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Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commcerce

By Serena Carpino

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its 15th annual Health & Wellness Fest at The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station on Saturday, April 13. Dozens of businesses — ranging from local clinics to internationally recognized organizations — attended the event to spread awareness of their efforts to help people create healthy habits and promote a wellness lifestyle. 

Both returning and new businesses set up booths around the club. Some had attended for 15 years. For most, it was their first time at the Health & Wellness Fest. 

Many of the booths were centered around heart and mental health, but there were also representatives from therapy groups, local gyms and several other related programs. However, there was one main theme across the board: preventative care. Officials spread awareness about early screenings for different illnesses, regular doctor checkups and healthy eating to prevent chronic diseases.

For example, the Fortunato Breast Health Center at Mather Hospital is promoting breast health through early mammograms — around age 40 for all women and earlier for those with a family history of breast cancer — as well as breast self-examinations. According to Maureen Burke, an employee at the center, they have many resources for women who have been diagnosed with cancer and are encouraging them to utilize these opportunities. 

“We’re just making them aware of different programs that we have,” Burke said. One such program is a navigation system in which nurses follow patients through their cancer journey and are always available via phone to help schedule appointments or answer any other questions. In addition, they educate people on lymphedema and offer different blood tests through their oncology department. 

Other programs, such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, focused on nutritious eating habits to promote longevity. This organization is advocating for the MyPlate meal plan, which stipulates that half of our plates should be filled with fruits and vegetables. In addition, Cornell encourages making better beverage choices and remaining physically active. 

Linda Altenburger, a registered dietitian and the program manager for the organization’s diabetes team, said that Cornell has also partnered with WIC and SNAP-Ed populations and has offered many free resources to the community.

“We’re an outreach, you know, to the community … [we have] a lot of hands-on programs for children and adults, and overall just provide great resources so the community knows where to turn,” she explained. “We’re trying to reduce the incidence of diabetes and help those that are trying to lose weight and just how to cook healthy with more fruits and vegetables.” 

Cornell Cooperative has also partnered with local farmers markets and Sun River Health to further their efforts for the community. 

There were representatives at the fest from mental health groups such as LightPath Counseling Group and Youth Enrichment Services. 

LightPath has 20 therapists that have various focuses. Janice Martin, director of LightPath and a clinical social therapist for over 20 years said, “We do anxiety, depression, relievement, pretty much everything. Each therapist specializes in something different.”

Youth Enrichment Services was founded in 1987, but recently added its Community Mental Health Promotion and Support division. The organization is mainly located in Brentwood and Islip, with several school programs focused on mental health and community drug misuse awareness. This is the first year YES has attended the Health & Wellness Fest. Fernando Hurtado, a member of the COMHPS division, explained that it “is a good opportunity because it gives everybody a way to bolster everybody’s mental health outreach.”

Other groups present at the event included Redefine Fitness, Stony Brook University Heart Institute, New York Blood Center, Port Jefferson Free Library, Countryside Animal Hospital and more. 

Despite the chiseled blocks of ice stationed around the village, downtown Port Jefferson was red hot last weekend during the 4th annual Port Jefferson Ice Festival, hosted by the village’s Business Improvement District.

This two-day celebration took place on Jan. 28 and 29, bringing together several local institutions, dozens of small businesses and a whole lot of ice. Roger Rutherford, Port Jefferson BID president and general manager of Roger’s Frigate, summarized the boost the festival brought to storefronts.

“This is the slowest time of the year for the business community,” he said. “This is our fourth annual, and it has really taken off and turned into something spectacular.”

Making the festivities possible required significant organizational collaboration between the BID and its partners. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce assisted by facilitating a mac ’n’ cheese crawl. 

With 12 participating restaurants, the crawl offered festivalgoers a chance to taste various cuisines from food establishments around the village. 

“This is the second year they asked us to be the administrators for the mac ’n’ cheese crawl,” said chamber executive director Barbara Ransome. “They go to 12 places. It’s four ounces of mac ’n’ cheese [per stop], so you’re talking three pounds [in all].” She added, “It’s a lot of mac ’n’ cheese.”

Thousands flocked to the village to partake in the fun, including trustee Stan Loucks who projected the weekend as one of the highest local turnouts on record.

“I have never seen so many people in our village,” he said. “The merchants were extremely happy with the crowd. They did very well this weekend, and I think it was terrific to see that many people walking around our village.”

James Luciano, owner of PJ Lobster House, reacted to the festival’s success in stimulating small businesses.

