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Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

After a fire devasted The Meadow Club more than two years ago, the family behind Setauket’s The Curry Club and Port Jefferson’s SāGhar felt like their world was falling apart. 

Known for its weddings in Port Jefferson Station, and being a structure on Route 112 for more than five decades, the building has been fixed and revamped. It’s a whole new sight. 

The Meadow Club’s new look. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

“Our logo has always been a closed lotus, but the closed lotus represented the fire,” said Kiran Wadhwa, owner, creative director and event planner at the Meadow Club. “The lotus needs to open up and blossom — it represents rebirth, freshness and a peaceful, new environment.”

Wadhwa and her sister, Indu Kaur, took over the club in 2014. 

“We’re looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kaur said. “Two years ago, we thought we were done, but now we’re excited to bring our gem back to Suffolk County.”

The rebirth of The Meadow Club began after Kaur got the call her venue was a blaze in the early morning of July of 2018. Since then, she and her team had been working hard to get the property back in shape. “This is our legacy,’ Wadhwa said. “We want to leave this behind to our kids.”

But because the venue was so old and outdated, the process took longer than they initially thought. Kaur and Wadhwa had to redo the roof as well as add new air conditioners, sprinkler systems, floors and bathrooms. The permits prior to renovation were also outdated.

“We thought of everything,” Wadhwa said. “Everything we had issues with inside the old building, we fixed.”

Which worked in their favor. Although they didn’t disclose when the grand opening date is, construction is almost done and they’re starting to book weddings for 2021 and 2022.

“Everything is literally brand new,” Wadhwa said. “We build the new COVID guidelines into our construction.”

When one walks through the front door of the new Meadow Club, they are greeted with white walls and marble floors. Several crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings in each room and the staircase, which was formerly to the right-hand side, now expands on the left. A waterfall is located at the bottom of the stairs, and a live-moss wall sits above it. They added handicap accessible restrooms to the space, redoing everything. 

The Meadow Club’s former look before its fire. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

There are other changes, as well, including COVID-friendly additions the family made to their venue. Each of the three ballrooms now has their own exits and there is a new outdoor patio full of flowers and evergreens. Owners also installed sanitation stations throughout the property and have planned for sanitizing after each and every event. 

“We don’t want anyone to get sick,” Kaur said. “And we don’t want them to feel unsafe.”

As for the food, they are changing up the menu. They are adding a new chef who specializes in fine Italian cuisine, but also offer Pakistani and Indian food. They also made their kitchen completely Kosher. 

“We’re the only catering hall that offers Halal, Pakistani, Italian and Indian,” Wadhwa said. 

Although for now weddings must be at the 50-person limit, with no mingling, dancing or cocktail hour, the family said they are excited to bring this whole new space to couples walking down the aisle next year and beyond.

A family-owned business, they want their brides to feel special. 

“We’re accommodating and flexible,” Kaur said. “We personalize to each brides’ different needs.”

“I wait for the gasp,” Wadhwa added about the current tours they’re offering. “And I love seeing the look on their faces. The venue is brand new, clean and safe. It’ll be every brides’ dream come true.”

Completely redone by Ronkonkoma-based BELFOR Property Restoration, Project Manager Scott Sommerville said redoing the venue has been a journey. 

“It’s been the most wonderful transition from old to new,” he said. “We resurrected it.”

The Modell's Sporting Goods store in Miller Place closed earlier this year during the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Officials are looking to stave off even more closures during the coronavirus' second wave. Photo by Kyle Barr

The second punch from the resurgent virus, which has already caused an increase in positive tests in Suffolk County, may soon also connect with small businesses.

Determined to help the economic engine of many communities throughout the county survive through the winter months when people may be stuck indoors, an initiative started in the spring called Suffolk Forward is expanding.

With financial support from Bank of America, the effort, which started with consulting, technology and think tank ideas, will expand to 200 to 300 companies in the coming months.

