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Business

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has declared a shutdown of all businesses in New York. File photo by Sara Meghan Walsh

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced earlier today that he is shutting down all businesses that are not considered essential starting this Sunday evening.

Businesses that will remain open include grocery stores and pharmacies, among others.

At a press conference, Cuomo said, “this is the most drastic action we can take,” adding these provisions will be enforced.

“These are not helpful hints,” he said. “These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

He tackled misconceptions among younger people. He said bad information includes the perception that young people can’t get it or that young people can’t transmit it if they’re not symptomatic. Those are both “factually wrong,” Cuomo said. He cited that 20 percent of coronavirus cases are from people ages 20 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 56th Governor of the Empire State said non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are canceled at this time.

To protect those most at risk, Cuomo is also announcing Matilda’s Law to protect New Yorkers who are over 70 years old with compromised immune systems. He urges them to remain indoors, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, and require visitors to wear masks and remain six feet away from others. He strongly discouraged people in this group from taking public transportation, “unless urgent and absolutely necessary.”

He is also implementing a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.

“I understand that may affect businesses negatively and I’ve spoken to a number of them,” Cuomo said. “I know that we’re going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don’t put them out of their house.”

Cuomo said the order was definitely not a “shelter-in-place” order, but rather was a way to “tighten the valve” on the density of the population, reducing the risk of exposure and contagion.

Suffolk Legislator Susan Berland was at the head of changing ban the box legislation. File photo

The Suffolk County Legislature voted overwhelmingly March 17 to pass a piece of legislation that “bans the box” and restricts employers from asking about criminal histories in job applications.

The new law aims to allow those with criminal convictions to have more employment opportunities without the stigma of past criminal history. In addition, supporters of the bill have said that it would help those individuals rehabilitate and reacclimate into society. 

“There were a lot of hoops that were unnecessary, though we all agreed that we wanted to take the question off the application.”

— Susan Berland

County legislators have been trying to pass ban-the-box legislation since last year, but the latest breakthrough came late last month when lawmakers announced they had reached a bipartisan agreement on a new amended piece of legislation. Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) sponsored the bill, while Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) and Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) were co-sponsors. 

“This law allows applicants with criminal records to have the opportunity to get their foot in the door, have that face-to-face with an employer and get that interview,” Berland said. 

In addition, the law gives the applicant the chance to address their criminal history with a prospective employer earlier if they choose to and protects the employer’s right to investigate the backgrounds of its applicants after an initial interview.

Berland said the new amended legislation protects both sides. She believed previous versions of the bill placed too much onus on employers, requiring them to wait an extended period of time until they could inquire about an applicant’s arrest or conviction record, and disclose to applicants the reason why they were not hired. 

“There were a lot of hoops that were unnecessary, though we all agreed that we wanted to take the question off the application,” the legislator said. 

Advocates have said Suffolk County has one of the largest parole populations in the state and that one in three adults have a criminal record in the U.S. According to PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, the FBI considers anyone who has been arrested on a felony to have a criminal record, even without a conviction. Effectively, one in three adults in the U.S. have a criminal record, but far less have actually been convicted. 

Supporters of the bill have said the ban would afford people a second chance, instead of having their applications discarded on the basis of one answer. Also, it would reduce the stigma and bias associated with individuals with a criminal background. Suffolk County will join more than 150 municipalities and 35 states in the U.S. which have implemented ban-the-box laws. 

“You can’t help but be affected by their stories,” Berland said. “These people have made mistakes, but they want to turn their lives around.”

Co-sponsor McCaffrey said in a statement that individuals deserve an opportunity to put their best foot forward in a job interview without being automatically disqualified. He said the legislation “strikes a fair balance.”

Gonzalez, the other co-sponsor, said he believes access to gainful employment will improve the quality of life for people with criminal records and the communities in which they live, ultimately reducing recidivism and increasing public safety. 