“This festival brings in a lot of business for us,” he said. “This time of year, you’re lucky to get a couple of tables for lunch and a couple of bar customers.” But, he added, “We’ve been full since we opened the door.”

Meltdown

‘The businesses were thriving, the restaurants were full.’

— Kathianne Snaden

The sizable show gave much-needed relief to storefront owners still recovering from the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost three years ago, the world and nation were shocked by the outbreak of the pandemic, leaving downtowns such as Port Jeff’s in disarray.

Indu Kaur is the owner of the Curry Club at SāGhar in Port Jefferson, an establishment that opened in February 2020, just weeks before the lockdowns. 

“We took over the business and had no idea that we were going to be shut down,” Kaur said, describing the impact of the pandemic on her business as “a huge tragedy.”

In the face of hardship, Kaur and her staff continued operations by donating meals, then reopened in the fall of that year. With a historic turnout villagewide, Kaur regarded the resurgence of the downtown businesses with delight.

“It’s so exciting to see everyone walking around, enjoying our village, enjoying the new restaurants, the new shows and our ice sculptures,” she said.

Outside Kaur’s restaurant lay a decorative ice sculpture depicting Ganesha, a Hindu deity tying into the theme of local renaissance. “Lord Ganesha is the statue that we all have faith brings prosperity, happiness and peace,” she said.

Icebreaker

Ganesha was just one of a few dozen ice sculptures displayed throughout the village. Many visitors stood and posed with the ice, which was often interactive. Some sculptures depicted animals, others tied in with the businesses for which they were custom made. 

Rich Daly, president and owner of Ice Memories, has created sculptures during each of the festival’s four iterations. He discussed the considerable effort and material that made it all possible.

“We do live carvings and have about 90,000 pounds worth of ice set up throughout town,” supplied by Riverhead-based Long Island Ice, Daly said. “Every year, we add more ice and more activities for everybody to do.”

Daly got interested in ice sculpting during culinary school, where he first received an ice carving assignment. “Once they put a chainsaw in my hands, I just never let it go,” he said.

Given how a sculpture shapeshifts and reforms during the different melting stages, the temporality and mutability of the ice medium offer both challenge and opportunity for creative expression.

“It’s a temporary art form, which makes it unique,” Daly said. “Especially on a day like today or a weekend like this, Mother Nature just doesn’t want the ice to be around,” adding, “As it melts, it just kind of changes and transforms, and it’s pretty cool.”

Daly said the process is relatively straightforward for those interested in carving ice. Blocks of ice, he said, can be acquired at most ice plants on Long Island. “It doesn’t take a crazy amount of money to buy tools,” he said. “Just have at it. Start [carving] whatever inspires you.”

Tip of the iceberg

Spring-like temperatures and melting points played a prominent role throughout the festival, with some environmentalists ringing the alarm about the threat of climate change. 

Posted along Main, a small group of protesters lined the sidewalks with signs that read: “There is no planet ‘B’” and “Be nice, save the ice.” Holly Fils-Aime, president of the local environmental group EcoLeague, discussed how the melting sculptures signal a dangerous trend. 

“The fact that these sculptures didn’t last the day because it’s so warm out here in January is a great teaching device,” Fils-Aime said.

Picketing alongside Fils-Aime was village resident Myrna Gordon, who stressed the importance of local government in identifying environmental problems and implementing science-based solutions. 

“In my own village here in Port Jefferson, I think that a lot more has to be done with environmental issues,” she said. “Having an ice festival is wonderful — bringing people to the village, helping the businesses. But we also need to focus on very, very serious issues that are happening here.”

Frozen in time

Through the ice fest, scores of people interacted with the various facets of the community. While there wasn’t an ice sculpture outside the Bayles Boat Shop, boat builders continued their work on the Resolution whaleboat project. 

“We’re in the finalizing stages of lofting,” said John Janicek, treasurer of the boat shop. After that, the buildout of the keel and stem can commence.

As the whaleboat enters a pivotal moment in its buildout process, the village is undergoing a transition of its own, moving into the post-pandemic era. With downtown thriving once again, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden gave her thoughts on these positive developments.

“It was incredible to see so many people enjoy the village this time of year,” she said. “The businesses were thriving, the restaurants were full. There were shoppers and diners, and it was great to see the comeback.”

File photo by Carolyn Sackstein

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees is approaching a meaningful vote to decide the future of the Port Jefferson Country Club.