Suffolk Forward taps into the expertise of Dave Calone, Chief Executive Officer of Jove Equity Partners, Dr. Manuel London, the Dean of the College of Business at Stony Brook University, Tom Moebus of the Shift Group and Bob Isakson, Long Island Market President for Bank of America.

“This time, right now, when our Suffolk County businesses and Long Island businesses are at their most vulnerable spot, with the failure of the federal government to come up with legislation that would help small businesses” said Calone on a conference call with reporters. Without a federal Paycheck Protection Program to fall back on, efforts like Suffolk Forward become increasingly important, he added.

Suffolk Forward has a job board, a virtual expert network that is staffed by professors at the Stony Brook University College of Business and a gift card platform that helps support local businesses.

“People would spend a lot of money to get consulting like this,” Calone said. “Local businesses have the opportunity for free to tap into these experts.”

Calone said he is “excited to expand the pandemic shift workshop” from the few dozen companies so far to a few hundred in the coming months.

Moebus of the Shift Group said some of the breakout sessions in these work groups include four, 90-minute interactions.

“Business owners are very clever [but] they run out of ideas for themselves,” Moebus said. In these interactions, they “work together and create new ideas and develop creative solutions for each other.”

These efforts help “rebuild Main Street through one of these zoom groups at a time,” Moebus added.

The sessions also are available to chambers of commerce, which help them operate differently, particularly in a challenging, fluid and changing setting.

Interested business owners can sign up for workshops through shiftgroup.com/pandemic-shift or at the Stony Brook College of Business web site, College of Business Programs Offered | College of Business.

County Exeutive Steve Bellone (D) thanked the participants for their efforts and highlighted the importance of these sessions for business owners and for the future economic survival of the county.

“We want to continue the incredible progress we’ve made from the time when we were at the epicenter of this epidemic to where we are today,” Bellone said. “As these numbers continue to surge, we put at risk not only public health, but our economic recovery.”

Parents from all over Long Island have the hard decision of what to do with their kids on Halloween, whether going out trick-or-treating or finding something else to do. Stock photo

By Angela Palumbo

Halloween is looking scarier than ever on Long Island this year. Parents, costume shop owners, and even seasonal event planners have had to come up with new ways of having a successful holiday, all while dealing with the consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Halloween events have had to change their programs to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which has been a challenge. Seasonal businesses, including local ones, that usually thrive around Halloween have seen a decrease in customers. Local Facebook groups such as “Mom’s Group – Long Island” and “Northport Moms” are filled with posts questioning whether or not it’s safe to send their children trick or treating this year.

With the number of people infected on the rise nationally, the CDC has released a list of low risk Halloween activities to do this year to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This list has been a guide for local families who, despite the dangers, wish to celebrate Halloween.

Ronald Diamond, in front of his store, Ronjos Magic Shop, in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from Diamond

Costume stores and festive events are depending on the continuation of this holiday to stay afloat, and parents are determined to bring their children a fun and safe time.

Local Costume Stores

Ronald Diamond, longtime owner of Ronjos Magic Shop in Port Jefferson Station, has changed the way his business runs to ensure safety for himself and his customers.

“We have been health conscious for 46 years,” Diamond said. “Right now, the status quo is that there are no try-ons. You cannot try on a costume here anymore. We’re putting a pause on that until we get the clearance and the world is safe, and then we can go back to maybe trying on, or we’ll just continue to keep that, at this point.”

With the changes Diamond has made to his store, which also doubles as a CBD wellness shop, he has not yet seen a change in business this year.

“Right now, it’s too premature to tell, because people wait until the last second to make their purchases,” Diamond said. “The consensus that I got is people are having a party, and they are taking their children trick or treating. Is there a percentage that may not have a party? Yes. How big that percentage is, I won’t know until Nov. 5.”

With the pandemic being a concern for many costume shoppers, Diamond recommends purchasing a cloth face mask that matches the costume people are wearing, to avoid contact with the public.

“This way, you are still wearing a mask and you’re protected, and you can go to the party safely,” he said.

Ronjos is not the only local costume business that has had to change the way they function this season.

