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Barbara Ransome

Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson village is just one of many businesses which has turned to online orders as nonessential shops have been closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

As Long Island continues to take steps toward reopening and some sense of normalcy, municipalities are aiming to help small businesses and their financial futures. The Town of Brookhaven has created a post-COVID-19 task force for economic recovery in an effort to revitalize the downtown areas and help small businesses affected by the pandemic, many of which are receiving no income at all during this time.

The Small Business Recovery Task Force is made up of business owners, chamber of commerce representatives, business experts and other officials. 

Barbara Ransome, executive director of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said the task force gives them the opportunity to come together and be on the same page on how to help these small businesses. 

“We all have similar concerns and it’s important that we rally together and have a unified plan,” she said. 

The task force has continued to comply with feedback from local business owners. A complaint they have brought up is the state’s process of phasing in business reopenings.

“They could come up with a formula that could be based on square footage of a business and safety measures.”

— Barbara Ransome

Ransome said the state’s plan favors big box stores. While large retailers like Target and Walmart have been able to stay open, smaller merchants, who sell many of the same products, have been forced to close. =

“Those businesses don’t have that ability right now [to reopen],” she said. 

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and the Suffolk County Supervisors’ Association has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) calling on him to come up with a consistent way of judging businesses. 

“They could come up with a formula that could be based on square footage of a business and safety measures,” she said. 

The group has also called on elected officials to help with insurance coverage issues.

Educating business owners, merchants and customers on social distancing and other best practices is another area the task force is focusing on. 

“It’s all our responsibility to make sure we are on the same page,” said Charlie Lefkowitz, the president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce,. 

One idea they’ve proposed is creating a public service announcement in coordination with the town. Lefkowitz said it would inform the public on safety measures, social distancing compliance and other information. They would also use it as an opportunity to send out a positive message of unity. 

“The hardest thing we will have to figure out is how we are going to social distance,” he said. “We are trying to help these main street and small businesses.”

In addition, the task force is looking at ways to ease the reopening process for owners. Capacity and the number of customers a business can serve could play a huge role in how they do so, given the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. 

Lefkowitz said he has been working with the town officials on a way to allow business owners to temporarily extend their store space either by permits, tweaking town code or drafting new legislation. 

“Some businesses might be able to use walkways and put merchandise outside, or they could set up a tent outside in the parking lot,” he said. 

The chamber of commerce president has a draft legislation proposal that would increase the floor area ratio of a business, which would help in making more selling space. 

Lefkowitz said restaurants were just one type of business that could benefit from increase in space. 

“They can be more efficient with indoor and outdoor space,” he said. “Whatever the capacity is, you may have customers that might not feel comfortable going inside.” 

Long Island has taken steps toward reaching Phase 1 of Cuomo’s New York Forward plan for reopening its economy, meeting five of seven benchmarks required by the state. The governor’s plan to reopen consists of four phases which include different categories. Restaurants are in Phase 3. 

“Whatever the capacity is, you may have customers that might not feel comfortable going inside.”

— Charlie Lefkowitz

Michael Ardolino, a past president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said businesses will be facing different challenges when they reopen. 

“How will places like beauty salons and barbershops fare when everyone is in close proximity to each other?” he said. “These owners will want to be able to get their business going.”

Ardolino said he could envision a scenario where those types of businesses take a certain number of customers by appointment only.  

“We will continue to monitor all businesses and may have to plan for what might be a new business climate,” he said.  

Owners hope business reopens sooner rather than later, with summer close by. 

“As the warmer weather gets closer it will be challenging to keep people at bay,” Ransome said. “We have to continue to push government leaders, need to continue to make these phases and hit these benchmarks so we can reopen. We don’t want to be going backward instead of going forward.”

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Port Jefferson chamber president Mary Joy Pipe awards funds to Eric and Nanci Huner of Huners Fitness Advantage, right, and Amanda Eckart of Keller Williams Realty, left, for new signage in front of their shared space. Photos by Barbara Ransome

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce recently awarded funds to two small businesses, neighbors, really, who unknowingly were both working toward the same goal.

