. Photo from Rich Castellano

“Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me,” he said was his reaction when he heard the news. “It caught me off guard. It was a ‘wow’ moment. It took all the girls who played for me to have that feeling. I’m obviously very proud and humbled, but it also makes me reflect on all the girls have achieved over the years and what they’ve helped us achieve.”

Schiavetta was excited to hear of the honor.

“It’s about time,” she said, laughing. “I think everything he’s done for girls basketball is very memorable, whether you played for Northport or not. If you played girls basketball on Long Island you know who Richard Castellano is.”

Inside the basketball arena but outside the court, Castellano brought Coaches vs Cancer to Suffolk County, a program that 95 percent of schools in the county currently participate in. He has led the program to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society since its inception.

“To me, it’s one of my biggest accomplishments,” he said. “Basketball officials get involved by wearing pink shirts, the girls where pink socks, pink ribbons in their hair and pink t-shirts, the girls have me wear a pink tie — we’re into it big time.”

Rich Castellano with young Northport players and alumni during a Coaches vs Cancer game. Photo from Rich Castellano

The charity event hits home for Castellano, because he was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2006. The girls’ shirts have a basketball court on the back with the words “I’m playing for” above it. There’s an empty space to write the name of a cancer survivor or victim the player wishes to honor during the games.

“A lot of the girls put my name on their shirt beside their grandmother or their neighbor or their parents, so that’s kind of cool, too,” he said.

Over the years, the coach has kept in contact with most of his former players. He’s been to almost 20 weddings, christenings, graduations and even spoke at the Northport sports hall of fame induction ceremony for all seven of his honored athletes, all in the last two years since its inception.

Sisters Cami Ruck and Kimberly Ruck, Renee Raleigh, Debbie Ronan (McCabe) and her now-sister-in-law Regina Ronan, Christine Michalopoulos and Jill Byers are all merits of his success.

Rich Castellano with members of a former Northport girls basketball team. Photo from Rich Castellano

Kimberly Ruck’s daughter is in seventh grade at Northport, and will soon be playing for her mother’s coach. Debbie and Regina Ronan have both come back to coach alongside their mentor, and Michalopoulos went on to coach college basketball.

“It validates decisions you made,” Castellano said. “They liked what they were doing and it’s a compliment they’re coaching.”

He will also be inducted into the Northport sports hall of fame this fall alongside Schiavetta, who played for her coach since seventh grade and attended the camp since fourth grade.

“I thought he was really funny,” she said of her initial impression of Castellano. “He always does a good job making the little girls laugh and make them feel comfortable. He has a way of challenging and bringing out the best qualities in a player.”

Her father Lou Schiavetta, who has been a coach at the camp for the last 10 years, agreed.

“Coach Castellano could sell ice cream in the North Pole,” he said. “There are people that are givers and takers — he’s a giver. He’s all for the kids and for his program. As you can see, it speaks for itself with all the banners and honors he’s received. He’s one of the winningest coaches in the county.”

Girls basketball banners line the walls of the gymnasium at Northport High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

By Jill Webb

This summer, the Middle Country Public Library is giving the community a chance to not only admire the beauty of nature but to create something new and exciting within it.

Artist Carol Hummel brought yarn-bombing to the Middle Country Public Library with her Crochet It! project, making circles that will be part of an installation on display in September. Photo from The Long Island Museum

Crochet It! is being hosted by the library as a community-driven art collective in which trees will be wrapped with thousands of colorful crocheted circles. This project will be creating two separate art installations to be displayed at the library for the public to enjoy.

Tracy LaStella, the library’s assistant director for youth services, beamed recalling the nearly 100 people who showed up for the June kick-off, where the library went through its first four boxes of macramé for the trees. Since then, she’s seen people of all ages and backgrounds become participants.

“This is our third drop-in, and they just keep on getting bigger and bigger,” LaStella said.

Carol Hummel, an artist well known for her large-scale installations and global projects, attended the Middle Country Public Library’s kick-off to offer two instructional workshops and will return in September to start the decorations she refers to as “artwork by the people, for the people.”

Since 2004, Hummel has been traveling to do community crocheting projects, also known as yarn-bombing. This is Hummel’s third time doing an installation on Long Island — her first was in Oyster Bay, and the  second was at Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum after being noticed at a gallery showing in the area.

After the installation at The Long Island Museum, Hummel said the staff told her that they still get 10 people a day, at least, that stop and come to The Long Island Museum to look at the trees. “And then they get exposed to the place,” Hummel said.

Participants not only get pleasure from creating the pieces but also get to enjoy them  after they are installed.