“We have been working on this legislation for quite some time — it’s a good day,” Berland said. “These are people that want to better themselves as well as families. This will get them in the door based on their application.”

The Huntington-based Main St. Board Game Cafe has had to let staff go in the hopes of surviving. They are still selling board games to-go. Photo from Board Game Cafe Facebook

By Kyle Barr and Leah Chiappino

As Monday rolled around this week, and as local businesses were looking to find ways to attract customers during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a new order handed down by New York State put most of those considerations on hold.

On Monday, March 16, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered many nonessential businesses to shut down, or in the case of restaurants, to lessen foot traffic and only allow takeout orders and deliveries.

PJ Cinemas has closed due to the state’s coronavirus mandates. Photo from Google Maps

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” Cuomo said. “I have called on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence, we are taking this on ourselves.”

New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey will all be limiting social meetings of any sort to 50 people. Movie theaters, gyms and casinos were closed starting at 8 p.m. Monday.

The governor also announced restaurants and bars will be closed to sit down service and would need to refocus on takeout.

PJ Cinemas already announced closure until they, “receive further guidance from state, local and federal authorities.” All ticket sales will stay valid until they reopen.

Local elected officials said the restrictions were due to people’s reports that numerous bars had high activity over the weekend, despite warnings.

“We are discussing ways to make sure that it is enforced,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “We expect bars and restaurants will comply … by and large we’ve had great compliance from people.”

Businesses and local business groups took the news with a mix of understanding and worry. Most understood the reason why the state has taken such drastic measures but could hardly fathom how this might impact them long term. The change could not just mean shuttered businesses for the next few weeks, but permanent closures.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses are the “lifeblood of the community,” and times such as these require the community to come out in support, whether it’s ordering takeout from restaurants or buying vouchers or gift certificates.

The difficulties will be severe. As people are asked to stay home, some away from work, less will have money to spend. She said service businesses, including plumbers, carpenters and the like, will be hard hit since less have the money to spend.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the PJS/T Chamber president, said local businesses will be hit hard by the state mandates. File Photo

“Businesses need as much positive reinforcement as possible,” Dzvonar said.

She added businesses also often sponsor Little Leagues or other community events, so while the governor’s order is in effect such groups may have to go without for the time being.

Other chamber leaders in the area wrote quickly to members to try and offer assistance. 

Gary Pollakusky, the president of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said he is especially worried about businesses shutting down permanently. 

“When we look at our small businesses as the lifeblood of our communities, we should be focused on our mom and pop shops, more than ever in this time of need,” he said.

Jane Taylor, the executive director of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants providing takeout meals is a good bridge until business returns to normal, but, “There is no question that our local businesses and restaurants are going to face challenges.” 

Northport Chamber of Commerce President James Izzo says the impact of the restrictions on the village could be devastating.

“Small businesses especially are trying to keep their [employees] paid, and it’s difficult to do that with no money coming in,” he said.

He added most village restaurants are trying to focus on takeout, removing or making their seating inaccessible. Most are trying to deliver food, which can be expensive.

“There’s two sides to this,” Izzo said. “You have some people who are afraid to come out who need food, need to eat and need supplies, and you have other people that want to come down, but everything is so limited. We have bars, but they don’t serve food, and you can’t have more than 10 people in a space, so that’s a done deal.”

Some boutique stores are open, but most are trying to supplement the lack of foot traffic with online shopping.

Izzo said that the village was quiet with minimal traffic Tuesday afternoon, while Sunday was busy with foot traffic.

“You can’t make a living one day a week,” he said. “We are a seasonal community and businesses depend on this time of the year after a long cold dark winter.”

He said the mood in the village is still hopeful, though uncertain.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day,” he said.

Merchants are talking about using vehicles owned by the village to deliver meals to those in need. The chamber is working on providing advertising to businesses for free, to promote their delivery services or online products.