The chamber released their small business award Jan. 28 to Amanda Eckart of Keller Williams Realty Homes & Estate, and Eric and Nanci Huner of Huners Fitness Advantage. Both are located in the same building at 111 North Country Road in Port Jeff, and each had moved into their businesses at around the same time. 

Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the chamber, said while their small business awards are typically $1,000, this year it was increased to $1,200 and split evenly between the two businesses. Chamber president Mary Joy Pipe gave the joint award to the winning business owners at the Jan. 28 event.

“[It’s] a win-win for them and the chamber to help two members,” she said.

Nanci Huner said as a relatively new business to the area, the funds for new signage are especially important.

“By receiving this award our sign will be available very soon which will dramatically improve our new business traffic,” she said via email. “The Port Jefferson chamber, especially Barbara Ransome, has been a key support system for Huners Fitness Advantage. We are looking forward to many years in Port Jefferson.”

Information for Huners Fitness Advantage can be found here.

Master ice carver Rich Daly will create ice sculptures like the one above throughout Port Jefferson Village. Photo courtesy of Rich Daly

By Melissa Arnold

Now that the holidays are over and the excitement of the new year is beginning to fade, it can seem like the dull gray of winter will last forever. But there’s still plenty to enjoy in the colder months on Long Island, and Port Jefferson is pulling out all the stops to celebrate wintertime at its first Ice Festival next weekend.

Sponsored by the village’s Business Improvement District, the Ice Festival was inspired by a similar event held about nine years ago, said Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant.

“We’ve been looking at new ways to advertise the village beyond the holiday season, and one of our members, Marianna Ketcham, approached the board with the suggestion that we revisit the ice festival idea,” Garant said. “People come to Port Jeff because of its close proximity to the water — they want to visit the harbor and take a stroll. We wanted to create an upbeat, active event that would encourage people to come out in the winter as well.”

The village’s merchants were eager to jump on board, Garant said, with special event sales. The highly anticipated Mac and Cheese Crawl sold out weeks ago, but those lucky enough to get tickets will enjoy hot and cheesy pasta samples from 18 different eateries. Some will also offer mac and cheese for purchase throughout the weekend.

“I hope all those who come to visit and shop, realize how much we appreciate their support toward small businesses on Main Street USA,” said Port Jeff BID interim president, Roger Rutherford. “Make sure you find time to come down Port for the Ice Festival to take part in the many different festivities.”

Hop on a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy the village’s icy blue lights. Take part in some marshmallow toasting at the corner of Main and E. Broadway and meet costumed characters including your favorite ice princesses and snow friends. Then warm up with some ice skating at the RINX at Harborfront Park. Periodically throughout each day, professional skaters will entertain and share their expertise with live demonstrations. 

Of course, no ice festival would be complete without an ice sculpture or two, but Port Jefferson isn’t stopping there. They’ve invited New York’s only certified master ice carver, Richard Daly of Ice Memories Inc., to create dozens of brilliant, backlit works of art for the festival.

Each participating business will have an ice sculpture on their property with a theme they’ve chosen themselves. Keep an eye out for Baby Yoda, ice skates, a giant slice of toast and more.

Visitors will also have the chance to watch Daly work. He’ll do multiple live carvings throughout the weekend, including a four-person sleigh and a 3,000-pound throne that you can actually climb on (carefully!) for pictures. Don’t be surprised if he makes it look easy — the Mastic Beach resident earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 as the world’s fastest ice carver. To break the record, he created 60 sculptures in just two hours, 52 minutes and 12 seconds using 18,000 pounds of ice.

“The work that Rich does is just beautiful, and the sculptures will be incredible all lit up,” said Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden. “It’s unbelievable how he can create these complex works of art from a block of ice.”

Daly carved his first ice sculpture while in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University. He developed an immediate passion for the craft and was competing on a national level just six months later. “What’s not to like about getting to play with a chainsaw and a blowtorch?” joked Daly. “I can’t even tell you how many sculptures I’ve done in a year. I’ve lost count.”

Each sculpture for the Ice Festival will begin with a sketch. They’ll be carved from 300-pound blocks of crystal clear ice that are fused together by adding a little water. Daly is bringing 25,000 pounds of ice with him for the weekend, he said. 