“It exposes people to a kind of art — contemporary art — that is different than going into a museum and looking at a painting on a wall,” Hummel said.

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

Hummel’s role in Crochet It! is planning, designing and figuring out logistics, like how much of each yarn color is needed. Then, the project is turned over to the library’s volunteers to produce pieces, which Hummel and her team will put together in September.

The artist said she enjoys working with Long Islanders, saying that they get many people involved.

Participants have the choice to work individually or attend the drop-in crochet sessions hosted at the library. The Crochet Socials Drop-in Sessions will have instructors present and will be taking place until September.

Instructor Corin LaCicero, 38, walked around the July 12 session, offering assistance to anyone who needed help.

“It’s fun to see them learn, and when they get it they get really excited,” LaCicero said of the participants. She explained that after a few weeks they’re learning how to create things like chains and circles.

LaCicero was taught to crochet by her mother and grandmother at 8 years old. Having the hobby passed down leads her to emphasize the benefits of group sessions.

“Some people might have different techniques than others,” she said. “You might have someone come who’s left-handed and it’s hard to teach, and someone else can help with that.”

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

The trees will be adorned with orange, blue, yellow and purple yarn in the Nature Explorium at the library’s Centereach building, where the drop-in sessions are held. “We must have over a thousand circles done already, and we need thousands because we’re doing two large trees on the property here,” LaStella said. “My office is just filled with the circles.”

Marianne Ramos-Cody, of Selden, sat in on a drop-in session July 12 for the first time with her two young children nearby.

“I’ve crocheted before, but nothing like this,” Ramos-Cody said as she demonstrates the circular pattern of the crocheting with her son by her side. “He wants to learn, but I gotta learn first to show him.

The library is offering Crochet It! kits to be picked up for any participants to start their work. The kit includes all of the materials necessary for making the circles.

The Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, has given the necessary funds for the project to take off. The Huntington Arts Council administers the project, which will integrate nature and art into the community.

Community involvement is one of the beneficial aspects of the project, and drop-in crochet sessions will be Aug. 9 and 22 and Sept. 6 and 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Centereach location at 101 Eastwood Blvd.

“It’s always nice to experience something that’s so inspirational to everybody who’s working on it,” Hummel said.

She’s excited to be one of the first artists to go viral with yarn-bombing.

“People always say ‘aren’t you afraid people are going to copy you?’ I want them to copy me — I think it’s great,” Hummel said. “Spread joy and art around the world — that’s the best thing you can expect.”

Areatha Pickens mugshot. Photo from SCPD

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police today arrested a nurse for assaulting a paraplegic man she was caring for at his Coram home last week.

Areatha Pickens, a licensed practical nurse, was caring for an 83-year-old man and Korean War veteran who became paraplegic in a 1975 motor vehicle crash, when she assaulted the man who was confined to a stretcher June 22. Pickens punched the man several times after the victim notified Pickens’ employer that she was late for work. The victim was treated at Stony Brook University Hospital for a fractured orbital bone.

Sixth Squad detectives charged Pickens, 44, of Coram, with second-degree assault. She was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip.

Voting will take place at Newfield High School May 16. The high school is located at 145 Marshall Drive. File photo

Three — one an incumbent — are vying for three seats on Middle Country’s board of education. Current trustees Debbie Parker and Daniel Hill are not seeking re-election.

Doreen Feldmann

Doreen Feldmann

Doreen P. Feldmann, a 46-year resident, said she strongly believes in the value of community service.

An active member of the PTA, the nine-year board member is also the chairperson of the Selden Centereach Youth Association; serves on the Middle Country Education Foundation; and has served or is continuing to serve on district committees such as the audit, anti-drug coalition, policy, legislative, PPS advisory council, safe schools and school business advisory boards.

She particularly enjoys her work on the business advisory board.

“It allows me to advocate for a clean and safe environment,” she said, through the Green Career Job Fair and e-waste collections.

She and her husband, Bill, who are both graduates of Newfield High School, do work via their solar equipment distribution company. They supply no-cost solar energy equipment to Habitat for Humanity and other not-for-profit groups.

A mother of two, she received formal recognition for her child advocacy work and community service, such as the NYS PTA Jenkins Award and the Distinguished Service Award, but said the best recognition comes when she is allowed to serve on the board of education.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Middle Country,” she said. “I want to continue my work supporting children and the school board.”

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips, a 17-year resident and stay-at-home mother of two, was in the accounting field for 12 years.

Phillips attended Briarcliffe College, obtaining an associate’s degree in graphic design in 2008.

