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.
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.”
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.”
“Why not bring the arts and crafts to customers?” thought Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalcione, who together run Long Island Crafty Ones, a mobile and traveling workshop based in Rocky Point.
Now such an idea is a reality.
The duo, who both describe themselves as passionate about creativity and craftwork said the idea to create the mobile workshop came to fruition a year ago. They decided to join forces after Schwender posted a message on Facebook looking for someone to collaborate with on crafts.
Initially the pair looked at retail frontage in the Rocky Point area but realized it wasn’t a good fit.
“We looked at a number of storefronts, but the rent was too expensive, we just couldn’t afford it,” Scalcione said. “After that we were, like, ‘Why don’t we go to the people and travel around?’”
From there, the duo purchased an RV and decided to convert the inside into their workplace area.
Schwender said they work closely with their clients to see what they are looking for.
“We bring everything to them, and they are surprised when we tell them we can come to them,” she said.
Scalcione said that they really try to customize customers experiences. She mentioned a recent birthday party they had worked at.
“It was an older girl’s birthday, and before we asked what she likes, her mother said she really likes to drink coffee and we thought why not marble some coffee mugs,” Scalcione said. “It turned out to be great — they had a lot of fun.”
Schwender said they started out slow due to people not necessarily knowing what they offered, but the feedback they have gotten from customers has been positive.
“They are amazed with what we bring and what we offer,” she said. “They can’t believe we have an RV and think it’s a great idea.”
Scalcione mentioned their services cater to children and adults.
Recently, the partners joined the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce and said the connections with other businesses have very been helpful.
For the fall season, the pair will have a table every weekend at the Bakewicz Farms Fall Festival in Wading River, doing face paintings and customizing “Toy Story” figurines that fit in with the local festival’s theme.
In addition, the duo said they offer workshops aimed at a multitude of skill sets and they plan on offering seasonal craft sessions for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We really want [everybody] to be excited about crafting and get them to make something on their own,” Schwender said. “We want to help build up your skills.”
Scalcione said she is glad they are getting more exposure and more people are finding what they do. The duo hopes to continue expanding and possibly buy a second RV or a bigger vehicle.
“I think it is a lost art — we really want people to work with their hands and seeing what they can create,” she said.
Brookhaven Town has issued 22 summonses and 21 violations for numerous alleged safety violations of big box stores.
Town fire marshals visited 39 big box stores Aug. 30 to ensure they were in compliance with fire codes. The 22 summonses were for various infractions including blocked aisles and exits, and one for propane stored inside.
“Our number one priority is the shoppers and employees who expect to be safe and able to exit the store in the event of an emergency,” said Brookhaven Town Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman. “Ensuring aisle widths are maintained and exits are not blocked by merchandise are just some of the things we are looking at. The town has a zero-tolerance approach to these violations.”
Amongst multiple egress summons in some big box stores like the Kohls and Modells in Rocky Point, the Best Buy in Setauket was cited for an egress violation and the Kohls in Setauket was cited for a propane storage violation. Lowes in Stony Brook was cited for a Storage Violation and had two egress summons and one propane summons. The Walmart in East Setauket was cited for one fire extinguisher and one storage violation. The BJ’s in Setauket was also cited for one propane violation.
The fire marshals also issued 21 violations that did not warrant a summons and were not egress related. Each summons issued is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
“A blocked aisle or exit could mean the difference between life and death during a fire or other emergency,” town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “We will not tolerate any violation of our fire codes.”
People who suspect that any store or business is in violation of Brookhaven’s fire codes can call 631-451-TOWN (8696).
For Raymond LaGala, owner of Hairport in the Village of Port Jefferson, cutting people’s hair is a feel-good business. Great service and treating his clients right — that is what he said has been bringing people back for the last 45 years.
“You have to love what you do,” he said. “I’m glad that I still enjoy it.”