PJCC is a village-owned property. In a two-phased initiative, the board is actively responding to the harmful effects of coastal erosion at East Beach. Construction of a lower retaining wall is ongoing after a 4-1 vote under a previous composition of the board of trustees. 

Now the board is looking upland, where erosion has encroached dangerously upon the PJCC clubhouse. Without remediation, the clubhouse could fall off the cliff within years. 

Weighing its options, the board must soon decide whether to invest in preserving the existing clubhouse by adding a steel wall or retreating inland.

‘We’re already at a point where we’re playing beat the clock. We’ve lost a tremendous amount of material, and that is something we have to take into consideration.’ — Margot Garant

A battle against time and nature

In an exclusive interview with Mayor Margot Garant, she provided her initial estimates for the cost of the upper wall. 

“We’re estimating approximately another $3 million for that upper wall project,” she said. “The lower wall was a more complicated project because of the steel, rock and revegetation of the entire slope. The upper wall is really only steel and vegetation.” Bids for this project are still out but are due by Oct. 7, when the village will receive its final estimate.

Garant acknowledged the severe economic and environmental constraints working against the village. The construction cost index is forecast to see a 14.1% year-to-year increase by Dec. 31. While the cost of building materials skyrockets, inflation is at its highest point in four decades. 

Meanwhile, the cliff erosion is rapidly closing in on the clubhouse. For these reasons, Garant feels a sense of urgency to approve the upper wall if the village board favors that option.

“I think economic factors … plus Mother Nature are all kind of not working to our advantage at this point in time,” she said. “We’re already at a point where we’re playing beat the clock. We’ve lost a tremendous amount of material, and that is something we have to take into consideration — the pros and cons and the risk factors.”

‘As community leaders, it’s our duty to look at the realities in front of us and serve the community accordingly.’ — Rebecca Kassay

While the mayor appears committed to quick remediation, the board has no unanimous consensus. Trustee Rebecca Kassay was the lone dissenter on the lower wall vote, citing a lack of public input into the final determination.

If presented with a similar vote on the upper wall, Kassay said she would vote “no” again. “My position is still the same,” she said. “I cannot, in good conscience, vote for another multimillion dollar project without having the residents of Port Jefferson show their support or rejection for it.”

Drawing from her background in environmental advocacy, Kassay believes there are viable alternatives to the upper wall. While the burgeoning science of coastal erosion mitigation may be daunting, according to her, exploring these options may be in the village’s long-term interest.

“Adopting new strategies and technologies can be very nerve-racking,” the trustee said. “It’s quite upsetting but, as community leaders, it’s our duty to look at the realities in front of us and serve the community accordingly.”

Elizabeth Hornstein, above, delivered a presentation to the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Sept. 27, regarding the impending threat of sea-level rise and coastal erosion to the area. Photo by Raymond Janis

This week, a local climate expert presented some of her findings to the Port Jeff community. During a Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27, Elizabeth Hornstein, a New York State Sea Grant sustainable and resilient communities specialist for Suffolk County, explained the pending threat of sea-level rise and intensifying storms on coastal communities. 

Hornstein’s presentation stressed the need for community planning and resiliency. She advised that addressing the issue of erosion near the country club would require a communitywide assessment of its environmental priorities.

“I think the community as a whole has to decide what is most important,” she said. “Is the country club an asset that is very important to the community? What else in the community, though, is also very important that you may want to protect?” She added, “I think it’s a tricky situation, and it’s hard to make those calls.”

‘I would like to see more of a country club atmosphere up there, and I’m not sure we’re getting it with the existing building.’

— Stan Loucks

Reimagining PJCC

Trustee Stan Loucks remains undecided whether he will support the upper wall. Like Kassay, Loucks has expressed support for putting the matter out for a public referendum. However, he suggests the board should tie an upper wall proposal to a plan for reinvigorating the country club.

Critics of saving the clubhouse have cited examples of village officials referring to the clubhouse as “underutilized.” Joining these detractors, Loucks hopes for greater use of the country club’s available amenities.

“I would like to see more of a country club atmosphere up there, and I’m not sure we’re getting it with the existing building,” he said. “I want to see what it’s going to cost to put an upper wall in there, and I want to see what it would cost to perhaps build a new building.”

‘I would also like to hear how this would factor into a more comprehensive long-term strategy for the country club campus.’

— Lauren Sheprow

Trustee Lauren Sheprow campaigned earlier this year on a platform of protecting the clubhouse. In an email statement, she referred to the facility as “one of Port Jefferson’s finest assets.” 