She has been an active member of the PTA for many years, holding the position of treasurer, and is currently vice president at Stagecoach Elementary School and recording secretary at Selden Middle School, which she said gives her the skills needed to serve on the Middle Country board.

Phillips has chaired committees like homecoming, book fair and staff appreciation. She is also a recipient of the NYS PTA Jenkins Award, and is currently serving on the Middle Country legislative/community outreach committee, and has served on the interview committee.

“I have been advocating against high stakes testing for the last four years and want to continue my work on the board of education,” she said.

Ellie Estevez

Eliness Estevez

Eliness “Ellie” Estevez is a three-year resident and a senior at Newfield High School. The president of the mock trial team is also a member of the jazz choir, jazz band, pit orchestra, Tri-M Honor Society and leadership club, and is also a volunteer at Stony Brook University Hospital.

A soon-to-be business major at Stern School of Business, Estevez looks to apply the knowledge she obtains of finance and management, to maintain fiscal responsibility.

“I want to continue to offer students opportunities for success and academic excellence,” she said. “As a Middle Country student, I offer the perspective of the students as the district moves toward greater success in the future.”


Budget breakdown

This year’s proposed budget of $243,590,487 for the Middle Country Central School District is a 1.21 percent increase from last year’s expenditures, with a tax levy increase of 1.929 percent. It would cost homeowners roughly $108.41 and is under the 2 percent cap.

“We look forward to continue offering our district-wide STEM programs — allowing students the opportunity to explore robotics, zSpace labs and 3D printing,” superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “These programs — along with our math literacy initiatives, music, arts and athletics programs — provide students with a well-rounded educational experience.”

There is $63,215,804 in proposed foundation aid. The district will look to expand upon AP and College Tie offerings, add lab space for eighth grade living environment, add math periods for students in sixth through eighth grades, increase K-5 literacy and continue the full-day, pre-K program.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police have arrested a man for driving while intoxicated after he was involved in a crash that killed a motorcyclist in Selden April 29.

Christopher Vorisek was riding a 2006 Harley Davidson motorcycle southbound on College Road when his vehicle struck a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee traveling northbound, making a left to turn onto Palm Street at 1:09 a.m.

Vorisek, 52, of Farmingville, was transported by Selden Fire Department to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Jeep, Francis Quinn, 59, of Selden, was not injured.

Quinn was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and was scheduled for arraignment at First District Court.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555.

Andrew Rosa in his new Quadriciser, which was donated by members of the Marty Lyons Foundation and other donors. Photo from the Marty Lyons Foundation

The Marty Lyons Foundation was among a group of donors who helped make a dream come true for Selden resident Andrew Rosa.

The foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children who have been diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illness, together with mother and son Eileen Valenti and Blake Burgan of Sachem and sisters Dawn and Kim Roesch of the Roesch Law firm in East Meadow, raised money to purchase a Quadriciser rehabilitation chair to assist in Rosa’s recovery.

Now 22 years old, Rosa was a college-bound teenager, junior firefighter, BMX biker and snowboarder. In 2010, he was struck by a car while he was riding his bike. The force of the impact left him in a coma for months while he fought for his life. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and became physically disabled, unable to walk or speak.

In 2013, Rosa’s mother JoAnn applied to the Marty Lyons Foundation for a wish for her son. While he was immediately approved for a wish, he and his family were not quite sure what would be the most appropriate wish. When Rosa’s occupational therapist discussed the great benefits of the Quadriciser with his family, it became quite evident that this was his wish.

“The goal is for Andrew to use the Quadriciser in the home setting on a regular basis to improve his physical capabilities,” his mother said. “It is our hope that he will eventually be able to stand and perhaps take a few steps on his own.”

Currently, Rosa requires 24/7 nursing care, while receiving lots of love and support from his friends and family. He is showing signs of regaining brain function as a result of the intense therapy he receives in his home.

Because this miraculous piece of equipment was way beyond the financial parameters of the organization’s guidelines, others became involved to provide outside fundraising to help Rosa. Through the efforts of the foundation’s wish coordinators, Terri Fudens and John Gordon, multiple donors generously contributed to the purchase of the Quadriciser, including a GoFundMe page set up by the Burgans, and a generous donation from the Roesch Law firm.

“Andrew’s wish took four years to complete,” Fudens said. “But it was well worth the effort.”

The Quadriciser Rosa received stimulates the brain and simultaneously encourages muscle memory in the extremities which later results in neurological connections and advancements.

The equipment lets a patient move his or her arms and legs in patterns that closely simulate walking and crawling. For the first time in years Rosa’s arms and legs can move simultaneously.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a fatal motor vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian in Centereach March 27.