LaGala said he had the idea of one day opening his own shop since he first became a hairdresser. He learned the craft working at shops in Merrick and Great Neck, and in 1973, he decided to try opening his own business.
The longtime stylist and barber had visited Port Jeff before and thought it would be a good place for his salon. In June 1974, Hairport was born and has resided in the same spot on Main Street since.
The Port Jeff business owner said his shop was one of the first unisex salons in the area at the time.
“As we got busier, we kept expanding,” LaGala said.
They then expanded into barbering and along the way his children became involved in the family business.
One of his sons, Thomas LaGala, began barbering at the salon when he was 17 years old, and was followed by his brother Jason, who said he wanted to learn hairdressing so his father sent him to a school in the city.
From there, the two sons and a nephew of Raymond, James, began barbering in the back of the salon and it proved to be successful.
Jason said he remembers coming into the salon when he was a kid and he would watch his father cut clients’ hair. The young man thought it seemed like a fun place to work.
“For me it was a cool time growing up, working for my dad,” Jason said. “He taught me to always take care of the customer.”
Throughout the years, two other children, David and Joann, joined the business. James and Jason, after working at Hairport for some time, decided to open their own business across the street after some encouragement from their father. The pair now run the Men’s Room Barbershop on Main Street in Port Jeff, with James as owner and Jason as partner.
“Running a business is not always easy. It is an uphill battle,” Raymond said. “You have to be able to adjust — it is forever changing.”
The father of seven stressed the importance of not assuming customers will come back just because you are around.
“You can’t take them for granted. If you treat them right they will be back,” he said.
Over the years, the salon has built up a loyal client base who appreciate the service and honesty. Raymond mentioned it is all about the relationships you cultivate with your customers.
Jason said he is proud that the family-run business is still striving.
“It is cool to have a successful business grow with the area it’s been in,” he said. “It has become a staple of the village.”
Jason said it has been nice watching a family man, in his father, take care of his family.
Raymond said the key to success is that you can’t rest on what you did in the past; you have to keep going forward
“We are still here, making noise,” he said.
This post has been amended June 19 to better reflect the ownership of Men’s Room Barbershop.
Harbor Grill says it will change its dress code to allow religiously significant headwear.
A young Stony Brook University graduate said he was barred from entering Port Jeff’s Harbor Grill the early morning of Sunday, May 12, because he wears a turban, a religiously significant headwear.
Gurvinder Grewal, 23, who graduated in 2018, said he went out the night of May 11 past midnight to hang out with friends. His companions were already in the Harbor Grill restaurant and bar, and he was having his ID checked when he was stopped and told by a manager he was not allowed in with “a head covering.” Harbor Grill has a weekend dress code for Friday and Saturday nights after 10 p.m. restricting all headwear, though the policy made no explicit exceptions for clothing of religious significance.
Grewal, a medical scribe at CityMD, said he tried to explain his situation as he is a Sikh, whose religion stems from Punjab in northern India. Male practitioners wear turbans as articles of faith, and are not meant to remove the headwear in public.
“Never had any experience like this in my life.”
— Gurvinder Grewal
Not trying to hold up the line of people trying to get in, he went to the back of the line and came up a second time, only to be rebuffed again, and was told it was due to the restaurant’s policy on headwear.
“[I] was shocked and embarrassed,” the graduate said. “Never had any experience like this in my life.”
A Facebook post from Harbor Grill said Grewal’s black-colored turban seemed at the time “would be more widely perceived as the slang term ‘[do-]rag’ or a ‘stocking cap’ and not a traditional turban.” It said the original rule was put in place because a rule that singled out specific groups would itself be “discriminatory.”
Tom Schafer, the owner of Harbor Grill, said he has chided the manager in question and has told him to use his better judgment in cases like this. He added he plans to speak to the rest of his staff and implement a new Friday and Saturday night dress-code policy of no headwear excluding religiously required headwear, for example yarmulkes and turbans. The new code will be posted near the front door.