Last year, Costume America in Farmingdale rented out around 30 to 40 costumes for Halloween, an important season for their bottom line. So far this year, they have seen 10 rentals.

Costume America in Farmingdale has seen a significant drop in sales due to the pandemic. Photo from Costume America’s Facebook

“It was an extremely busy year last year,” said Shelly Brennan, office manager at Costume America. “The Halloween business did very well”

Not only has Costume America seen a drop in business since last year’s Halloween season, they also had to make changes to the way their store runs in order to try to keep up with CDC guidelines.

“If it’s busy in the store, there’s a sign that says not to come in and please call us,” Brennan said. “When people try on the clothes, we have to air everything out and wash it all.”

Spooky Long Island Events

The Spooky Walk is an annual fundraiser located in Center Moriches and has been around for 31 years. The event runs for two weekends in October; Oct 16 and 17, and Oct 23 and 24. The Halloween event is attended by thousands of locals annually.

The Spooky Walk’s goal is to raise money for Camp Paquatuck, a day camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Each year, this event has brought in the most money of all the fundraisers Camp Paquatuck hosts. With the importance of this fundraiser in mind, the executive director of the camp, Alyssa Pecorino, and the camps board of directors, has made it their mission to ensure the Spooky Walks remains, while following CDC guidelines.

“The Spooky Walk was created by the Paquatuck Squaws, which is a group of women who do nothing but raise money for the camp, which is amazing,” Pecorino said. “I think they made $1,000 the first year they did it.”

Now, the Spooky Walk covers a majority of Camp Paquatuck’s operating cost, with last year bringing in $240,000.

This year, with the pandemic changing the way all events run, the Spooky Walk was no exception. Instead of patrons walking through the campgrounds and being approached by volunteers dressed in costumes, the Spooky Walk has transformed into the “Spooky Drive Through.”

“Obviously we can’t have everybody together in a large crowd going through the entire camp,” Pecorino said. “This year we had to come up with something that allowed people to still do it, but in a safe way, and the idea was to have everybody come through in a car. This is the safest possible way to do it.”

Camp Paquatuck in Center Moriches normally hosts a Spooky Walk fundraising drive for Halloween, but has had to change this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Changing the way a 31-year-old event runs did come with its challenges. How successful it will be could be impacted by the necessities of keeping people distanced.
“Normally, we get thousands of people who come through and they pay individually,” Pecorino said. “This year is by carload. Last year it was 20 dollars a person, this year it’s 45 dollars a car, so obviously the amount we expect to generate is going to be less. I’m not sure how much is going to come in, but realistically speaking we’re hoping for half, at least.”

Even though the camp is aware they may not make as much on fundraising at this year’s Spooky Walk compared to years prior, there has been an obvious demand for tickets and participation in the community.

“The first weekend it got very crowded. The last weekend we sold less tickets to make sure people don’t wait in line for three hours to get in,” Pecorino said. “There’s so many people that were excited to get in and participate.”

Long Island Parents

Long Island parents have been trying to decide how they will celebrate Halloween with their children since the beginning of October. Even though there may be disagreements on whether or not it is safe to go trick or treating this year, they all agree that they want their children to have an enjoyable, safe holiday.

Dee Santiago, a single mother to her almost three-year-old son Logan from Patchogue, will not be taking her son trick or treating this year.

“We will be doing an at home scavenger hunt and pumpkin carving,” Santiago said. “I feel like if he was older, maybe I’d try to figure a way out to allow him to go trick or treating, but since he is so much younger, I feel like he doesn’t get too much out of it anyway.”

Santiago stresses the importance of keeping her son safe during the pandemic, but also creating a state of normalcy around her home.

“We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

— Dawn Miller-Silke

“During a pandemic I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but I’m trying to make things as normal as possible,” Santiago said. “It’s hard. Not much is available for Holidays.”

Santiago is not the only mother keeping her child home this year. Nicole Oluwatoyin Lucas, from Baldwin, has a 13-month-old son who she will not take trick or treating on Halloween.