In her short tenure on the village board, Sheprow has already resurrected the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council. The newly elected trustee said this council will work to bolster recreational activities at the clubhouse.

“I am hopeful that our new Parks and Recreation Advisory Council will help to build and cultivate a concept, which will be on the agenda for our first meeting in October,” Sheprow said. “We would also like to create more recreational opportunities over the winter months.” She added that new racket sports amenities might provide even more avenues for recreational use.

As the board awaits cost estimates for the upland projects, Sheprow intends to evaluate both options thoroughly before making a final judgment. “I would like to be able to do a walkthrough of the proposed solutions and hear from those who have designed them,” she said, adding, “I would also like to hear how this would factor into a more comprehensive long-term strategy for the country club campus.”

Garant said residents could expect at least one more work session in the coming weeks for the upland proposals. After that, it remains unclear whether these projects will go out for a public vote. 

“I think the Board of Trustees will make that decision as soon as possible if we’re moving forward [with the upper wall],” the mayor said. “And if we’re not moving forward, some of the other retreat plans will take time because the retreat plan means that we’re abandoning the facility.” 

With respect to a possible referendum, she added, “When we have that price point, we can have that discussion as a board. I’m not sure I’m in agreement with that as that was something we should have discussed when we passed the resolution for the $10 million bond.”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden could not be reached for comment on this story.

Port Jeff village trustee candidates during the "Meet the Candidates" forum hosted by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce on June 8. (Left to right) Lauren Sheprow, Bruce Miller, Ana Hozyainova, Rebecca Kassay and Gerard Gang. Photo by Raymond Janis

Incumbent trustees Bruce Miller and Rebecca Kassay, who are both up for reelection, will be challenged by Gerard Gang, Ana Hozyainova and Lauren Sheprow in the village election on Tuesday, June 21. 

During a “Meet the Candidates” event held Wednesday, June 8, the five declared candidates presented their visions before an audience of dozens of residents in the Wayfarer Room of the Village Center.

Candidates each delivered two-minute opening remarks, answered questions on various subjects regarding the major issues currently facing the village, and finally made concluding remarks.

The event was sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, asked the questions. Seating arrangements and response orders were both determined at random by pulling the candidates’ names out of a bag.

Questions were selected by a panel of moderators that comprised of Suzanne Velazquez, former chamber president; Stu Vincent, director of public relations at Mather Hospital; and Thomas Donlon, director of Port Jefferson Free Library.

Chamber president Mary Joy Pipe was the official timer for the event, signaling to the candidates their remaining allotted time with colored cards. After opening remarks, the candidates debated a range of topics such as term limits, bluff stabilization, Upper Port revitalization, potential redistricting schemes for the school district, among several other subjects. 

The entire candidate forum clocked in at nearly two-and-a-half hours. For more information, click here.

On April 17, Easter Sunday, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its 27th annual Easter parade.

Led by the Easter Bunny, dozens of children, parents and community members marched through the village streets. Starting from Theatre Three on Main Street, the parade route cut through East Main, and finally ended at the Port Jefferson Village Center. 

The event was concluded by a massive egg hunt in Harborfront Park, where participants scaled fences and sprinted long distances in pursuit of the precious hidden eggs.

Photo from PJCC

Insight Healing Ministries in Port Jefferson was treated to a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce on May 20. Owner Marianne Hennigar received a Certificate of Congratulations from Town of Brookhaven aide Zachary Baum on behalf of Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich. 

Located at 156 E. Main Street, in Port Jefferson, Insight Healing Ministries uses the concept of Psycho-emotive Anatomy, a body based approach, for physical and emotional healing.

Pictured from left, chamber members Stuart Vincent, Pat Kennedy, Mary Joy Pipe, and Raquel Fernandez; owner Marianne Hennigar with husband Dr. Randy Hennigar; and Zachary Baum, Town of Brookhaven Aide for Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich. For more information, visit insighthealingministries.com.

Photo from PJCC

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for iV Bars of Port Jefferson on April 28. Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and the chamber presented owner Aaron Roberts with Certificates of Congratulations and wished him best of luck in his new venture.

Located at 5400 Nesconset Hwy, Port Jefferson Station, the franchise offers numerous types of intravenous fluids, vitamins and medicines to provide patients with vitamins and supplements to help treat the symptoms of hangovers, boost energy levels, hydrate the body, relieve chronic fatigue, and more.