Gabrielle Gallagher was driving a 2001 Ford Focus south on Mark Tree Road, just north of Linda Drive, when she struck a male pedestrian who was standing on the side of the road. The pedestrian, Dominick Geraci, 84, of Selden, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner.

Gallagher, 27, of Centereach, was not injured and remained at the scene.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing.

As music blasted and hair clippers buzzed in the packed  Rocky Point Middle School gymnasium March 16, teachers, students and community members lined up to get their heads shaved in the name of childhood cancer research.

Upwards of 25 people, a majority of them students, registered to shed their locks and raise money for the school’s second annual St. Baldrick’s event. Organized by 8th grade social studies teacher Erica Alemaghides, the event encourages students to “stand in solidarity” with those struggling with childhood cancer, one of the most underfunded cancers in the world, and be involved in community fundraising.

“Everybody has someone in their family or community that has been touched personally by cancer, so this really is an event that hits home for so many people.”

—Scott O’Brien

This year, Alemaghides said, the middle school began raising money in February through online crowdfunding accounts, and raised more than $13,000 for the non-profit St. Baldrick’s Foundation, surpassing its set goal of $10,000.

After last year’s success, raising $8,000 with an originally-set goal of $5,000, Rocky Point Middle School Principal Scott O’Brien didn’t hesitate to give Alemaghides the go ahead to double the amount.

“Everybody has someone in their family or community that has been touched personally by cancer, so this really is an event that hits home for so many people,” O’Brien said. “I’m just so proud of what our school and community continues to do … The money will help give kids a second chance at life and the students, teachers and community members are making a difference.”

Each student who got their heads shaved received a certificate, T-shirt and a bracelet. Student step dancers and Selden’s Siol Na h’Eireann bagpipe band performed Irish dances and songs for those in attendance.

Feeling more like a rock concert than a school assembly, students from all grades filled the gym’s bleachers, cheering and stomping their feet for those who sat down centerstage and got their heads shaved by members of the high school’s cosmetology program.

Seventh-grader Quentin Palifka received a special medal after he and his family donated the most money — $4,120. He said he was eager to get involved.

“Middle school can be rough for some people, but when we all focus on a single cause for at least one day, it pulls us together.”

—Liam Abernethy

“I really liked the cause — it’s a great cause, and one of my family’s friends we’ve known for so long died of cancer and I just wanted to help out,” Palifka said. “I wanted to do it last year but didn’t, and then this year, I was like, ‘I have to do it.’”

Eighth-grader Liam Abernethy and his father, a teacher in the Sachem school district, decided to get bald together.

“I have a lot of family members that died from cancer — my grandfather, my uncle, even some aunts — and I think suffering through it at such a young age would be absolutely devastating,” Abernethy said about his drive to donate. “Middle school can be rough for some people, but when we all focus on a single cause for at least one day, it pulls us together.”

When asked how it felt to be hairless, he said, “I feel lighter, a few pounds lighter.”

It was seventh-grader Kathryn Bush, however, who got everyone’s attention for being the first girl in the event’s two-year history to shave her head.

“I felt like it was something good to do and I also wanted to start over again with my hair,” she said. “I was nervous at first because I have a couple beauty marks on my head and people would maybe see things that I don’t want them to see, but now I’m fine with it and it’s not really that big a deal.”

Bush, who raised more than $1,000, said she hopes more girls will volunteer in the future.

Diedre Johnson, the high school cosmetology student who shaved Bush’s head, said she was impressed by her courage.

“Can you imagine shaving their head at their age? It takes a lot of courage. As adults, it’s easy to see that it’s just hair and will grow back in a few months, but to kids, it seems like forever.”

—Bruce Wolper

“That was so sweet; I always say I want to shave my head [for charity] but she actually did it, that was so nice,” she said, adding that the process of shaving heads was at first nerve-wracking, but became easier and more fun as the event went along. “It’s all one size and pretty easy to do … it was really eye-opening that so many people wanted to volunteer.”

Silvina Vega, a Wading River resident, heard about the St. Baldrick’s event on Facebook and decided to stop by and participate. She plans on donating her hair to Locks of Love, a not-for-profit that provides hairpieces for kids struggling with cancer.

Many teachers at the school look forward to the event and seeing their students excited about doing something good.

“It’s electric and very heartwarming,” said 7th grade Spanish teacher Bruce Wolper. “They’re taking a risk at this age, can you imagine shaving their head at their age? It takes a lot of courage. As adults, it’s easy to see that it’s just hair and will grow back in a few months, but to kids, it seems like forever.”