“My whole house had the virus when it first came out and I kept my son and myself healthy this whole time,” Lucas said. “I hope everyone who does it [trick or treat] is careful and safe.”

However, there are Long Island mothers who plan on taking their children out trick or treating this year. Both Dawn Miller-Silke of Kings Park and Jessica Joy Landsman of Lindenhurst want their children to experience as normal a Halloween as possible.

“This isn’t going away anytime soon,” Miller-Silke said. “So, we have a choice. Live, or don’t. We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

Landsman will be taking her son Brayden out, but is keeping limitations on the Halloween experience.

“He really wants to go trick or treating, so I’m going to take him just to a few houses,” she said “Then, we will go home and give out candy. I still want him to experience Halloween and have fun dressing up. I’m going to try to make him wear a mask. My husband and I will be wearing a mask. As for giving out candy, I was thinking of giving them in little baggies or making a small little ghost hunt for the kids. But then again, we don’t know if kids will be trick or treating.”

COVID-19 has put an obvious damper on the Halloween spirit, but the community on Long Island isn’t letting that bring them down. Whether its events, costumes, or trick or treating, the celebration will continue, safely.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting. 

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PJ Cinemas in Port Jefferson Station has been closed for over seven months, but now the owner finally has the chance to reopen. Photo by Kyle Barr

After more than seven months being shuttered, PJ Cinemas is looking to have people back in their seats Friday, Oct. 30.

It’s something that’s been a long time coming for Phil Solomon, the owner of the Port Jefferson Station-based theater. The local cinema had to close down in March due to COVID-19. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made the announcement that movie theaters could open again at 25% capacity starting Oct. 23.

Solomon said his theater is going heavy with new filters, including MERV 13 filters, but also new HVAC ductwork units that purifies the air in each individual theater.  

“Not only is it doing what Governor Cuomo has asked but it goes beyond that,” the theater owner said. “We’re doing this to keep the public and especially our staff safe.”

All staff are mandated to wear face masks and face shields. The theater will also be added tempered glass barriers around the box office and concession stands, both on the main floor and upstairs. Each barrier is given a mahogany wood border that Solomon said makes it look like the place “has been built this way.” 

Capacity is limited for each of the seven theater rooms. There will be stanchions to mark which seats are available and which are not. Every other row will be blocked off, and in between showings the occupied row will be sanitized. While each row is cleaned, the seats originally blocked off will be made available for the next showing.

The question of what movies would be available once theaters could reopen was something that has dogged the theater owner for months. However, his booker gave Solomon the good news there were several available, including “Come Play,” “The War with Grandpa,” “Honest Thief,” 

 “Tenet” and “On the Rocks.” He said despite everything it’s a good selection, including a Robert De Nero flick (“Grandpa”), which often gets butts in seats, and Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller (“Tenet”) that originally came out earlier this year, but never aired in New York.

“Right now, product is a big issue because distributors are not moving a lot of the product for six months or a year,” Solomon said. The seventh screen remains unused, and Solomon said they are waiting to see what can be used to fill that space. 

Of course, all this work won’t help unless people come back to the theater. Solomon went by the old proverb of “book it, and they will come,” and he’s “hoping it works now — we’re giving it our best shot.”

It’s been a difficult few months since he was made to close, saying it had been “frightening.” After he closed he had to furlough his workforce. He said he was able to apply for and get a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which he used to pay a few employees and use the rest to pay for intervening costs. Though even if he wanted to open in that time, there were very few new movies coming out to show.

“A hamburger store could be told, ‘OK, you can open,’ and they have hamburgers,” Solomon said. “We were like the hamburger store that had no hamburgers, we would have none to sell to the public.”

Because of the slate of movies on offer, he said it’s working out better than he originally feared. The man is known for recording entertaining voicemail descriptions of each movie on offer when people call up the theater, with his recognizable, “Heeeeyyyy,” being the first thing they hear. Now, moviegoers will get the opportunity to hear it again. The theater purchased large signs to put out on the road to let people know PJ Cinemas is open again. On the front window of the theater there’s now a sign reading “Heyyyyy! Reopening Fri, Oct. 30!”