Izzo, a real estate broker, says the impact to his business has been minimal, stating most of his work is done online. Open houses have been slower than usual at this time of year, but not completely dead. However, he is anxious to see what this upcoming weekend will bring, in the wake of the new restrictions.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day.”

— James Izzo

“A lot can change in six days, we will have to see what happens,” he said.

Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe has had to close its seating but is still open for takeout. The owner,  Flemming Hansen, says that most of the business is in takeout baked goods, and while the number of customers is down, there has been a steady flow of people purchasing breads and soups.

“So far we’re doing alright,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

He added that cake sales have dropped, as people are not having gatherings.

Neil Goldberg, the owner of Main Street Board Game Café in Huntington, said the restrictions have forced him to lay off the entire staff in hopes of buying time.

“Nobody is going to make any money, it’s just about keeping the doors open,” he said.

The cafe’s purpose normally is to be a place where people can come in, socialize and play board games; however, they have had to eliminate all food services, besides prepackaged drinks and are only selling games.

“It’s not worth it for us to turn the ovens on,” he said.

He added the store had some purchases “from people who realize that they’re going to need more entertainment than just watching TV and watching the news.”

The cafe will offer curbside delivery of games and are looking to offer delivery services within a 15-mile radius in the coming days.

Goldberg said the local village businesses are checking in on each other and sharing advice and ideas.

“There’s no plan for this,” he said. “Nobody has insurance for this, because it doesn’t exist, and all you can do is lean on each other and hope things will improve.”

Despite all of this, Goldberg has seen moments of humanity. On Tuesday, former employees came in and bought games to help the shop stay afloat. Then, a mother, who has a son that plays in a game tournament at the shop, bought $1,000 worth of gift cards.

“That was really moving,” he said. 

Goldberg added the best way to support small businesses during this time is to patronize them as much as possible.

“Gift cards are good because, you will eventually use them and you are essentially providing a no-interest loan to the business that you like,” he said. “Honestly, the best thing that you can do is to stay socially distant so we can get through this quicker. Everything that everybody is doing is just Band-Aids at this point to a large problem, and the best thing for businesses is for things to go back to the way they were.”

Meanwhile, federal officials in the House and Senate are considering an aid bill to help workers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide free testing, extend the unemployment payment period and offer paid sick leave and emergency leave for workers in companies with 500 or less employees. The latter could exempt companies with 50 or fewer employees if that measure would bankrupt the company.

President Donald Trump (R) has called for a $850 billion aid stimulus to major companies such as airlines impacted by the spread of the virus. The White House has also suggested deferring tax payments and even sending home checks to every American to cushion the blow of being out of work. As of press time, details have been sporadic, and the president’s office has flip-flopped on several initiatives already.

The Village of Port Jefferson declared a state of emergency March 16, after both the state and Suffolk County declared theirs. As of Tuesday, March 17, Village Hall and all village-owned facilities are closed to the public. Further board of trustee meetings will be held remotely, along with the budget presentation that was planned for March 30. The executive order only ends after a further order from the village mayor.

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses.”

— Margot Garant

According to Mayor Margot Garant, the executive order allows code enforcement to enforce the new restrictions on businesses. 

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses,” she said, adding those stores are “going to adapt, they will find means to keep those businesses viable.”

Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the PJ village chamber, said the chamber is working on a social media campaign encouraging takeout pickups and deliveries.

With nobody really able to say how long life will be disrupted because of COVID-19, the true consequences of this loss of business are still unknown. 

“My mother always used to say you can live with anything bad as long as you know it’s not long term, or you see it ending,” Ransome said.

Businesses, she said, are all hedging on when that end finally arrives.

Sei Ramen in East Setauket is just one Asian restaurant on Long Island that said business is down since the start of the coronavirus panic. Photo by David Luces

The uncertainty of the coronavirus has led many people to avoid public places that see a lot of foot traffic. Some have resorted to hunkering down at home. With the first confirmed cases of coronavirus reported in Suffolk County this past week, despite efforts to sanitize their locations, some local businesses owners have been seeing the impact directly.

