Rising energy prices, rents and wages are all applying greater pressure on small business owners. Pictured above, storefronts in downtown Port Jefferson. File photo by Julianne Mosher
By Rita J. Egan & Raymond Janis

Residents of communities throughout the area came out on Saturday, Nov. 26, to support local downtowns during Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday was a campaign first developed by American Express in 2010. Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, detailed the history and purpose of this effort.

“Because everybody was focusing on Black Friday, American Express wanted to focus on small businesses,” he said.

Mary Joy Pipe, owner of The East End Shirt Company and president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, described this year’s iteration of Small Business Saturday as a success. She forecasts a favorable holiday season for the small business community this year based on the turnout.

“Am I optimistic about how I did on Small Business Saturday and over that weekend, and that things should go well?” she said. “Yes.”

The success of these business initiatives, according to Pipe, is primarily contingent upon the weather. She characterized the clear skies on Friday and Saturday as fortunate for the business community.

Tandy Jeckel, owner of TandyWear in Commack, said Small Business Saturday was similar to last year saleswise but that Black Friday was better.

Black Friday “was major,” she said. “We beat last year. Small Business Saturday was pretty much the same as last year.”

Confronting difficult times

While some storefront owners saw favorable returns over the weekend, others discussed the several factors working against their businesses. Among these are nationwide economic instability and inflation, soaring prices and hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeckel said her business did well during the pandemic by making masks to match outfits and so drawing in customers. She added she had noticed customers opting for dressier outfits where people were looking for more comfortable loungewear for a while.

Joe Schwab, co-owner of Schwab’s 2nd Wind in East Setauket, said he didn’t experience an increase in traffic on Small Business Saturday. He said that the special shopping days did not necessarily boost sales, even though Black Friday was better this year than it has been in years past.

“I would love to have a big excitement about shopping days again, but for the time being it seems to be a bit lost or fizzled out,” he said.

Cantor maintains that the broader economic trends are squeezing small businesses and local downtowns. Ballooning costs associated with energy prices, rents and wages are making it harder for small businesses to stay profitable. At the same time, consumers have less discretionary income and, therefore, less to spend in these downtown settings.

“Right now, small businesses are caught between trying to recoup the high rents, energy costs and things like that,” he said. “And then they’re running into the competition and the fact that consumers don’t have the money to spend.”

Competing with big businesses

Inflation and other economic pressures are driving consumers to try to stretch their dollars, Cantor said. This is adding even greater strain on small businesses compared to big businesses.

“The reality is that these big businesses can buy goods and services at much cheaper prices, and consumers are certainly looking for bargains,” he said.

Despite this popular narrative, Patty Kaczmarczyk, owner of Cheese & Spice Market in Wading River, insists that her prices are competitive and often outperform her larger competitors.

“People sometimes feel, ‘I’m going to go to the supermarket where I can get things cheaper there,’ but now that’s not so true,” she said. “I’m a small business, so I’m trying not to kill people in pricing to stay very competitive. That’s my goal.”

Contrasting the business models of large and small businesses, Kaczmarczyk said smaller stores are better adapted to meet the needs of consumers. Whereas large retailers emphasize bulk purchases, she said small vendors allow for smaller, often cheaper orders.

“I carry so many loose spices, which are way cheaper than buying them in a grocery store,” she said. “I sell it loose, and you can buy smaller amounts.” Maximizing these advantages, she suggests, can keep small businesses afloat while competing against their larger counterparts.

Susannah Meinersman, owner of Huntington-based Bon Bons Chocolatier, said the store has been busy in general, which she attributes to making a great product. Meinersman said she appreciates Small Business Saturday: “I think the day brings awareness to the small Main Street business, so that’s a good thing.” 

Giving back to the community

David Wolmetz is co-owner of Urban Air Adventure Park in Lake Grove. He described the small business sector as an extension of the greater community. Through various interactions of small businesses with community members, he said these businesses foster a greater sense of local cohesion.

“It’s not only about money for us,” he said. “It’s about connecting to the community.” 

For example, Wolmetz sits on the board of the Stony Brook Cancer Center Community Advisory Council. Maintaining connections between small businesses and other local institutions is crucial, Wolmetz said, for community prosperity.