“I don’t have an inkling of prejudice in any way,” Schafer said. “The code was not meant to be discriminating, it was solely for the safety of patrons and staff.”
Grewal said that he was glad to see them changing the dress code, but he found the comment about his turban looking like “a do-rag” to be problematic, especially since he described it several times as a turban to the manager.
Barbara Ransome, director of operations for Port Jeff Chamber of Commerce, said the policy at Harbor Grill was to better identify troublemakers in a crowd and, as a private property, the owner is allowed to make that decision. Just as in the case of drugs cenforce that will be sold online. At the same time, the barring of a person over religious garment would cross over into First Amendment territory.
“Their staff may need to be educated,” she said.
The SBU graduate said he told the manager he had been let inside the establishment last year, back when Harbor Grill was then named Schafer’s. He said he was told the policy on headgear was a new policy.
Several other students and graduates of SBU, who did not wish to be named in this article, all confirmed watching Grewal be denied entry.
“The code was not meant to be discriminating, it was solely for the safety of patrons and staff.”
— Tom Schafer
Bansri Shah, a digital media/pre-law student at SBU, posted a message to Facebook about the situation, saying she felt it was especially concerning considering the diversity of students from the nearby university.
“Honestly, I never expected this type of action taken from an establishment in Port Jeff considering the racial diversity in a college town right next door, Stony Brook, but I think it’s really messed up,” Shah said in her original Facebook post.
In a conversation over Facebook messenger, Shah said she arrived as several people were trying to talk to the bouncer about what happened, but they were ignored.
Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said she had messaged both Shah and Grewal and had told the latter she was sorry about what had allegedly happened to him, and that “this does not reflect the tenor or tone of the policies of the Village of Port Jefferson.” She also suggested to him his first step would be to file a police report if he wished to commit to any penal or civil legal action.
“I didn’t want that incident to become a black eye on the village,” the mayor said. “Anybody of race, color, sexuality, we embrace and invite everyone here.”
The graduate said he plans to file a police report and pursue some sort of legal action.
“I was just really surprised that something like this happened to me at a college bar,” he said. “I always read online and on social media about Sikhs and other minorities facing similar situations, but never thought that I would face the situation in my life living on Long Island.”
This post has been amended to correct the origins of Sikhism.
A familiar face is bringing some barbecue cooking to East Setauket.
After Raga Indian Restaurant and Bar on Old Town Road closed April 28, new owner David Tunney and his team got right to work creating plans to turn the building into an Old Fields Barbecue.
Tunney, who grew up in Setauket and graduated from Ward Melville High School, said he had his eye on the location for the last few years, and he recently made a deal with Raga’s owner. Tunney is best known on the North Shore as the owner of the Old Fields restaurants in Port Jefferson and Greenlawn and Old Fields Barbecue in Huntington. He is also one of the founders of the Besito Restaurant Group along with his brother John and part-owner of Besito Mexican restaurants in Huntington and Roslyn. The former owner of Honu Kitchen and Cocktails in Huntington said he gained experience in the business running establishments such as Oheka Castle before venturing into owning a place of his own.
“I’ve been around the block, and I’m back in my hometown,” Tunney said.
While he now lives in Greenlawn, the 53-year-old said he has a lot of memories of growing up in the Three Village area where his love for the restaurant hospitality business began. His mother, Marilyn, worked in the TBR News Media offices for 25 years, and one of his first jobs was at the Arby’s that once was located where the Setauket Main Street firehouse is today. Tunney said his first job was with the former Dining Car 1890 that was located on Route 25A and Nicolls Road, where he started as a dishwasher.
He said he feels residents will welcome a new restaurant that is moderately priced. The barbecue place will serve dishes such as fried chicken, Mahi fish sandwiches, pulled pork and hamburgers cooked in cast iron as well as sides including cornbread and mac and cheese.
“It’s really for everybody,” he said. “You can bring your kids there. You can come with a date. You can come with business people.”