Since the outbreak began in China late last year, Asian American and Chinese restaurants and businesses have seen a decline in the number of customers. 

The Great Wall Chinese restaurant in Sound Beach is just one of several Asian establishments impacted by irrational fears over the coronavirus. Photo from Google Maps

Kevin Ma, co-owner of Sei Ramen in East Setauket, acknowledged the drop-off in business. 

Business “for area restaurants, it’s going down,” he said. “I have friends that run their own businesses and they are going through the same thing.”

Since opening last month, Ma believes they have been doing OK and hopes to see an uptick in customers once the coronavirus scare dies down.

“All we can do is let customers know the food is safe [to eat],” he said. “We are making sure everything is clean and sanitized.”  

Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the fears of coronavirus are affecting businesses in the area. 

“I spoke to two Chinese restaurants [that are chamber members], they don’t want this to affect them,” he said. 

Pollakusky said misinformation on the coronavirus has caused the reduction in business, especially to the new owners of the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant in Sound Beach. 

“The fears of the people toward Chinese food are irrational — people shouldn’t be afraid of eating local,” he said. “The Great Wall in Sound Beach has new owners and they are very excited to be a part of this community.”

The executive director said all businesses are taking the proper precautions and safety measures to make sure its facilities are clean. 

Libraries also see a lot of visitors and are trying to stay a step ahead.  

Ted Gutmann, director at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, said they are closely monitoring the situation. 

“We take the health and the safety of our patrons very seriously,” he said. “We have ordered additional cleaning supplies to clean surfaces, computers, keyboards and other areas.”

Gutmann said if patrons feel sick, he would advise them not to come to the library. 

“We have tried to be proactive, we haven’t really seen a decrease in attendance at the library,” the director said.

At this point, Emma Clark has not decided to cancel any upcoming events but has had internal discussions about the problem, should the overall situation gets worse. 

Debbie Engelhardt, director of Comsewogue Public Library, had similar sentiments. 

“We haven’t noticed a change in attendance,” she said. “We are trying to be proactive, just washing our hands is part of our daily routine.” 

Engelhardt said they already had numerous sanitizers installed throughout the building. 

“We increased signage reminding employees and patrons to wash their hands,” she said. “If employees are sick, we have told them to stay home — we are monitoring information from the state and county. We are trying to stay educated, we have a responsibility as a public service building.”  

“We are making sure everything is clean and sanitized.”

— Kevin Ma

Several local groups have been canceling events. The Three Village Democratic Club, Three Village Historical Society and Three Village Community Trust have all canceled or pushed off events out of a sense of caution. 

Brookhaven Town has released an executive order canceling all town events for senior citizens due to coronavirus concerns. Those events are suspended beginning March 12. Meals on Wheels deliveries will continue to homebound seniors, while those previously served by congregate nutrition programs at senior centers will be offered meal delivery at home.

Residents can call 631-451-8696 for more information.

Despite the preparation, other businesses said they haven’t seen much of an impact so far.

Bobby Suchan, general manager of Port Jeff Bowl, said besides less people coming into bowling alleys in general, they haven’t seen a change in business as of now. 

“We have installed more hand sanitizer in the building and just making sure everything is clean, which is something we always do,” he said. 

Charlie Ziegler, director of operations at Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, said it’s business as usual at the hotel. 

“It’s not having an effect [on us] — the number of customers coming is the same,” he said. 

Despite that, Ziegler said they will continue to make sure everything in the building is cleaned and sanitized. 

“We had a meeting recently with the staff and we told them to make sure to wash their hands constantly,” he said. “We want to keep areas clean … we are disinfecting areas like the great room, telephones and door handles.”

Ziegler said they don’t anticipate any further disruptions from the coronavirus situation. 