Pictured from left, Lisa Castellano, iV administrator; chamber members Stuart Vincent and Matthew Fernandez; Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich; Caleb Laues, iV manager; Aaron Roberts, iV owner; and chamber member Raquel Fernandez.

Hours of operation are noon to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 631-828-2692 or visit www.ivbars.com.

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PJ Lobster House is just one of several local businesses whose owners say inspectors have repeatedly shown up to the restaurant around dinner time in a small, two-week period. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local restaurant owners have reached out to regional officials saying the New York State Liquor Authority inspections meant to determine if they’re complying with state mandates have become more than excessive, but actually damaging to their businesses.

‘I think they were making some restaurants sort of the poster children for: if you don’t comply, you face some significant penalties.’

—Kevin Law

A letter dated Aug. 24 saying just that was signed by Port Jefferson Village, Port Jeff chamber of commerce and BID leaders and sent to Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association. It was also copied to County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Cara Longworth, regional director of Empire State Development. Letter writers argued that the SLA inspections have put too much onus on restaurants when they’re barely struggling to get by.

“Please realize we totally agree that inspections need to take place and strive to have our

business owners here operate in full compliance,” the letter reads. “However, we are concerned that overemphasis is being put on our restaurants — rather than the bars that remain open after the kitchens are closed and continue to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.”

The letter further states that restaurant owners have seen groups of four come in at a time, usually around dinnertime, sometimes not showing ID, with one armed with a pistol and wearing a bulletproof vest.

James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House, said he has personally seen SLA inspections come through five times within a 14-day period at about 7 p.m. each time. The agents, though courteous, informed him that they were not from the SLA but from a New York State Police task force. A group of men, one armed, strolling into an eating area when people are sitting down for dinner does not make a good impression on diners, he argued.

“I am not certain that is the perception that we want the general public to see,” Luciano said. “I stressed to them that this was borderline harassment.”

PJ Lobster House is not the only local bar or restaurant that’s experienced a heavy hand with inspections. One Junior’s Spycoast employee related seeing a massive number of inspections in just two weeks. Danfords Hotel & Marina has been previously cited for SLA violations July 4 as well, according to state documents.

Though he said he has not heard from the inspectors since just before the letter was sent, he and other business owners have experienced the stress of constant inspections.

New York State has, according to the latest numbers as of Aug. 28, suspended the liquor licenses for 168 businesses for not complying with COVID regulations, though the vast majority were businesses centered in the five New York City boroughs. Later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sept. 7 that seven bars and restaurants in New York state had their licenses revoked. Five of those were from Suffolk County.

The number of inspections, however, has yet to slow down. The governor’s office announced SLA and New York State Police task force members visited 1,064 establishments just on Sept. 6. Per the governor’s near-daily reports, inspectors conduct at least several hundred inspections daily.

In order to carry out reopening and COVID guidelines enforcement, New York has been broken up into regional economic development councils. The local task force, or “control room” contains members of the LIA, Bellone, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D), among others. It is captained by Longworth.

It’s a balancing act, trying to keep businesses healthy while avoiding a resurgence of the virus that would surely shut these businesses down for good. LIA’s Law said he received Port Jeff Village’s letter and has brought it up to members of the control room, whom he said were entirely sympathetic to the issues restaurants were having. Law, who has been at the forefront of Long Island’s reopening plan from the start, said hearing that armed and armored individuals have helped conduct inspections concerned everyone sitting at their daily video control center meetings.

“It’s impossible for them to inspect every restaurant and bar, because there’s just so many of them, so I think they were making some restaurants sort of the poster children for: if you don’t comply, you face some significant penalties,” Law said. “I think it was important that word did get out there so some businesses would comply. We all know with every type of category with every business, you have good guys and you have a couple knuckleheads who don’t obey by the rules and they ruin it for others.”

He said he and others did appreciate the village officials’ idea of focusing more on inspections of bars open in the early morning hours instead of weekday dinner time.

Though at the same time, Law said he and the local control room are only really in advisory positions, and it would require change on the state level to truly impact the rate of current inspections.

Either way, restaurants still remain in a tough spot, and Luciano said he and so many others continue to struggle.

“Our landlords and vendors don’t take IOUs,” the PJ Lobster House owner said. “We’ve done everything that has been asked. The numbers are way lower than they were. It’s been over six months. We can’t hang on that much longer, we are on a sinking ship.”

