Andrew Streeff likes being a behind-the-scenes kind of person.
For the past 20 years, he has operated out of the kitchen in the back of The Hartlin Inn, a Sound Beach pub and restaurant and community fixture where he serves as chef and co-owner and he’d hoped to keep it that way. He has always been eager to help local school districts and clubs through fundraisers and donations, but never seeks recognition. And, in 2001, when encouraged by his business partner and mentor Richie Hartig to join the Friends of St. Patrick, Streeff was hesitant, despite his lifelong Irish pride and love for the group.
“I told him, ‘I’ll do it as long as I don’t have to march up front,’” Streeff said, referring to the group’s annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day parade. In his 17 years with the organization, and being involved in the parade, Streeff has run raffles, sold T-shirts and fed information to the event’s announcer.
“That’s what I really enjoy,” he said. “When the cameras and the politicians come, I’m darting out of the way.”
That all changes March 11 when Streeff leads the nearly three-mile march from the Flying Pig Cafe in Miller Place to Broadway in Rocky Point as grand marshal of the 68th annual parade. This honor is bestowed on longtime, dedicated members of the organization, or those who have proven to be pillars of the community, and Streef “fits both those bills,” according to Friends of St. Patrick president Michael Tatilian.
“He’s very active in our community, a great guy, and, whenever we’ve asked him to help us out with something, he’s always been there,” Tatilian said.
“While Richie would have loved to have led the parade, in my heart I know that he’ll be walking right alongside Andrew.”
— Linda Hartig
But Streeff said he isn’t marching for himself. Instead, he’s accepting the honor in memory of the man who pushed him to join the group in the first place — Hartig, one of the two original owners of The Hartlin Inn; a U.S. Navy veteran, a detective in the Nassau County Police Department, a commodore of the Mount Sinai Yacht Club; and a proud member of the Friends of St. Patrick until his death from a heart attack in 2004 at age 63.
Hartig died before it was his turn to be grand marshal, Streef said.
“Anyone who knew Richie knew this was right up his alley,” he said. “My biggest concern really was asking his wife how she would feel about this if I did it. It turned out she was 100 percent behind it. A lot of people are excited that I’m doing this in Richie’s name.”
Linda Hartig, who joined the restaurant full time as an accountant after her husband’s death, described Streeff as a “standup guy” who would do anything for anybody in the community. She said she was honored by his motivation to march.
“While Richie would have loved to have led the parade, in my heart I know that he’ll be walking right alongside Andrew,” she said. “I’m sure he’s looking down very happy.”
Streeff was born in Queens to a Finnish father and Irish mother, and moved to Sound Beach in 1969 when he was 7 years old. Just a year later, he marched for the first time in the parade as a Cub Scout, later joking that his mother indoctrinated him with the importance of St. Patrick’s Day from day one.
“I think when I was in Catholic school in Queens, with the mandatory uniform on, she made sure that, on St. Patrick’s Day, I had green on somewhere,” Streeff said. “Any time I got a new job growing up, I’d tell the boss, I can work any holiday and any weekend throughout the year except that one Sunday in March.”
Streeff has been in the restaurant business since he was 16 as a student at Miller Place High School. By the time he graduated in 1979, he had been working full time for about a year. He began at the old Nine Doors restaurant in Port Jefferson and picked up different styles of cooking, from a variety of cultures like French and German, as he moved on from one local establishment to next. He eventually found himself working seasonally in Florida’s Palm Beach County for a number of years in the 1990s, until he learned his friend, Linda Sarich, and her business partner, Hartig, bought a restaurant in Sound Beach. The name Hartlin is a combination of Hartig and Linda’s names. Streeff originally offered to help set up their kitchen and menu, but within a matter of months, he became a full partner.
“Having grown up here, it was ideal for me to get involved,” said Streeff, who, since 1997, has taken it upon himself to hire youth in the community with the aim of steering them in the right direction and keeping them out of trouble. “This is a down-home type of family restaurant in a tight-knit community where you wave to strangers. You don’t really see that anywhere else anymore.”
After 40 years in the restaurant industry, and 21 strong years at The Hartlin Inn, Streeff said, “It feels like I’m the typical hometown boy who made good.”