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Harbor Grill in Port Jefferson is now under ownership of the people behind the Meadow Club and Curry Club. Photo by Kyle Barr

The owners of a popular catering hall and Indian cuisine restaurant along the North Shore are making their move to West Broadway in Port Jefferson. 

The family of restaurateurs has plans to take over the Harbor Grill, previously known as Schafer’s. The new restaurant would be one of the latest addition to the Port Jeff harborfront. 

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, is part of a family of business owners on the North Shore. Photo by Kyle Barr

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said they had been renting out the space in Port Jeff during the holiday season and hosted their annual Small Business Holiday Party there. 

It was during that time that they realized the potential of the building. 

“We noticed that our clients really liked the space and the overall ambiance,” Kaur said. “It was perfect for smaller parties — we saw a great opportunity.”

In addition to the client’s feedback, Kaur said she liked the layout of the two-story restaurant with an outdoor dining section that boasts views of the harbor. 

“We have been brainstorming a few things, we wanted to move into a new direction and are excited to offer something different to Port Jeff residents,” she said. 

Kaur said they haven’t decided on a name for the restaurant yet, but are leaning toward a water theme being they are close to the harbor as well as incorporating a touch of their business background.  

A chef has already been hired for the new space, and the family is in the midst of finalizing the menu and other aspects of the new restaurant. 

Kaur said that residents can expect Indian cuisine and a fusion of menu items similar to what they offer at their other two restaurants. 

“It’s going to be great to offer new options to our customers,” she said. “It will be a great place to have a nice lunch or dinner.”

In addition, they hope to attract visitors coming in from Bridgeport. Kaur also teased the possibility of adding a brunch menu as a way of attracting more patrons. 

As the family prepares to open the new restaurant, the Meadow Club which was closed due a fire in 2018, is expected to reopen this spring. 

Despite rumors that The Curry Club may close, Kaur said the restaurant will continue to be open and that the famed train cart will remain. 

One of the first events the family will host in the building will be a Valentine’s Day four-course dinner. Tickets for couples are $120 which will include a Champagne bottle and a cocktail drink. Reservations from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. can be made by calling 631-928-3800. The dance floor will be open, and a DJ will be playing all night. 

“We are excited about the move and we are looking forward to helping bring more people into Port Jefferson,” Kaur said. 

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Stacey Wohl, center, with her daughter at her shop Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique in Wading River. Photo from Wohl

By Leah Chiappino

Local entrepreneur Stacey Wohl has moved her store, Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique, which first opened Nov. 22, from its original East Northport location to Wading River Square. Despite the change in location, it still has the same mission, to give people with disabilities a chance at employment.

In 2015, Wohl opened Cause Cafe in Northport, a restaurant that employed people on the autism spectrum, with the help of her parents, Susan and Gerald Schultz. Her interest in doing so was taken from her own two children, Brittney, 22, and Logan, 20, both of whom have autism.

Wohl says the business struggled because of the lack of a nonprofit being able to subsidize the rent. Her children were unable to work in the kitchen as the environment could get chaotic, and it grew very loud. 

“When you own a business, you have to do everything, and I am not a chef,” Wohl said. “It was a very large undertaking that we weren’t prepared for.”

Despite putting her best efforts into it, Wohl was forced to shut down the restaurant when it was not able to sustain itself and personal tragedy struck. In 2016, Cause Cafe was featured on the Rachel Ray Show, which sent Wohl on a cruise with her children and parents. Two days into the trip, her father had a heart attack while dancing with her mother on the ship and passed away. 

When the family returned home, Wohl closed the doors, as she felt the need to care for her mother, who was mourning the loss of a husband of 55 years.

Wohl’s first love is fashion, having been a showroom salesperson, fit model and boutique owner in her 20s, so she opened Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique in East Northport. However, tragedy struck again when her mother passed away three weeks later. Wohl relocated to Wading River after her daughter got accepted to a day program in Abequogue.