“I’m looking forward to doing the live carving demonstrations,” he added. “It’s fun to be able to talk with people and answer questions while I work.” 

Ideally, the village is hoping for seasonally chilly weather and even some snow for the festival. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until the weekend of Feb. 22.

“It can be challenging to be innovative with our events, especially in colder weather, but the Ice Festival really captures the season,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great opportunity to increase foot traffic in the area and show everyone that Port Jeff is a great place to be regardless of the time of year.”

Port Jefferson’s Ice Festival will be held throughout the village on Saturday, Feb. 8 and Sunday, Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Join them for a weekend of winter fun! For further information, call 631-476-2363 or visit www.portjeffbid.com/ice-festival.

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Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven join Port Jefferson officials in dedicating the new peace pole in Rocketship Park. Photos by Kyle Barr

An 11-foot wood pole installed inside the fence of Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson is looking for residents to stop and think about how peace may prevail around the globe. 

Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven join Port Jefferson officials in dedicating the new peace pole in Rocketship Park. Photos by Kyle Barr

The civic group Building Bridges in Brookhaven gathered together with Port Jeff village officials Nov. 19 to dedicate the new pole. On it reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 10 different languages, including sign language and Braille. Art depicts small handprints and flowers, courtesy of Setauket resident and artist Maryanne Hart, also of the North Shore Peace Group. 

Community activist group Building Bridges in Brookhaven got themselves behind the project and after buying a 16-foot length of cedar from Riverhead Lumber they cut it down to 11 feet, where now 3 feet is in the ground.

Reverend Gregory Leonard of the Bethel AME Church spoke to those congregated to unveil the pole. The pole features a solar-powered light at the top, and the reverend led those there to dedicate the pole in singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

“The elements of peace are many, but I think it’s important to think of how we treat one another, how we are humble toward one another,” he said. “Of all the things, communication is so important — being able to talk to one another.”

Mayor Margot Garant said she had met with civic leaders Tom Lyon, Myrna Gordon and the director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ransome. Once she was told it was a peace pole, the mayor said she didn’t ask any other questions but “when and where.”

“We really wanted to make a message about providing peace,” Gordon said. 

Lyon said the idea for the polls came to the group from The Peace Pole Project in Wassaic upstate, who are working to put up peace poles all over the globe.

“This should be visible — out where kids are going to see it, children are going to grow up talking about the peace pole and talking about the park,” Lyon said.

The pole is one of more than 250,000 in more than 200 countries. Each one is inscribed with the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in hundreds of languages. The project began in 1955 with Japanese peace activist Masakisa Goi, and Ransome said they’re looking to spread his message into today.

Building Bridges was formed almost four years ago and host the MLK Community Festival yearly at the Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Lyon said this could be just the start of what could end as a project covering the whole of Long Island. He said his group, working alongside local Rotary organizations and Pax Christi could set a goal by the end of 2020 to plant 100 peace poles across the Island, whether in churches or in playgrounds such as Port Jeff’s Rocketship Park. 

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Mock-up of the sign the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hopes its members will put up in their windows promoting inclusivity. Image from Barbara Ransome

Little more than a month after the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Stony Brook University hosted a cultural humility panel for businesses, chamber members are looking to make good on a promise to promote the village as open to all.

Director of operations for the Port Jeff chamber, Barbara Ransome, announced it had produced placards for its member businesses to put in their windows reading, “All are welcome here.” 

The item came as a suggestion from experts from SBU who presented in front of chamber members Sept. 24, and said simply putting a sign on a business noting it was open to all goes a long way toward making visitors feel welcome. 

“We’re supporting being open and welcoming,” the chamber director said. 

Melissa and Doug Bernstein, right, take a stroll across Port Jefferson for a company retreat aided by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Kyle Barr

More than 400 employees from the Connecticut-based toy company Melissa & Doug descended from the Port Jefferson ferry July 25.

Director of Operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ransome said the toy company contacted them about coming to Port Jeff for a company retreat. The chamber rolled out the red carpet, putting up signs welcoming them to the village while some local businesses welcomed them with signs to encourage them to patronize their shops.

Melissa and Doug Bernstein, the founders of the company, were glowing as they walked down the streets of the village. 