“We look for them: Girl Scouts, Boys Scouts, anything that’s related to our demographic of a youth, family oriented connection,” he said. “I’m very familiar with that connection, and that’s my reason for having the business.”

This connection will be imperative as businesses transition into the post-pandemic era. For Suzanne McEnroe, owner of This n’ That Gifts in St. James, the turnout on Saturday was encouraging. 

She said she appreciates resident support as the business owner opened the gift store in February 2020, just a few weeks before the COVID-19 shutdowns. She is grateful to be open.

In general, she noticed a difference in business this year with more people out shopping. “They love to have a town shop to be able to just come and get a quick gift,” she said.

A critical juncture

While Small Business Saturday primarily targets the retail and service sectors, Long Island’s regional economy consists of small businesses across many other industries. 

John Hill is the founder and CEO of the Long Island Advancement of Small Business, an organization committed to the growth and development of small businesses that do not interface with customers, such as financial planners, bankers and IT service providers, among others.

Hill contends that these small businesses are struggling, too. “They’re not growing, they’re not failing, they’re just eking out a living right now,” he said.

Given the high living costs on Long Island, Hill sees more small business owners closing up shop and heading to more affordable regions in the country, a startling trend for Long Island’s regional economy.

“We’ve had four people leave our organization to move off of Long Island,” he said. “Two moved to Florida, one to North Carolina and one to Tennessee.”

To stay afloat, Cantor suggests business owners will soon have to find creative ways to attract consumers to downtown areas while eliminating operating expenses.

“Businesses are at a critical juncture,” he said, noting that Small Business Saturday is “super.” He added, “We want all these small businesses to survive, and it’s great that Long Islanders are coming out to the downtowns to shop on Small Business Saturday. But they have to continue to do it.”

'Flowers in New Mexico' by Angela Stratton

Dr. Alfred J. Cossari of Village Eye Care, 311 Barnum Ave., Port Jefferson will host a Holiday Art Show & Fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4 from noon to 4 p.m. Drop in during the 26th annual Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival to view an exhibit  by award winning artist Angela Stratton ( with over 45 pieces of artwork including landscapes and florals for sale. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Children’s Eye Care Foundation. For more information, call 631-928-6400.

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Kornreich's office

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, members of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, friends and family recently attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for Taj Crown of India, a new restaurant located at 10 Woods Corner Road in East Setauket. 

Taj Crown of India is owned by siblings Dr. Neeru Kumar, Paras Kumar and Nisha Sachdeva. Since they were children, they spent time in their parent’s authentic Indian restaurant, Shere Punjab, in Queens, New York. As this was a family business, they helped with customer service, waiting, deliveries and catering for 20 years. Their goal with their new restaurant is to introduce the authenticity of Indian food to Brookhaven residents.

“The opening of Taj in Setauket was a happy and exciting moment for local business in our area. Opening a restaurant is an ambitious undertaking and holding the opening during the holiday of Diwali added additional meaningfulness and optimism to the launch,” said Councilmember Kornreich. “The restaurant may be called Taj Crown of India, but this elegant and gracious restaurant will definitely be a jewel in the crown of our diverse and exciting local restaurant scene. Wishing nothing but good luck and success to all our friends at Taj,” he added.

“As you visit, try the food and look around, you will see we serve to provide the best quality, excellent ambiance and great service. Our goal is to introduce the authenticity of Indian food that has been missing in Suffolk County. People will no longer have to travel to Hicksville or Jackson Heights to find curries blended with perfect herbs and spices. Come, enjoy and let us make you feel like royalty,” said Nisha Sachdeva.

Pictured at the ribbon cutting, from left, are Three Village Chamber treasurer Martha Stansbury; NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright; co-owner Nisha Sachdeva; Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich; Three Village Community Trust President Herb Mones and Three Village Chamber Director Jane Taylor. 

For more information, call 631-825-2345 or visit

Shop local! METRO photo

After tackling the Black Friday frenzy at local malls and major department stores, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is set aside for our small businesses.

For over a decade, holiday shoppers have taken part in Small Business Saturday, an initiative created by American Express and the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation in the midst of a recession.