“I saw the need for a place like this,”
Wohl said. 

The front of the store has a coffee bar with repackaged baked goods to take home, complete with inspirational coffee mugs for sale. The back of the store is filled with apparel and gifts that mostly come from women-owned companies and charitable causes. There is local artwork for sale as well as her own coffee brand. 

“I want the store to be a place where people go to buy a gift, and not just feel like they are doing something for charity,” Wohl said. 

Recently the business has been struggling. Business boomed over Christmas, but after the holidays business slowed down. 

“I only sold one $3 dollar cup of coffee today,” Wohl said. However, she affirms the community has been very supportive. Wohl hopes that people will make the store their go-to place to grab a cup of coffee and is even looking to expand to have art classes and job training. She is also hoping to make a clothing line from her former fashion background. 

“I lost that part of myself in [dedicating myself to my children] for the past 20 years.”

The boutique is located at 6278 Building A, #2 along Route 25A in Wading River and is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5.p.m. Online ordering is also available through the boutique’s website at www.becauseboutiquecafe.com.  

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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. 

25-Year-Old Looks to Continue Legacy of Family Farming on North Shore

Marianne and Justin Bakewicz on one of their tractors. Photo by Kyle Barr

In Justin Bakewicz’ eyes, the world is sepia toned. Autumn has reddened the leaves and browned the plants on his farm in Wading River. The cornstalks of the corn maze he built have gone dry and stark as gravestones, while the last few pumpkins of his you-pick patch squat among rows of now bare plants. All the farm’s last vegetables are being packed up for the remaining few farmers markets and festivals before winter truly sets in. The farm is closed until spring of next year, and he and his family have started to get ready for what could be a snowy, cold winter.

Justin scratches Boss Hog’s belly while their dog Remington sniffs about. Photo by Kyle Barr

To Bakewicz, his small 11-acre farm along Route 25A in Wading River is a vintage photograph of a barn and fields, a lingering ideal he has worked for three years to make a reality. 

He calls that ideal a legacy from his grandfather, Henry Kraszewski Sr. Justin, a Rocky Point resident, remembers working with his uncle on his grandfather’s farm in Southampton as a kid. 

He too found solace from the drudgery of a desk job working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Riverhead by working on his farm, where they farmed eggs and potatoes. 

“He hated that job to all hell, but when he came home at night his favorite thing to do was to take off the suit and put on his boots and jeans and farm his own potatoes out there,” the farm owner said. That farm lasted until his grandfather passed away and went out of the family’s hands.

While other kids in Danielle Donadoni’s sixth-grade English class at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School wrote about wanting to be sports stars, young Justin wrote about how when he grew up, he wanted to be a farmer.

Donadoni said she often visits the Bakewicz farm, saying she loves what the young farmer has brought to the community and how he has even left an imprint on her own children with a love for gardening and raising chickens.

“I remember asking him specifically, ‘What do you like about being a farmer?’” the teacher said. “I remember him telling me an uncle had a farm and it was right about this time of year. I may have given him a ‘Get out of here’ comment and ‘No way you’re working on a farm every weekend.’ Sure enough, that next Monday morning Justin exited the school bus with a pumpkin almost the size of him.”

Getting to where the farm is now was difficult. Already running a landscaping business and selling flowers out of their landscape yard, the Bakewicz family learned about the small patch of land for rent off Route 25A owned by Joe Manzi, of Rocky Point-based Manzi Homes East. 

Justin pets his two rescue calves Woody and Buzz. Photo by Kyle Barr

Justin’s mother Marianne has worked with her son on both the landscaping business as well as the farm. She called the whole project a family affair, with brothers, nieces, sons-in-law and others.

To say the farm has been a passion project for the young farmer would be an understatement. Justin’s mother said very few farms now can operate because even fewer people have the energy to put the work into them. 