“The community appreciates us as an asset, and we appreciate the community,” he said.

Bob and Nancy Hendrick inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

After traveling throughout the country, Bob and Nancy Hendrick knew where their next stop would be — Port Jefferson at Lighthouse Landing. 

Everything inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery (or TAAG for short), is made in the USA. 

Both artists themselves, Bob Hendrick said that while traveling cross-country to and from California, the pair has seen a lot of talent that is often underappreciated. 

“With big-box stores, we often lose sight of the great people in our country who produce great work,” he said, “But there are people out there with talent who deserve the recognition.” 

The Kings Park couple said they have always loved Port Jefferson and wanted to become more involved with the village. Originally, they thought to open a pop-up shop for the goods to sell but decided on a whim to fill a vacant space at 14 East Broadway in Lighthouse Landing.

After about a month of planning, they officially opened their doors earlier this month. 

Inside the store are all handmade gifts and fine art from local to national artisans. 

“We seek out specific items,” he said. “And we want to give the opportunity for local artists to come by and show and sell their work.”

TAAG does custom work, as well, on-site.

While everything inside the Hendricks’ shop is made in America, they want it to be known they are huge supporters of those who have risked their lives keeping the country and its people safe. 

“We’re heavily involved in supporting military, police, firefighters and first responders because they mean a lot to us and to the community,” he said. “We like to give back to those who serve.”

One way they are giving back is by honoring different heroes every week. During the month of September, they offered 20 percent off purchases to firemen, healthcare workers and police officers, thanking them for their service. This week they honored military vets with an extra 10 percent discount.

The back part of the store is dedicated to veterans with its “Wall of Heroes.” The Hendricks encourage customers who have served to come in and sign their names within the stars that decorate the wall. Nancy’s father’s folded burial flag hangs upon them. 

And although they are new, the couple is excited to bring their own art and the art of others to downtown. Up until Oct. 15, TAAG is hosting a contest in honor of the upcoming election and will be creating a painting based on ideas that people in the community can submit. The winning idea will be created on a canvas, and the winner will be presented with the first number framed print.

“We have lot of things in mind for the future,” he said. “We want to support the area.”

TAAG is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

Stock photo

AMF Smithtown Lanes, located at 200 Landing Ave., Smithtown has closed its doors after 60 years in business. The announcement was made their on Facebook page Sept. 2.“We appreciate all of your loyalty and support over the years,” the business wrote and urged bowlers to visit AMF Centereach Lanes and Bowlero Sayville.

From left: Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and former Congressman Steve Israel. Photo from Bellone’s office

During the initial months of the pandemic, Long Island lost jobs at a faster rate than New York City, New York state or anywhere else in the nation, according to a new report from Nassau and Suffolk counties with city-based consulting firm HR&A Advisors.

Long Islanders suffered the twin blows of the public health impact, and economic destruction. Long Island lost 270,000 jobs, or 21.9 percent of non-farm payroll employment, compared with a rate of 20.1 percent for New York City.

“This pandemic has caused hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders to lose their jobs, shuttered businesses and turned our local economy upside down,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. He and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) held a press conference in Melville July 9 where they cited this report, which “makes clear that federal aid from Congress is necessary if our region is going to rebound and recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Bellone added.

The impact was particularly brutal for people with low-paying jobs, lower levels of education and among the Hispanic population.

The worst, however, is not over, as total job losses on Long Island are expected to reach 375,000 compared to pre-COVID levels. Net job losses are expected to continue through 2021 as well, albeit at a slower pace.

More than two out of three jobs lost were in sectors that pay less than the regional average annual wage of $61,600.

The area that lost the highest number of jobs, across Suffolk and Nassau, was hospitality, which shed 82,000 jobs. Health care and social assistance lost 59,000 jobs and retail lost 52,000.