The annual event is an excellent opportunity to patronize mom-and-pop stores in our towns and villages. Many of these places provide personal services that consumers can’t find at larger retailers or by shopping online, such as exceptional customer service and wrapping gifts.

When shoppers support a neighborhood store, they are also helping the surrounding community. Many small business owners sponsor local sports teams or events. Those same owners also pay sales taxes to local municipalities, involving dollars going back into nearby public schools, parks, roads and so much more.

The multiplier effect of small businesses creates more jobs in our communities, too. With many mom-and-pops suffering from the aftereffects of pandemic shutdowns, shoppers at local businesses play a part in keeping small brick-and-mortar stores open and people employed.

We know with lingering COVID-19 concerns, it can be overwhelming for some to step into a store sometimes. Many have become accustomed to ordering online, but if you can’t get out or don’t want to, many local businesses have websites or social media pages where buyers can purchase goods online. 

There are also quiet weekdays to stop by a local store and check out their unique items. Shopping small doesn’t have to be restricted to one day out of the year.

After a long day of shopping, remember small businesses aren’t limited to clothing or gift stores, either. Get a bite to eat or a drink at a restaurant or bar in town. Buy a gift certificate to your favorite Friday night spot for a friend or family member. Or maybe someone waiting at home would appreciate flowers from the local florist. Have a loved one who loves yoga, dancing or self-defense classes? Many schools and gyms offer gift certificates, and it’s an easy way for people to try out a business before committing to it.

Most of all, frequenting small businesses creates a stronger sense of community. The last few years have been difficult for many, and the support of others, especially neighbors, can make a huge difference in someone’s life and livelihood.

It is time that we think about the big picture. If we fail to support our local small businesses, then we will soon be left with vacant storefronts. Blighted downtowns can affect property values and diminish the quality and character of our community.

This Saturday, remember to patronize your local mom-and-pops. It may seem like a small gesture, but it can make a big difference for our community. 

Photo courtesy of RMHC NYM

More than 250 guests turned out in their fall fashions to honor Island Federal Credit Union at the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) NY Metro 5th Annual Fall Celebration at Flowerfield in St. James, on Nov. 9. The event raised more than $125,000 for programs in Suffolk County. 

Members of the Island Federal Credit Union Board of Directors and Management Team were on hand for the celebration, including Island Federal Credit Union Branch Manager Jose Melendez and his family, who spoke about their personal connection to the Ronald McDonald House and the positive impact the organization has had on their lives. 

The funds will go toward the ongoing operation of RMHC NYM’s two Family Rooms at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and Stony Brook Medicine Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which opened earlier this year. RMHC NYM intends to build a new house on the grounds of Stony Brook Hospital in the near future that will to accommodate families from across Suffolk County who have a sick child receiving care in the area. 

“This was a terrific celebration of the work we have done and what we plan to do — specifically in Suffolk County — in the future,” said Matt Campo, CEO of RMHC NY Metro. “We depend so much on the support of our community, which donates their money and their time, to help the families that come to us in their greatest hour of need. We thank each and every one of them from the bottom of our hearts.” 

“Suffolk County has a tremendous need for a Ronald McDonald House, and we are determined to raise the funds to build it,” said Nick Croce, Board Member and Co-Chair of the Suffolk County Advisory Board for RMHC NYM. “We’ve raised $16.5 million already and with this kind of sustained support, we will be putting the shovel in the ground before we know it.” 

Pictured from left, Chris Murray, VP Marketing; Larry Dunn, Senior Director of Sales & Membership Experience; Damon Rivera, VP Technology; Paul Scollan, Board of Director; Matt Campo, RMHC NYM President; Bret Sears, Island President & CEO; Jeannine Bowden, AVP; John Adragna, Board Chairman; Craig Booth, SVP/COO; Tim Aaraas, VP Retail Lending; Catherine Roger, Director of Branch Operations; Jose Melendez, Hauppauge Branch Manager; Elizabeth Cardone, Board of Director; Vinny Accardi, Member Success Specialist.

Ribbon Cutting for OnPoint Pharmacy. Photo from PJCC

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for OnPoint Pharmacy in Port Jefferson Station on Oct. 19. 