“We look at it all the time across the sound,” said Doug Bernstein. “We know how charming this town is.” 

They had previously visited Port Jefferson several times before, but were surprised that many of their employees had never been across the Long Island Sound to visit the small village across the way.

“Coming over I asked everyone who I was meeting: Have you been here recently,” Melissa Bernstein said. “Almost everyone on the boat said we hadn’t done this before,”

The Port Jefferson chamber, along with business groups in Bridgeport across the Sound, are looking to find ways to bridge that disconnect. 

The Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry company is looking to work with chambers on both sides of the Sound. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Certainly, we have enough to do for a day’s visit,” Ransome said. 

Jeff Bishop, the business development manager for the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said he has long felt a connection to Port Jefferson and Long Island as a whole, even though he was born and raised in the Connecticut city across the pond.

“It makes complete sense to connect the two economically, as much as we can,” he said. “It seems like a no-brainer to me.” 

The Bridgeport area has a few new projects underway, including a seasonal amphitheater, along with new restaurants and breweries that complement a growing downtown. This has business leaders excited. 

Ransome said the point is to encourage people to shop in local businesses without coming with their cars and using up the village’s valuable parking spaces.

Fred Hall, the vice president and general manager of the ferry company that sails between the two locations, said that in the earlier parts of the 20th century, Bridgeport was the more “happening” town, but that started to change in the late ʼ60s and early ʼ70s, as Bridgeport’s thriving industries collapsed. 

Currently, well over 200,000 people make the trip from Bridgeport to Port Jeff, Hall said, but much fewer take the trek in the opposite direction. Hall said he blames himself in part for not emphasizing day travel from Port Jeff to Connecticut’s coastal city.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think I have done a good enough job in encouraging people to go to Bridgeport,” he said. “I think there are wonderful things about it.”

Ransome and Hall invited Bishop and other economic and local leaders from Bridgeport to tour Port Jeff July 19 and help get a layout of what Port Jeff offers to day-trippers coming from Connecticut. Ransome and Bishop said plans are for Port Jeff chamber members to visit Bridgeport sometime in September to lay out what possible opportunities they may have. 

After that, Hall said, the next step is to lay out a number of travel and discount packages for people taking day trips to either area when taking the ferry. 

Hall said he already has a tour department within the ferry company that can handle most of those arrangements.

Unlike much of Port Jefferson village, which is suitable to walking, Bridgeport’s attractions  often require transportation. The Beardsley Zoo, for example, is located approximately two miles from the ferry pier. One option is to use shuttle buses, of which Hall said his company already operates two on the Connecticut side. Business leaders might also promote overnight stays between each area.

Overall, Bishop said he finds there is a greater connection between the two towns than many people realize.

“I have gotten to know a lot of people who grew up on Long Island … I have had very similar upbringings and outlooks and way of viewing things as people who grew up on Long Island,” he said. “I think the communities are so closely linked together. It’s almost mindblowing to me.”

 

One of the teams races to the finish line in Port Jefferson Harbor at last year’s festival.

Dragons will roar on the North Shore once again as the The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosts the 5th annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The free event will take place at Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park, 101A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson and the village’s inner harbor. 

The festival is the brainchild of Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, who attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years ago.

Opening ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m. and include a performance by the Asian Veterans Color Guard, singing of the National Anthem by Alanna Wu, a Blessing of the Dragon by Vajiradhammapadip Buddhist Temple Monks and an “Eye Dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragon.

Above, a lion dance is performed on the Main Lawn of the Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson as the crowd watches

This year’s event will consist of 34 teams with dragon boats provided by High Five Dragon Boat Co. With the first race scheduled for 9 a.m., boat teams will compete on a 250-meter race course, three-lane racing course. Each team is made up of 20 “paddlers,” one steersman and one drummer. Heats will run all day, culminating in an awards ceremony at 5 p.m. All race teams will have their own “encampment” along Harborfront Park as they are queuing up for their races. Team contests for the best team T-shirt and best costumed drummer will be judged in the middle of the day.

Spectators can easily view the race course from the park’s edge and pier. 

In addition to the races, there will be a day-long festival featuring numerous performances including the famous Lion Dance, Taiko and Korean Drum performances, martial arts demonstrations and Asian singing and instrumentals. New this year is a special Ribbon Dragon Dance and musicians playing the traditional Japanese stringed instruments, the Shamisen and Koto.