John Mauceri, a 7th grade special education social studies teacher, echoed Wolper’s sentiment.

“Having the kids realize how important it is to give back,” Mauceri said, “especially in this world we live in, and feel good about positive things, is amazing.”

MELTology owners Nick Mauceri and Kevin Muller. Photo by Kevin Redding

With the newly opened MELTology in Mount Sinai, two young business partners and former Friendly’s employees bring their fresh, experimental take on a classic comfort food to the North Shore.

The cafe-style sandwich spot, serving variations of grilled cheese, among other standard items like burgers and chicken sandwiches, marks co-owner Kevin Muller’s fourth — and most ambitious — venture in the restaurant business.

Menu options at MELTology include various grilled cheese mash-ups. Photo from MELTology

After his first restaurant in Selden, Simple Smoothie Cafe, buckled under the pressures of surrounding competition in 2012 — with nearby Tropical Smoothies and Red Mangos making his “no-name brand” obsolete — the 30-year-old Patchogue resident drove up and down North Country Road to get a grasp of what foods were most popular among locals, while brainstorming what new flavors he could bring to the area.

“I was losing big time, and I had to figure something else out,” Muller recalled, saying he had to go back to his old job at Friendly’s just to pay rent month after month while his first business went under. “I was just thinking ‘what can I do differently?’”

Just a few months later, after crafting his own spin on his grandmother’s Italian crepes recipe, Muller found great success with Crazy Crepe Cafe, bringing all variations of the traditional treat to four different locations: Selden, Mount Sinai, Smithtown and Lake Ronkonkoma. In the midst of that, he also opened up an East End food truck business in 2016.

Alongside Crazy Crepe manager and former Friendly’s co-worker Nick Mauceri, 25, Muller recently decided to convert his Crazy Crepe in Mount Sinai into MELTology, to try and reach a different market and more of the general public.

“We paired up the grilled cheeses with the dessert crepes and it works really well together, and [in a few weeks] we’re going to bring our burgers from our food truck and combine that to make grilled cheese burgers … we love seeing the place packed and everyone enjoying the food,” Muller said.

MELTology is located at 5507 Suite 16 Nesconset Highway in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

Mauceri, who said the MELTology idea started back when they worked at Friendly’s and were experimenting with the food chain’s super melt sandwiches, can’t believe how quickly the community has taken to the new restaurant — even despite its Friday the 13th opening in January.

“Luckily, everything went off without a hitch [opening day],” he said. “It’s something that’s catching on really quickly, but we couldn’t have known that it was going to be this fast. We get a great sense of pride from it, especially when you get to talk to people who say they’re really enjoying what they just ate.”

According to the owners, such menu picks like the “Chicken Parm Melt” sandwich, made up of melted mozzarella, chicken strips and marinara sauce on parmesan-crusted sourdough bread, and the “Sweetness Melt,” which features applewood smoked bacon and maple syrup, sets MELTology apart from similar sandwich spots in the area.

Kevin put himself through college at SUNY Polytechnic Institute while working, climbing the ladder from employee to general manager, and saving money to start his own business, he said, and has utilized his business degree well. With Crazy Crepes, Muller did all his own training, made his own menus and even did all the marketing.

John Muller, Kevin’s father, called his son a “workaholic.”

MELTology will still have Crazy Crepe desert options on the menu. Photo from MELTology

“I’m very proud of him, obviously, and for someone who started with only a couple thousand dollars and is now running and owning four restaurants, he’s doing really well,” John Muller said. “He’s entrepreneurial — owning a business is something he’s always wanted to do.”

MELTology, located at 5507 Nesconset Highway Suite 16, is open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Menu items range frlom a classic grilled-cheese sandwich ($4.95); chicken parm melt ($6.95); and “Kitchen Cinque” sandwich, a multilayered melt of Parmesan-crusted sourdough, melted Cheddar, Gruyère, American, pepper jack and apple-wood smoked bacon with a slice of tomato ($6.95). Sides like mac & cheese ($2.50) and soup ($3.99/cup, $5.99/bread bowl) are coming soon. Crazy Crepe sweet crepes that have made the menu include the Dirty Banana, Oreo Crepe, S’mores Crepe, Peanute Butter Cup Crepe and Apple Pie Crepe. Prices Range from $6.95 to $7.95. Milkshakes in vanilla, chocolate, nutella, oreo and peanut butter cup are also available ($4.50).

Takeout can also be ordered online.

For more information, call (631) 509 0331 or visit www.meltology.