“He’s worked really, really hard on this,” she said. “There’s not many young people willing to get up at 5, 5:30 in the morning and work 12-14 hours a day seven days a week. That’s why there’s not a lot of farms left.”

The farm started with barely enough tools to get the job done, even on such a relatively small property. Much of the land was “six-foot-tall weeds,” and borrowing a tractor from a friend, he planted corn for a corn maze and pumpkins. He would drive out to Southampton after working all day to return that equipment. 

Using a New York State grant they got for young farmers, he bought a new tractor to use on the farm. Other equipment came from as far away as Pennsylvania second hand. The plow is a two-bottom, one-way, meaning when he’s digging troughs, he makes one row before going all the way around the field to plow the next. 

Other equipment now sits near the playground as part of what the family calls an educational component to the farm, explaining what it is and how it’s used. 

Compared to the miles and miles of farmland just down the road in Riverhead, Bakewicz Farms is relatively small. The frontage is dedicated to a playground of sorts, all hand-painted cutouts of mythical figures and characters from popular fiction. Some were painted by one of the farmhands, some by Marianne, and others by a friend of Justin’s from Rocky Point, Jen Chiodo. It’s a small wonderland, a mix of down-home sensibility with modern pop culture, like a straw chewing cowboy putting his feet up on the soap box to watch the latest Marvel movie. 

The farm’s frontage has been a playground not just for kids, but for the farmer himself. Bakewicz built his own barrel train and hay wagon. The family created a life-sized cow out of a milk jug and tank, and a small scaled silo out of an old propane tank. Instead of just a run of the mill corn maze, the Wading River farm makes it a scavenger hunt based around a movie, from “Pirates of the Caribbean” to “Harry Potter” to this year’s theme of “Toy Story.” When kids walk through the corn maze, they are looking to find trivia about that movie and make a rubbing to show it off when they come out.

Marianne Bakewicz and their dog Remington at Bakewicz Farm. Photo by Kyle Barr

Even the oft-seen farm animals seem to have come out of a storybook version of a farm. Many of them are rescues, such as Woody and Buzz, two calves that were saved from New Jersey by Port Jefferson Station-based animal rescue Strong Island Rescue. When the Bakewicz got the two young animals, they were both sickly. The mother and son raised them in their own house, taking them for walks and feeding them from a bottle as long as a grown man’s arm. Less than a year later, Woody and Buzz are as big as a small tractor and act more like dogs than cattle.

The story is the same for the other animals at the farm, from the chickens originally raised by a local school, the one duck rescued from students at the University of Rhode Island, the goats to the pig they named Boss Hog. All act more like pets than farm animals, and more and more animals keep ending up behind Bakewicz’ fences.

“They all act like that because they were human-raised,” the mother said. “That’s why people love them, so they come right up to you.”

The farm has increased in popularity over the years, the mother and son said, mostly due to word of mouth and posts online. As they’ve grown, they have made a larger impact in the community, having put up the fall decorations for the Shoreham hamlet signs and having a big presence at the Town of Brookhaven Farmers Market at Town Hall in Farmingville. Their advertising can even be found in such innocuous places like the People’s United bank in Shoreham.

Despite the popularity, Justin has lingering fears of losing the small plot of land. In February, Brookhaven and the property owner announced talks with the developer Tradewind Energy about building solar batteries on the property. Those batteries would only take up a small amount of farm space that Bakewicz had not used, mostly from previous owners using the space to dump branches and trees the farm had used for composting. 

The bigger fear is if that development does not go through. The other idea for the property would be to build homes in that location, pushing the small farm out the door. 

Bakewicz has not heard anything about the issue since earlier this year, but no matter what, he does not plan to stop farming and hopes to continue it on the North Shore.

“It’s the community is what made my farm possible — it’s because of the love and support from them,” he said. “We started family traditions for people.”