Various Asian delicacies will be offered from food vendors including veggie lo mein, sushi, Japanese drinks and snacks, BBQ, smoothies, bubble tea and acai bowls.

Children’s activities will be in abundance with traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, painting “dragon” eggs, visiting with a real live dragon, origami, trick yo-yo demonstrations and face painting. Come meet a Cosplay Iron Fist Character for photo opportunities. Adults can enjoy free chair massages, a bonsai display as well as free health screenings.

Special thanks to this year’s sponsors, which include HSBC; The Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University; Murphy’s Marine Service-PJ Sea Tow; New York Community Bank, Roslyn Savings Division; News12; Jet Sanitation; Times Beacon Record News Media; Quality King Construction; Danfords Hotel, Marina and Spa & The Waterview; Island Federal Credit Union; ServPro of Port Jefferson; The Gitto Group; and State Farm Agency — Patty Herbstman. 

Free shuttle buses provided by the Port Jeff Jitney will make frequent stops on Oakland Avenue next to the Port Jefferson train station, the CVS parking lot on Barnum Avenue and the northeast corner of Belle Terre Road and Myrtle Avenue to bring eventgoers to the Port Jefferson Village Center from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Bring a blanket or lawn chair and come enjoy the festivities. The event will be held rain or shine. For more information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.portjeffdragonracefest.com.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

7:45 a.m.  Team captains meeting on the Great Lawn at Harborfront Park

8:30 a.m.  Opening ceremonies

8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Food vendors, crafts, children activities, photo booth pictures, retail/educational/nonprofit vendor tables

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Continual Dragon Boat races in Port Jefferson’s Inner Harbor

9 a.m.  First races begin

9 a.m.  Students from Sts. Philip and James School sing the famous Chinese song Ba Ba Hao; Alice and Emily Snyder perform the “Liang Liang” dance; and a performance by the Long Island Chinese Dance Group

9:30 to 10:15 a.m.  Demonstration by Taiko Tides (Japanese percussion instruments/drumming); North Shore Youth Music Ensemble sing Chinese folk songs; Yiyuan Dance Group perform Chinese & Mongolian folk dances

10:15 to 11:15  a.m.  Performance by Lingyan Vocal Art Studio and The Sound of Long Island Chorus

11:15 to 11:45 a.m.  DDKY (Traditional Korean instruments); Yixin’s Dance Center perform Chinese classical and folk dances

11:45 a.m. Li Ping Zhang dance and Li na Liu dance performances

12 to 1 p.m.  Lunch break (no racing)

12 to 12:30 p.m.  Parade of the Team T-Shirt Contest and Best Drummer Costume Contest. 

12:30 p.m.  Long Island Waist Drum Club and Stony Brook Chinese School–Tai Chi

1 p.m. Dragon Boat races  continue

1 to 2 p.m.  Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu–lion dance, Kung Fu & Tai Chi demonstrations; Yana Dancing School performing the “Butterfly Lovers” dance

2 p.m. DDKY (Traditional Korean instruments)

2:30 p.m.  Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble perform Japanese Koto and Shamisen instruments

3 p.m.  Performance of Chinese dances by Yixin’s Dance Center 

3:30 p.m.  Demonstration by Taiko Tides (Japanese percussion instruments/drumming)

4 p.m. Martial arts demonstration by United Martial Arts Center

4:45 p.m.  Last Dragon Boat race of the day

5 to 5:30 p.m.  Closing ceremonies and awards

Making a difference together

By Heidi Sutton

Visit the Port Jefferson Free Library table at the 2018 Green Fest

Seeking to promote an eco-friendly environment and a “greener” lifestyle, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will sponsor its 10th annual Green Fest on Saturday,  June 16 from 1 to 5 p.m.

The free event will once again be held at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101 East Broadway — a most fitting venue as the community hub is the result of a recycling/renovation of the historic Bayles Shipyard Building — and will feature green market vendors throughout the first floor and outside if the weather is nice.

The annual festival began a decade ago with the goal to educate, inform, entertain and enlighten people on how to make smart choices for a greener world including being energy conscious as a way to reduce our carbon footprint.