The job decline in hospitality was especially problematic for Hispanic workers, who are disproportionately represented in those businesses. Hispanic workers represent 27 percent of the hospitality field, while they are a smaller 17 percent of the overall Long Island workforce.

Although workers with a high school diploma or below constitute 62 percent of the workforce, they represented 73 percent of the viral-related job losses, reflecting the disparate effect of the virus.

The overall effect of these job losses will result in a decline of $21 billion in earnings for Long Island workers and $61 billion in economic activity throughout the area.

The report suggested that economic recovery would occur in several waves, with some industries showing an increase in jobs much more rapidly than others. Finance and insurance, management of companies and enterprises, professional and technical services, government and information jobs will likely see 95 percent of jobs return within six months, by the first quarter of next year.

The second wave includes jobs in real estate, retail, administrative and waste services, agriculture, construction and utilities, education, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, wholesale trade and other services. Within a full year, 85 percent of those jobs will return.

The third wave will take the longest and will bring back the fewest jobs. Accommodation and food services, transportation and warehousing, and arts, entertainment and recreation will take two years to restore 75 percent of the jobs on Long Island that predated COVID-19.

Half of all businesses in Suffolk County closed temporarily during the virus. An estimated 1 percent of those businesses closed permanently.

One-third of industrial businesses on Long Island are at risk of closing.

The report also projects that earning and spending losses may be even higher in 2021 from a slow recovery within some sectors and from expiring unemployment benefits.

Along with the two county executives, the report urged the federal government to pass the HEROES Act, which provides $375 billion in budgetary relief for local governments. The act passed the House, but the Senate has yet to address it.

The report urged an extension of benefits for workers and businesses and an increase in federal infrastructure funds. The report also sought federal relief for small businesses, while supporting new business development and helping businesses recover. Finally, it seeks assistance for states and counties for workforce development, job training and equity initiatives.

From left, Port Jeff chamber president Mary Joy Pipe, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Salon Blonde owner Melissa Hanley, Mayor Margot Garant celebrate the start of Phase Two reopening June 10. Photo by Kyle Barr

With Phase Two reopening coming to fruition Wednesday, June 10, Port Jefferson village has looked for several ways for business owners to get their wares and services outside.

Debra Bowling, owner of Pasta Pasta in Port Jeff, set up tables outside for Phase Two reopening. Photo by Kyle Barr

Village officials have already talked about setting up areas in parking lots to allow for more outdoor dining space. At its June 1 meeting, the village voted to waive all dining table application fees for the upcoming season. Mayor Margot Garant said the village has been working with a host of restaurants to figure out how they may go about offering outdoor services. 

The mayor said the village is allowing space for restaurants who normally have no space for outdoor dining in right-of-ways, walkways and parking lots.

By midday Wednesday, the town was jiving. With a steady stream of cars rolling down Main Street, and with customers sitting under canopy eating outdoors, many owners said Phase Two was turning out to be a much better scenario than Phase One.

During a tour of Suffolk downtowns, including Port Jeff, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the difference in allowing construction in the first reopening phase and allowing salons or outdoor dining has been significant.

“After going through an unprecedented event, these are the activities that give people a sense of normalcy,” Bellone said. 

Restaurants are setting up in formerly public places, such as Ruvo East and Old Fields which are laying tents in the space behind their restaurants. C’est Cheese and The Pie are also doing outside dining behind the main building on Main Street. Prohibition Kitchen will be using the parking lot behind its building as well.

Manager of The Pie, Jessica Janowicz, said though they will be setting up a tent behind the business Friday, each week has seen a slow progression in sales. Wednesday showed a big difference, with a steady stream of customers doing takeout since the place opened. 

Other restaurants will be using pedestrian walkways for its outdoor space, including Salsa Salsa, which will have some space in the alleyway next to the shop. Pasta Pasta and Toast Coffeehouse are laying out tables at the top of the stairway along East Main Street.