Tunney’s partner in the new restaurant is Rory Van Nostrand, who has worked with him since 2006 when the latter started as a busboy at Honu. The executive chef will be Israel Castro, who began working with the pair when Tunney bought the Greenlawn location in 2010. Castro became executive chef when Old Fields in Port Jefferson opened a few years ago.
Before opening up Old Fields Barbecue in Huntington, Tunney, Van Nostrand and Castro traveled down the East Coast to states such as Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and others to research restaurants that specialize in barbecue. Van Nostrand said during their travels, in addition to stopping at known places like Franklin Barbecue in Texas, they would ask people where their favorite barbecue places were, and Castro said they weren’t hesitant to stop at no-name places along the side of the road.
“We really ate our way through barbecue,” Castro said.
Van Nostrand said a lot of chefs were willing to share tips with them along the way.
“It’s really more of a technique food than an ingredient recipe food,” Van Nostrand said. “It’s very much an art.”
When it comes to the Old Fields Barbecue menu, Castro listed the brisket and pork among his favorites, while Van Nostrand said he loves the chorizo sausage and corned beef and also eats the smoked chicken, which is cooked with no oil or butter, regularly.
“It’s a small menu as far as a restaurant goes,” Castro said. “There’s a core group of food items that need to be excellent. So, we put all kinds of effort into making them the best we can.”
Tunney said he leaves the cooking to his chefs, even though he admits to making a great grilled cheese — something he made for the first time when he was five years old at a Setauket diner when the owner invited him into the kitchen. Most of all he enjoys the hospitality side of the business, something he credits to his brother John for teaching him.
“The part I really love about it is making people have a great experience and that they just love all the food, the service, the ambiance, how they are taken care of,” he said.
The restaurateur is hoping to open the new restaurant at the end of July or the beginning of August.
“This is where I grew up, this is where my roots are, and it’s amazing to come back to it,” Tunney said.
The eponymous Uptown Funk project in the upper portion of Port Jefferson village may soon be coming to a head.
Plans are under review at the Port Jefferson planning department for a new affordable apartment complex in the property known locally as Bada Bing for the now decrepit cafe that once occupied the site.
“This is 100 percent attainable housing,” said Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant.
Site details include it as a four-story project with 60 one-bedroom apartments. The site will also include 4,500 square feet of retail located directly adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road train station. Project notes said the site will be located in the Comsewogue School District.
The $4 million property development is being led by Upper Port Jefferson Village LLC, owned by Parviz Farahzad of East Setauket-based Little Rock Construction, which was in charge of building the retail complex across from the train station in Stony Brook. The developer is partnered with Conifer Realty LLC, a real estate development firm with projects across New York State and south into Maryland. Recently Conifer was at the head of the Peconic Crossing development in Riverhead, a development of 45 apartments giving preference to artists.
“We think Conifer is such a well-known name — they’ve done so many projects on Long Island and New York State that they’re a real credible partner at the table,” Garant said.
This project also includes plans for an underground parking garage incorporating 60 spaces, and the developer will need to pay a Payment in Lieu of Parking fee for all the spaces that would be required for retail, according to Port Jeff planning department documents.
Alison LaPointe, the special village attorney for building and planning, said Conifer has already submitted a formal site plan application for the development, and the planning board awaits amended plans from the applicant before continuing the environmental review process and to schedule public hearings.
All future plans for uptown port now depend on when the developers starts to put shovels in the ground. Uptown Funk was meant to be completed in three stages: the first being the Texaco Avenue parking lot, the next being the Metropolitan Transportation Authority parking lot, and the last being the creation of Station Street running just north of that train station lot.
This year the MTA has finished construction of the new parking lot at the Port Jefferson train station as part of a growing effort to modernize the more than century-old terminal.
In an update to its website, the MTA said the parking lot has been repaved and was officially open for use as of Jan. 9. The new parking lot includes new repainted lines that Port Jefferson village officials said were widened from before. Garant had said those old lines were too narrow for some vehicles. The end product means there are less spaces than there were previously.