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Steven and Wayne Rampone Jr. hold images of the Ford dealership when they opened the Route 347 location. Photo By Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

With a vintage Ford planted in the showroom, the Ramp Ford Dealership in Port Jefferson Station evokes a feeling of nostalgia right as you walk in. Founded in 1944 by Alfred Rampone, the dealership is celebrating 75 years in business. As the oldest family-owned Ford dealership in Suffolk County, it has seen four generations of Rampone family ownership. Currently, Steven and Wayne Rampone Jr., are partners along with their father, Wayne Rampone Sr.

Alfred Rampone during the original founding of the dealership. Photos by Leah Chiappino

“I guess you could say [the business] is in my blood,” Wayne Rampone Jr. said.

The story goes that Alfred worked as a sales representative for Chevrolet, who denied his request to open his own dealership. However, when he reached out to Ford they came through on his request. They offered him a spot in Quogue or Port Jefferson. He chose the latter to make it easier to commute from his New Hyde Park home.

Originally, the dealership was located in lower Port Jefferson village at what is now the Chase Bank building. It operated with a handful of vehicles with a single salesperson and mechanic. The Rampones expanded to their current location on Route 347 in the mid-1960s. Today, they employ 45 people, who call themselves the “Ramp family,” and sell both vehicles and parts, as well as service vehicles. 

Rampone Jr. says their business model has remained the same all this time. 

“We are a customer-focused and customer-centered dealership,” he said. “We take pride in me being able to say we are a family-owned business and we literally treat our customers like family. When they walk in the door, we know them by name. We take care of each other.” He added their bond with the community has been instrumental to their success.

As part of their business model, owners said the dealership attempts to give back to the community in place of traditional advertising. They sponsor Little League teams, contribute to church organizations, and are deeply involved with Hope House Ministries. 

 “We spend a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of energy in the community,” Rampone Jr. said. “We believe if we give back to the community, they will give back to us.”

Passerbys accept free flowers as part of the Society for American Florists Petal It Forward campaign from Flowers on Broadway. Photo by Kyle Barr

On a busy Wednesday morning, as people moved in between the parking lot and Planet Fitness along Route 25A in Rocky Point, two young women held fistfuls of flowers, arms outstretched. 

Carmen Pettus from Sunshine Barre Studio accepts flowers from Li Guo. Photo by Kyle Barr

As part of the trade association Society of American Florists’ Petal It Forward campaign, Rocky Point flower shop Flowers on Broadway looked to make people’s early day commutes a little more colorful. 

Taylor Wagner and Li Guo, who both work for Flowers on Broadway, handed out bouquets to those passing by. Some looked confused at them as they presented the flowers, others questioned if the pair wanted anything for the flower arrangements. They were free, they said, and would get two so they could pass one onto the next person they see.

One man offered a bouquet said, “I don’t do flowers,” while others, like Carmen Pettus, the owner of SunShine Barre Studio in Rocky Point, said the flowers “made my day.”

Wagner, a junior designer at the flower shop, said she’s often surprised how many people seem estranged by the thought of free flowers.

“We went to the Blue Grass concert last weekend, and we were handing out flowers, and most of the guys said, ‘No, I don’t want flowers,’ while a lot of the women said, ‘Oh yes, flowers,’ she said, laughing to herself. “It’s amazing, it’s just a bunch of daisies guys.”

Passerbys accept free flowers as part of the Society for American Florists Petal It Forward campaign from Flowers on Broadway. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over the course of the day, the duo stopped at three places, the RP Planet Fitness, outside the Pompei Pizza in Rocky Point and by Branchineli’s Pizzaria in Miller Place. By the end of the day, they had given out 300 bouquets to around 150 people.

Stephanie Navas, the owner of Flowers on Broadway, learned about the yearly event being put on by the flower society the past several years.

“We wanted to give back to the community that’s supported us all these years with a small act to brighten their day,” Navas said. “Through the positive effect of flowers, we hope to make someone’s day special, and provide a much-needed moment of calm amidst the hectic pace of life.”