Debra Bowling, the owner of Pasta Pasta, thanked the Port Jeff chamber and the village for working so quickly with permits and signage. Her restaurant now has several tables and a flower box in front of her shop, and in over 30 years of working there, it’s the first time she has seen it do outdoor dining.

Alana Miletti of Fame and Rebel speaks about Phase Two with County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Kyle Barr

Some restaurants that have access to the outside, including Nantuckets, Gourmet Burger Bistro, The Steam Room and SaGhar, will use their current outdoor space as long as it can be open up to the sky. Danfords has its outdoor space on its dock and now has an agreement with the Town of Brookhaven for some use of the Mary Bayles Waterfront Park.  

A member of the village fire marshals did not respond to requests for comment about guidelines for safety in walkable areas.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce released a letter dated June 5 to the Village of Port Jefferson mayor and trustees asking that retailers be allowed some latitude for “outdoor merchandising.”

“The consumer would have the ability to ‘shop’ in a less confined area and the retailer would be creating more opportunities for sales,” the letter states. 

Director of operations for the chamber Barbara Ransome said she has had positive feedback from village trustees on the proposal. 

Garant said they are working up guidelines that should be released sometime on Wednesday, but those were not available by press time. Retailers will have the option to have a table in front of their shops, but they will need to keep 3 feet of sidewalk clear and ensure that they do not block doorways or fire exits, as mandated by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for outdoor dining. 

Code Enforcement will be inspecting businesses and restaurants to ensure they’re not blocking too much of the curb or that they’re adhering to the CDC distancing guidelines. 

“We’re trying to keep it so that it’s nice looking and it’s not an overload of stuff,” Garant said. 

Alana Miletti, the owner of the boutique shop Fame and Rebel, said she has survived in the grueling months of the pandemic thanks to her active social media helping facilitate online orders. Though on Wednesday she said with customers able to browse, even in a limited capacity, she had not had a moment’s rest fulfilling orders since the store opened.

“People couldn’t wait to come out,” she said.

Now with Phase Two salons and haircutters are finally able to open. Melissa Hanley, the owner of Salon Blonde, said she managed to survive during the nearly three full months she was shut down thanks to federal loans. Being back in action, however, means a world of difference.

“It’s been scary — we’ve been struggling a little bit,” Hanley said. “It’s such a relief. This is my life so, to be back in business, I’ve waited a long time for it.”

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Game On owner Tristan Whitworth plays a video game with a child. Photo from Tristan Whitworth

By Leah Chiappino

Despite his business facing its own financial struggles, Tristan Whitworth, the owner of #GameOn Video Games, with locations in Smithtown and Miller Place, is donating a $1,500 grant to a neighboring small business.

The Shoreham resident made the announcement on #GameOn’s Facebook page June 2.

“We would like to help. Here is our story; let’s hear yours,” the post reads. “We did 10% of our normal sales through the store during the quarantine and we were lucky and appreciative for even that. In fact, we were one of the lucky small businesses that were able to make it through this unscathed because we were able to sell our products online. Many local businesses were not so lucky … These are not people trying to make millions, but people just trying to support their families. I know $1,500 isn’t a lot, but it’s what we can give and [the grant] may help someone [in a big way].”

#GameOn, which first opened its Miller Place location in 2015, specializes in the buying and selling of retro video games, action figures and collectibles. This isn’t the first time the local business has given back to the community. A 2017 TBR News Media Person of the year, Whitworth has previously hosted several game nights for special needs children, all for free.

When approached for an interview, Whitworth humbly said he didn’t think the grant was “a big deal.”

“I was just driving to work one day, and saw the roads were empty, no one was out, and I saw vacant signs for rent — everywhere,” he said. “I don’t know it, it just hit me.” He was then contacted by a former high school classmate, Elizabeth Vogel, Elizabeth Vogel, who agreed to match the grant using funds from the Frank and Deborah Giving Tree, a memorial fund in honor of her parents.

“We were pretty poor, when we grew up,” she said. “We were on welfare and food stamps and all of that, but my parents, no matter what they had, were always giving to everybody. My dad would have given you the shirt off his back or his last dollar.”