Quality Shredding will be at the event.

This year’s highlight will be a community shredding event from 1 to 3:30 p.m. by Quality Shredding of Deer Park. “We wanted to make more of an impact and add another dimension to the event,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber. Residents and visitors can bring up to three bags or boxes of personal papers per person to be shredded for free. The mobile truck is capable of shredding up to 10,000 pounds of personal paper.

Entertainment will include a yoga class by Satya Yoga & Pilates Studio in Mount Sinai (mats will be provided), two spiritual drumming circles with shamanic drummer Peter Maniscalco and a performance by improvisational solo street guitarist Jeff Bellanca of Classic Jam  1. 

Children will enjoy visiting the Port Jefferson Free Library’s Green Teens table to make a craft using recycled materials and the Sweetbriar Nature Center’s table to see their resident critters. And if your stomach starts rumbling during the event, visit the Sweet Melissa 1932 Farm to Table food truck, specializing in organic nutritional cuisine.

SERVPRO of Port Jefferson will return to the festival this year.

Of course, no festival is complete without a diverse group of over 20 select vendors highlighting green products and services including renewable solar energy, electric/hybrid and smart cars, electric bikes with live demonstrations along with a mini-farmers market offering candles, flowers, plants, soaps, yarn and baked goods for sale. 

With so much going on, this family-friendly event is a great way to kick off the summer. Come on down and enjoy the day learning about methods that promote sustainable ways of living that will benefit our environment and planet and make our community a healthier place to live. The first 100 attendees will receive a free canvas bag, courtesy of SERVPRO of Port Jefferson. Making a difference begins with one small step (or fest) at a time.

Co-sponsored by Times Beacon Record News Media, Maggio Environmental Services and SERVPRO of Port Jefferson, the event will be held rain or shine. For more information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.portjeffgreenfest.com.

Photos courtesy of PJCC

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

By Desirée Keegan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Petroski contributed reporting

Kenyer Natural Bakery will return to the event this year.

Save the date! The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Dan’s Papers, will host its 10th annual The Taste @ Port Jefferson at the Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson overlooking the Harborfront Park and harbor on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m.

In celebrating this landmark anniversary, the chamber has reached out to the greater Port Jefferson restaurant community and will highlight over 30 restaurants and purveyors offering top-quality food tastings and desserts as well as samples of premium liquors, wines and beers. The event, for ages 21 and over, has been changed to a night venue, which creates new energy and features musical entertainment by the rock band New Life Crisis. In addition to the usual indoor setting, the event will spill outside under a 50- by 100-foot tent.

Try some delicious crepes from Crazy Crepe Café.

Participating food purveyors will include Amazing Olive, Bagel Express-Setauket, Bliss, Chick-fil-A at Port Jefferson, Crazy Crepe Café–Mount Sinai, Crazy Fish Bar & Gill, Curry Club, Danfords Wave Seafood Kitchen, Don Quijote, Dos Mexi Cuban Cantina, Kenyer Natural Bakery, Flying Pig Café, Land & Sea Seafood & Restaurant, Messina Market & Catering, Penntora Lao-Thai Catering, Port Jeff Lobster House, Slurp Ramen, Spiros Restaurant & Lounge, St. Charles Hospital, The Meadow Club and Tuscany of Miller Place.

Dessert samplings from A Cake in Time, East Main & Main, Kilwins of Port Jefferson and LaBonne Boulangerie Bakery will be offered along with beverage tastings from Starbucks, Port Jeff Brewing Company and Manhattan Beer.

Presenting sponsor this year will be New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, and chamber partner St. Charles Hospital will be highlighted as a silver sponsor. Other sponsors include BNB Bank, Farrell Storage and O’Brien Group, LLC, and the media sponsor is Dan’s Papers.

Tickets, which may be purchased online at www.tasteatportjeff.com, are $65 per person for general admission starting at 7 p.m. and $95 for VIP guests at 6 p.m., which includes early access by one hour, a special VIP lounge with tables and chairs, premium pours and desserts, VIP gift bag and special entertainment. For further details, call 631-473-1414.

Photos by Nicole Geddes