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David Prestia

A portion of the cream cheese case in Bagel Express in Setauket. Photo from David Prestia

Across the North Shore of Suffolk County, bagel shops and bakeries have found that it has been a little difficult getting cream cheese.

While customers can still get their favorite spread on a sandwich or buy a cheesecake or Danish pastry, local bakery and bagel shop owners are having a difficult time procuring cream cheese, and the price of the product has increased over the last few weeks. The shortage has been felt across the nation.

David Prestia, owner of Bagel Express in Setauket, said he first heard about the shortage on the news. It was a bit concerning to him as his restaurant uses cream cheese often for their bagel sandwiches, even though they offer other options such as butter, egg salad and more.

Prestia said he deals with several distributors so he has only been slightly affected by the shortage. When a couple of them couldn’t fulfill his cream cheese order, he was able to go to another distributor. However, the amount he could order was limited. He said this distributor told him that they would have to limit orders until they could assess the situation.

Cream cheese comes in 50-pound blocks, and while it’s the norm to order a few blocks at a time, he and others have been lucky if they can get one or two per order.

Prestia said he also noticed the price was going up recently. He estimated, based on his experience, that it cost 20% more to buy the spread.

Cream cheese blocks can last 45 days if the seal isn’t broken, so Prestia said he should be good through the remainder of the year. He added that cream cheese is not the only thing in short supply and he has had trouble finding other products, including napkins and plates.

“It’s been so many different things that we’ve been short on and then when the stuff appears, then the price goes up and that’s the problem,” he said. “Prices are changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up with what’s going on.”

Cemal Ankay, owner of Bagelicious Cafe in Port Jefferson Station, has been experiencing the same issues as Prestia. He said he has been reaching out to different distributors throughout the state to get cream cheese.

Ankay said he always tries to have two-weeks inventory, and while he hasn’t been able to get as many blocks of cream cheese as he has in the past such as four or five, he has been able to get one or two here and there. He said it’s important to be proactive as the year winds down.

“Christmas week, that’s our busiest days of the year,” he said.

Product shortages have seemed to become the norm lately, Ankay said.

“After this pandemic happened, we always have different kinds of product shortages,” he said, adding at one point he had trouble getting bacon then cups for iced tea. He, too, has had trouble getting napkins.

Ankay has seen the prices skyrocket for cream cheese. He once paid $1.90 a pound but then last week it was around $2.49, and the other day he was told it would be more than $3.

“You’re lucky to get it,” he said. “I don’t want to say to my customers, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any cream cheese.’”

In Northport, Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe owned by Flemming Hansen has been facing similar problems getting cream cheese for items such as cheesecake, Danishes and their red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, according to employee Jessica Greenbaum. Like Bagel Express, they deal with a few distributors and have options regarding ordering. Recently, they ordered cream cheese from a distributor that they haven’t ordered the product from in the past.

“I hope it doesn’t come to, when in the morning you crave a cheese Danish, that we don’t have one,” she said, adding that the bakery has enough to get through the holidays as they don’t use as much of the spread as a bagel store would.

Grocery stores

The cream cheese shortage has affected local grocery stores, too.

Stefanie Shuman, external communications manager for Stop & Shop, said, “Like many retailers, we are seeing some shortages because suppliers are experiencing labor and transportation challenges due to COVID-19. With cream cheese, Kraft specifically has been having supply issues on Philly and Temp Tee [products] due to impacts from Hurricane Ida.”

King Kullen, which has stores in St. James and Wading River, is experiencing similar problems, according to Lloyd Singer, spokesperson for King Kullen.

“While we are in stock on most varieties, supply is tight and is expected to remain so through the end of the year,” Singer said.

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The Three Village Holiday Electric Parade returned to Main Street in East Setauket Sunday, Dec. 12. Last year a drive-thru version of the annual tradition was held at Ward Melville High School to comply with COVID-19 health protocols.

This year, David Prestia, owner of Bagel Express in Setauket, led the 25th annual parade presented by the Rotary Club of Stony Brook. Hundreds lined the street to catch a glimpse of lighted cars and floats, while Ward Melville and Stony Brook University students marched down the street along with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of local organizations and businesses.

Musical and dance performances at the Setauket Firehouse kicked off the early evening festivities, and the parade ended with a visit from Santa escorted by the fire department’s vehicles.