Whitworth will decide on a winner of the grant in the coming days.

People in Port Jefferson line up to eat at Prohibition Kitchen, doing their best to stay six feet apart. Photo by Kyle Barr

After two months of shutdown, area businesses were given the go-ahead to restart operations when Suffolk County reached Phase One of the state’s reopening process. It is the first of four phases as state officials slowly lift restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

For many storefronts, it is the first step on the path to recovery. Here’s how things are going for a few retailers in Port Jefferson. 

Renee Goldfarb, owner of Origin of Era boutique in Port Jefferson, said it’s been a delicate balance of making sure they are operating safely and trying to make some revenue again. For select retailers like hers, they are limited as of now to only curbside pickup. 

“We’ve encouraged our customers to check out our online store and if they like a certain item they can email, and we’ll have it ready for them at the door,” she said. “It’s been difficult because we are very hands on, we want the customer to be able to try on a piece but we’re limited on what we can do.”

Goldfarb hopes owners can eventually make up for some of their losses. But she also took issue with how the state handled big retailers remaining open.  

“Do I think it was implemented the right way? I don’t think so,” she said. “I understand Walmart and Target sell essential products, but people were also able to buy nonessential items. That completely puts mom-and-pop shops at a disadvantage. They should have closed that area off [to customers during the shutdown].”

Abby Buller, who runs the Village Boutique in Port Jefferson, said sales have been slow the first few days open. On Memorial Day weekend, a time when the businesses thrive with the influx of people, Buller said she only saw about six people walking the streets. 

“There was no one on the streets, why should they come to a town where they can’t go shopping. This is a shopping and eating town,” she said. “The bars are closed; the restaurants are only allowing pickup. Right now, there is no reason for the Connecticut people to come and take the ferry — there’s nothing to do once you get here.”

With eight weeks of no income coming in, the boutique owner is glad she can start bringing in some sales. She was also frustrated with how the state handled the initial shutdown restrictions and agreed with Goldfarb.. 

“What they’ve done to small businesses is ridiculous,” she said. “From the beginning they allowed Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s to sell nonessential products,” Buller said. “The fact that they were allowed to stay open during this time and make more money is disgusting, small businesses have been suffering.” 

Brookhaven officials have spoken out on the issue. 

“I am very concerned about the prospects for the future of our small businesses,” said Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), at a recent press conference. “We need to be safe and we need to be smart, but we don’t need rules that work against mom-and-pop businesses when there’s no reason to do that. I ask the governor and county executive to take action now and help our small businesses and downtowns fully reopen again.”

The comments came after recommendations from the town’s post-COVID-19 task force looking at economic recovery. Members of the committee said the state’s plan has favored big box stores.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) had similar sentiments. 

“We are asking the state to take a different approach when reopening businesses and use a more objective standard, such as the square footage recommendation made by the town a few weeks ago,” she said. “This will place our small businesses on more equal footing with the other larger and big box businesses.”

With Phase Two close by, owners will have to continue to obey social distancing guidelines. Retailers will be required to limit capacity. Patrons and workers are also required to wear masks.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and owner of East End Shirt Company is trying to make the best of their current situation as they look towards phase two. 

“Sales have been near zero, though we’ve had some customers,” she said. “But it’s important right now to be open, present and let people know we’re here.”

Going into phase two, Pipe will be changing the interior of the store to meet social distancing guidelines. Masks and the use of hand sanitizers will be required. 

“I think many of us look forward to starting a on a new page, looking back is painful,” she said. “We’re grateful to the community, they’ve had us in their minds and we feel that.”

In addition, once Phase Two begins, Goldfarb may implement an appointment-only model where up to six people can be in the store at a given time. She is also considering private shopping experiences. 

“My store is 700 square feet, we’re in a confined space. I’ll be requiring customers to wear masks until I feel it is comfortable to stop,” Goldfarb said. “I may lose customers but it’s our responsibility to be safe.”