“This is 100 percent attainable housing.”
— Margot Garant
This work was all part of the ongoing Uptown Funk project aiming to revitalize the upper port area. In 2017 the village was awarded $250,000 in jumpstart money to start plans on the project, and the village also applied for a grant from the Empire State Development Corporation, a state entity, for $500,000. Texaco Avenue parking lot, at 85 spaces, was planned to cost $850,000 when it started in May 2018. The village needed to wait until construction was finished on the LIRR parking lot, phase two of the project, before working on Station Street. The village has to wait until Conifer demolishes the Bada Bing site before starting construction on that new road.
The site construction includes a 10-foot setback on the property for the village to come in and develop Station Street, which will pass by the LIRR parking lot on the north end and connect to Oakland Avenue.
Conifer is currently seeking approval for attainable housing partnership funding from New York State, according to Garant. She added the process for getting uptown revitalized has been long, from getting the state grant funding to finding developers willing to craft new spaces acceptable to the vision village officials have for the uptown area.
“I really have good feelings about what’s going to start happening up there, but it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill,” the villagemayor said.
A shelf can be a curious thing. When walking into a stranger’s house, what you may find on the shelves, whether it be pictures, books, art, can tell you much about that person.
In a small shop located at 218 E. Main St., one local woman is trying to get others to discover something about local artists through the shelves she’s built to showcase their work.
Diana Walker, a 25-year resident of Mount Sinai, is planning to open a consignment shop called The Shelf at East Main, a new spot that will showcase artists and entrepreneurs talents in a way many artists rarely have the opportunity to do so.
“To classify it, it is an artisan market,” Walker said. “The aim of this is to lift others through community connection, and also educate the community on the talent that is here locally.”
The idea has been sitting in Walker’s head for several years, since she helped her son Kyle arrange an art show in the Port Jefferson Village Center for him and a group of fellow artists. During the show she overheard several conversations about the artists who were desperately looking for ways to break into the art scene.
“Talking to the artists I heard, ‘It’s so hard to find places to exhibit,’ and ‘It’s so hard to sell,” she said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice where there was a place where they could sell their work, we could have events more regularly, to get their work out there not only to buy but just to experience?”
As of March 1, Walker had 32 artists signed onto the store, though not all will be present when it comes time for the grand opening April 19. She’s proud that many of the artists she expects to showcase come from all walks of life. She said a veteran has signed on to showcase his work, several older retired folks and even children as young as 9 years old.
“This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”
— Diana Walker
The new shop owner said since artists already have a tough time showcasing their work, often not having the funds to do so, she will take a percentage of each sale.
“This way if it sells you pay, if it doesn’t you don’t pay,” she said. “This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”
Items in the store are expected to be changed out every 90 days, and the owner expects to host several community events after hours, including giving artist the opportunity to showcase their entire line, doing crocheting classes, book signings, storytelling and podcasts. Her website will be a digital version of the store, showcasing the artists work so those unable to come into the store can still see the artist’s work.
“What motivates me is the energy that these people have,” Walker said. “It’s said you lift yourself by lifting others, and that’s what this is going to do.”
Honesty and service — that’s what the owners of Rocky Point Jewelers say have been the mainstay of their shops for 40 years.
Originally born from a coin collecting hobby between father and son, Anthony Bongiovanni Jr., the general manager of the store, said that after he graduated high school he and his dad hatched the idea of opening a small coin shop. The coin shop eventually turned into a full-fledged jewelry store.
“I realized early on though that jewelry was the way to go for a daily business — so we went in that direction,” Bongiovanni said.
From there, Bongiovanni would pursue and receive a graduate gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America, the highest degree awarded by the institute. He also holds the title of certified gemologist with the American Gem Society.
“He meant everything to the store. He was here every day — he was a fixture — always there to lend encouragement to the staff.”