David Prestia, third from right, at the 2019 Three Village Community Trust annual gala. Photo from David Prestia

By Leah Chiappino

For David Prestia, the owner of Bagel Express in Setauket, being part of the Three Village area is more than being a business owner, he also gets involved in the community.

He consistently takes time out of his schedule to give back to the area in the form of donations, volunteerism and community engagement. He’s the machine behind the hot chocolate at the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade and the cook at the annual Three Village Chamber of Commerce Barbecue at West Meadow Beach.

Having grown up with a family who owned an Italian deli, Prestia says he was the only one of four brothers who didn’t work in the deli when he was growing up. However, after receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. John’s University in Queens, he began working with his father and fell in love with the food business. He then opened Fratelli’s Market Place in Astoria, Queens, and expanded it to locations in Roslyn, Forest Hills, Manhattan and Stony Brook village.

“David brings a businessperson’s perspective to trust operations along with his good humor and enthusiasm for our preservation mission.”

– Robert Reuter

When he first moved to Setauket 30 years ago, he jumped on the opportunity to open a bagel store. He has owned Bagel Express in Setauket, along with his partner Eric Keller and brother Michael Prestia, ever since. Having sold Fratelli’s Market Place, his focus is running the Setauket location, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and supplying Bagel Express in Smithtown and Sayville.

While running his business, he manages to contribute to the community and is on the board of the Three Village Community Trust, a not-for-profit land trust. Vice President Robert Reuter said Prestia has been instrumental in the business aspect of the organization.

“David brings a businessperson’s perspective to trust operations along with his good humor and enthusiasm for our preservation mission,” he said. “He shares that interest with his considerable network of friends and associates who know his dedication to our community and the result has been many new supporters.”

Having been a history major in college, Prestia said the rich history is one of his favorite things about the Three Village area, which inspired him to get involved in the Three Village Historical Society. He has donated food for the annual Candlelight House Tour for the past several years.

“Usually, if you ask, [Prestia] will donate, ” said Steve Healy, the president of the historical society. “People like Dave are not just in the community; they are the community. He is always willing to roll up his sleeves and help out.”

Prestia is also on the board of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and involved with Seawolves United at Stony Brook University. He has sponsored Staller Center for the Arts receptions and the food concession at university basketball games. For the local business owner, getting involved was simply not a question.

“I’m very lucky,” Prestia said. “We’ve been successful with the business. It’s so important to give back to the community. There are so many things going on all the time. It’s a great place to raise a family, and the schools are wonderful. We’re so lucky to live here.”

 

Attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce annual barbecue enjoyed an evening of eating and dancing on the beach Aug. 2. Photo from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce

By Rita J. Egan

A little rain didn’t stop families from enjoying an evening at the beach Aug. 2 when the Three Village Chamber of Commerce hosted its family barbecue.

Attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce annual barbecue enjoyed an evening of eating and dancing on the beach Aug. 2. Photo from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce

This was the 18th annual summer event at West Meadow Beach for the chamber. Vice president Charles Lefkowitz said while it rained for a short period, attendees weathered the storm by spending time under the beach’s pavilion or umbrellas.

“The rain made it fun and interesting, and thanks to the great volunteers we have, and David Prestia from Bagel Express, we were able to get several hundred through the food line,” he said. “It was a very successful event.”

Chamber president Andrew Polan said he estimated  400 people were in attendance, and added the number of families participating in the event has grown over the years. Polan said while the organization doesn’t advertise as much as it did in the past, many still come, looking forward to the raffles and camaraderie at the beach.

“It’s nice to see after 18 years it’s as much of a hit with the community as it’s always been,” Polan said.

Lefkowitz said Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were among the local residents who attended.

Attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce annual barbecue enjoyed an evening of eating and dancing on the beach Aug. 2. Photo from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce

“This is something that the local community looks forward to every year, and I’ve been involved in it since its inception,” Lefkowitz said. “I’m really proud that the chamber can deliver such an event to give back to the community.”

David Woods, the chamber’s former executive director, recently retired, and Lefkowitz said the board banded together to organize this year’s barbecue. He said their work together on the event has left a great impression on him.

“The true highlight was how my fellow board members really pulled together, and we worked as a group to deliver this barbecue as a successful event,” Lefkowitz said.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to provide local professionals and business owners the opportunity to grow professionally through community events. The organization is planning its next event — Disco Night at The Old Field Club — Oct. 19. For more information visit www.3vchamber.com.