Attendees included representatives from OnPoint Pharmacy including Sarit Roy, President; Amy Ho, VP of Operations; Luna Hai, Director of Pharmacy Operations; Stephen Georgiades, Pharmacist/IT; Nick Lella, Director of Marketing; Mike Nastro, Pharmacy Manager and Bill Burke, Pharmacy Manager along with members of the chamber, President Joy Pipe and Secretary Nancy Bradley. 

Formally known as Fairview Pharmacy, the newly rebranded store is located at 4747 Nesconset Highway, Suite #10 in the Port Jefferson Commons and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 631-474-7828 or visit

REI is heading to Huntington in 2023.

REI, an outdoor apparel and goods store, is scheduled to open in Huntington by summer 2023, according to a news release from REI Co-op. The 21,100-square-foot store will be in the Huntington Shopping Center at 350 Walt Whitman Road.

The location will offer a wide assortment of apparel, gear and expertise for camping, cycling, running, fitness, hiking, paddling, climbing, snowsports and more. For those who adventure on two wheels, a full-service bike shop will be staffed by certified mechanics. The store will also have a ski and snowboard shop with professional tuning, waxing and repairs.

“We’ve long been interested in better serving the Long Island outdoor community and in complement to our existing Tri-State stores,” said Sean Sampson, REI regional director. “As we do in every community where the co-op has a presence, our local team will seek partnerships with nonprofits to support their efforts in protecting natural places and welcoming more people outside.” 

The new store will be the fourth location in New York and seventh in the Tri-State region.

“REI is a terrific addition to our evolving line-up at Huntington Shopping Center and brings us closer to our vision of providing a dynamic mix of essential resources to the community as part of our center-wide redevelopment,” said Chris Fleming, vice president at Federal Realty. “Their brand and customer appeal aligns well with the tenants we’ll continue to unveil.”

Photo from WMHO


Anthony BonGiovanni, owner of Rocky Point Jewelers West, 137 Main Street in Stony Brook Village, met with Eric Baker, owner of Ecolin Jewelers, to wish him good luck as Ecolin takes over the location.

Rocky Point Jewelers will stay in business as they consolidate to their Rocky Point store. With 50 years in the jewelry industry, Ecolin Jewelers will be opening in Stony Brook Village in late-November.

St. Johnland recently held a celebration to commemorate the newly completed Assisted Living Facility on their Kings Park campus. The Assisted Living facility is the newest addition to St. Johnland which was founded in 1866 and since then has been providing care and support for the community.

Located in a serene woodland setting, the 100-bed facility will provide homes for individuals that are Medicaid eligible. They will also accept residents who are depleting their resources to become Medicaid eligible. The focus is to provide a residential and social setting where all residents can receive the care they need in order to maintain their optimal level of function and freedom while knowing they are supported by the residential services, medical supervision and personal care assistance they need.

The facility, which came about to meet the pressing need for expanded Medicaid Assisted Living Program capacity, will welcome residents who are ambulatory but may need assistance with daily care and medical services. The newly-formed St. Johnland Licensed Health Home Care Service agency will help secure treatment and services for residents. Residents who need more care as time passes will have the option of transferring to the Nursing Center, allowing the opportunity to age in place and have continuity of care.

For information about admission, please call 631-663-4444.

Look Book Luncheons

Foodies and shopaholics unite for a three-part series of luncheon fashion shows in Stony Brook Village. Each part of the series will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at a different restaurant and each will feature different fall styles from Mint, Chico’s, Loft and Madison’s Niche.

As guests enjoy their lunch, models will stroll through the restaurants, sharing information about the fall fashion they are wearing. The three-part series will take place on Nov. 3 at the Country House Restaurant; on Nov. 10 at Luca Modern Italian Restaurant; and Nov. 17 at Mirabelle Restaurant and Tavern at the Three Village Inn. Tickets are $35 per person at each restaurant for a prix fix lunch. 

To make your reservation, contact the restaurant directly. The Country House Restaurant’s phone number is 631-751-3332 and is located at 1175 North Country Road in Stony Brook. Luca Modern Italian Restaurant’s phone number is 631-675-0435 and is located at 93 Main Street in Stony Brook Village. Mirabelle Restaurant can be contacted at 631-751-0555 and is located in the historic Three Village Inn, at 150 Main Street in Stony Brook Village.