— Anthony Bongiovanni Jr.
Bongiovanni said he learned much from his father.
“My father taught me honesty and hard work,” he said. “He meant everything to the store. He was here every day — he was a fixture — always there to lend encouragement to the staff.”
Anthony Bongiovanni Sr. passed away in 2011, but his impact on the store and the community remains.
“My father was a big influence — he was a great man,” Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella, who works with the family business, said. “I see a lot of my father in my brother.”
Bongiovanni-LaBella worked as a secretary for many years in the Hauppauge area until that company went under. With some convincing from her father she began working at the store in 1984.
“Who would’ve thought it would’ve come to this,” she said. “[I remember] we started out with homemade displays my mother would make.”
Over the years, the store has seen an expansion in size, and the family opened a Rocky Point Jewelers branch in Stony Brook.
The Bongiovanni siblings point to customer service as essential to running a success business.
“Anyone that sells retail will tell you that it is a different environment now than it was years ago,” Bongiovanni said. “You’re competing these days with not only other retailers but big box stores and online [shopping].”
The main store’s general manager said local jewelers like himself still offer services that are hard to find elsewhere.
“If you need a ring sized, a chain fixed, a watch fixed or something custom designed — that is something that can’t done on the computer — you have to see a professional for that,” he said.
Bongiovanni-LaBellla said you learn how to read people and get a sense of what they want.
Many customers have become personal friends over the years.
“Some of these customers I’ve been seeing for close to four decades,” Bongiovanni said. “You know them, you know their children, now we are meeting their grandchildren.”
Bongiovanni’s sister said she sees her customers at the post office, at Stop&Shop and at the bank.
“Generations of families have come here,” she said. “We try to keep people happy — your biggest advertisement is word of mouth, it really is.”
“We try to keep people happy — your biggest advertisement is word of mouth, it really is.”
— Ann-Maria Bongiovanni-LaBella
Theresa Armone, who has worked at the store for more than four years, said it’s the level and quality of service they provide that has kept customers coming back all these years.
Those who work at Rocky Point Jewelers agree the store works hard to earn the customers’ trust.
Bongiovanni said people entrust them with their valuables and sentimental objects and it means never compromising their standards.
“Times change, but it doesn’t mean your level of quality or service has to change — we try to improve on services as much as we can,” he said.
The general manager said with the work ethic instilled in him by his father, good employees and a little bit of luck, the store is still around 40 years later.
“It’s a tough retail environment out there,” he said. “There’s no two ways around it, but you always have to strive for better.”
Rocky Point Jewlers is located at 29 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road and 137 Main Street, Stony Brook.
The current government shutdown became the longest running federal closure in the nation’s history as of Jan. 12 — and there’s no clear end in sight. It’s estimated more than 800,000 government employees are either furloughed or are continuing to work without pay. By this publication’s press time, the shutdown has been ongoing for 34 days.
Several North Shore businesses, residents and other nonprofit organizations are doing what they can to aid those individuals who are anxiously awaiting their next paycheck.
Prism Wellness Salon and Spa, St. James
Janine Arguila, owner of Prism Wellness Salon and Spa in St. James, announced Jan. 16 via Facebook that her business would offer free haircuts to federal employees with a valid government ID through Feb. 26, or when the shutdown ends.
“We cannot end the shutdown but we can help those affected!” reads the Jan. 16 post.
Additional notification was also sent out via email to her clients on the company’s mailing list. Arguila said the public’s reaction to her offer was immediate and overwhelming.
“We’d had people saying, ‘Thank you so much, I’m not even a government employee and I think this is amazing’,” she said, noting thousands of likes and shares the announcement quickly garnered.
The salon owner said she came up with the idea after reading a friend’s social media posts about how her husband serves with the U.S. Coast Guard and was not sure when he would be able to subsist without a paycheck.
“A lot of people are government employees, or it’s their family, and we don’t even realize it,” Arguila said.
The first to accept the offer of a free haircut was a regular customer, according to Arguila, who thanked her after stating that her husband is a government employee and is working unpaid. She expects her salon will provide free services to many more as the shutdown drags on.
“I’ve had my success is by giving back,” the owner said. “My mother taught me to do the right thing no matter what it is. It’s always worked for me in every way.”
Del Fiore Italian Market, Rocky Point
Del Fiore Italian Market, located on Broadway in the Rocky Point Business District, starting Jan. 17, gave out two-person meals to government employees throughout the weekend. By Jan. 22, the store had gifted meals to more than 200 people, some of whom traveled from as far as Nassau County. Each meal included a box of fresh cheese ravioli, a quart of meat or
marinara sauce and a loaf of bread valued at $18. The owners said they gave out close to $800 worth of food. After the weekend the business gave out bags of house-cooked pasta until Jan. 24.
“When something’s wrong, people eat, so when something’s wrong you give people food — that’s what we do, we Italian people,” said Camille Pabon, who helps run the family-owned Del Fiore with her sister Lorian Prince.
While its costly to supply these meals, Pabon said other patrons were quick in supplying the business some money to help pay for the lost revenue. She received promises from those who accepted free food now would come back later as full-paying patrons once the shutdown is over.
Sassy Salads & Bagel Lady Cafe, Shoreham
Those who give food now know there is no hint yet when the shutdown could be over.
Linda Winter, the longtime owner of Sassy Salads & Bagel Lady Cafe, located in the Shoreham Plaza along Route 25A, announced Jan. 17 she would be giving out a complementary dozen bagels to those government employees who walked through her door. Over the weekend, Winter said more than 80 individuals came in for the bagels. Overall, the store handed out over 100 bags of a dozen bagels. She was astounded by the number of people who came in looking for help.
“We didn’t refuse anybody,” Winter said.
The deluge of people coming in for bagels was so much she said there were wait times for regular customers as they needed to keep baking new batches over the weekend. On Jan. 24 she announced she would have to limit the bagels to five dozen per day as well as limit the area to Mount Sinai through Wading River, though including Ridge.
“Here I am nearly 29 years in this location and the community has supported me for all those years, so I felt it was the right gesture,” Winter said. “I can imagine it’s a scary time for them … they are singled out, and they need to know people care about them and what’s going on in their lives right now.”
More organizations offer help to government workers in need
Other businesses and organizations from Port Jefferson to Huntington have been stepping up to offer aid to those government workers affected by shutdown:
* Blue Salon and Spa in Stony Brook is advertising a free blowout and haircut to those affected by the shutdown.
* On Jan. 18 Wahlburgers in Port Jeff Station announced it is offering a free burger, side and soft drink to individuals who could provide a government identification, ending sometime around Jan. 23.
Manager Adam Subbiondo said they have already seen more than 300 people ask for a meal since they started providing them.
“You can only imagine what its like to not get paid and go on to live their lives with their families, mortgages and kids,” he said.
* Teachers Federal Credit Union announced Jan. 14 a number of programs to assist those affected, including being able to skip payments on credit cards and loans up to $5,000 for immediate needs.
*Other organizations like the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been giving out free pet food for those who can’t afford it.
* The United Studios Progressive Martial Arts studio, with locations in both Rocky Point and Port Jefferson Station, is having a food drive over the weekend to help those affected.
“We believe, as martial artists, in humanitarian efforts,” said Blake Wolfskill, the chief instructor at the Rocky Point location. “We see people suffering and we have to do something.”
* The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, which represents more than 20 boat and watercraft organizations, announced Jan. 10 a gift card donation drive to help the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who safeguard the waters of the Long Island Sound. In addition to gift cards, the boating council will also accept monetary donations or check made out to “Chief Petty Officer Association” with Shut Down Fund CT-NY in the memo line and mailed to:P.O. Box 2124, Halesite, NY 11743.
*This post was updated to reflect Winter’s new bagel policy