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Margot Garant Speaks with Mike Philbrick, Owner of Port Jeff Brewing, during one of the zooming with the mayor series. Screencap from video

Thinking of ways to help promote the struggling Port Jeff village businesses, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District came up with the idea to host online video meetings between the mayor and owners to talk about what services they offer and how they’re getting by.

Mayor Margot Garant speaks with Debra Bowling, the owner of Pasta Pasta in Port Jeff. Photo from Zooming with the Mayor

But what surprised Mayor Margot Garant, she said, was just how much the business community has worked not just to support themselves, but support fellow businesses and the wider community during a time of crisis. 

“I’m just hearing all these wonderful stories,” Garant said. “Everybody’s trying to help each other … everybody’s finding their way to give back.”

As part of the village’s Open Today portion of their website, which displays which businesses are open and what services they offer during the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown, the videos have offered a candid glimpse into the minds of local business owners. 

Many stores are offering curbside pickup, not just eateries. 

Marianne Ketcham, the owner of Home Kingdom which has been a near 16-year village staple, is offering curbside pickup of its stock, with people able to look at items through the shop’s website and Facebook page. 

Joey Zangrillo of Joey Z’s on Main Street said they have been doing curbside pickup as well as home delivery. While they were inspecting different locations on Long Island for pizza shops, the pandemic put a squash to that, though now that he’s making and selling pizzas in house, which have been “flying out the door.”

The Amazing Olive on Main Street has focused more on its online shop, shipping to anywhere in the country, but owner Steve Munoz and his family has also taken to doing home delivery of products from nearly anywhere on the Island to save on shipping. They have been sharing customized bottles and labels, such as one for Mother’s Day.  

In a time where many businesses are threatened with huge drops in revenue, the desire to give back is proving an even greater incentive.

Kristine and Brian Viscount, the owners of the Kilwins shop on Main Street, talked about their curbside pickup. Though their preordered Easter Baskets were a success, they partnered with community members to help ship around 60 baskets full of chocolate to the Infant Jesus R.C. Church food pantry for them to hand out to people who needed it.

It has worked both ways as well. Locals who know their favorite shops are struggling have been making sure they get some business, desperately trying to make sure they stay solvent.

Debra Bowling, who owns Pasta Pasta along with her husband, has been serving their full menu seven days a week. Though she has been in her position for about 15 months, the restaurant is coming up on its 30-year anniversary. Bowling said one customer bought all the products they would have for the couple’s 50th anniversary, and each who would have gone to the party had the same meal at their own house. 

“They just say thank you for being here,” she said. “It is the most amazing town with the most amazing loyal customers.”

To look at the full breadth of Port Jeff Open Today, visit portjeff.com/zoomingwiththemayor/. Businesses can email [email protected] to schedule a slot.

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Officials from the Port Jefferson village, chamber and BID joined Teachers Federal Credit Union and hospital heads to accept a $5,000 check allowing more meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

This post has been updated with new information of more funds coming from Suffolk Federal Credit Union.

Port Jeff business organizations have gotten a helping hand from Teachers Federal Credit Union in their quest to bring meals to hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus, as well as support restaurants that have seen massive drops in sales since the start of the pandemic.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers, joined together in offering a check to the chamber and BID’s program offering meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

Holding a large $5,000 novelty check in front of the PJ Lobster House, Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers,joined village and hospital officials in accepting the check. It was also a show of how people try to maintain social distancing even in such simple events like a press conference.

“Thank you for thinking of us as your hometown as all of our hometowns are suffering,” Pipe said.

On Tuesday, April 14, Suffolk Federal Credit Union will also be presenting the business organizations a $7,500 check to help with operations, according to chamber executive director Barbara Ransome. This brings the total in donations from credit unions
to $12,500.

For the past few weeks, Port Jefferson village, the chamber and the Business Improvement District have teamed up to have restaurants supply meals that are shipped to both John T. Mather and St. Charles hospitals. James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House and the BID’s secretary, said they are sending 40 meals to hospital workers at a time on a rotating basis between businesses. Participating businesses include Slurp, Nantuckets, Prohibition Kitchen, Wave Seafood & Steak, Pasta Pasta, The Steam Room, Fifth Season, C’est Cheese, Saghar, The Pie, PJ Lobster House and Salsa Salsa.

The money raised is also partially to help businesses support some of their staff while there are a limited number of customers.

BID and chamber leaders said they have been holding constant meetings alongside village officials to try and keep on top of events.

“The BID and chamber are matching contributions from the restaurant association to help keep these meals moving along,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “We accept any support we can get from partners and our residents to help keep our businesses relevant and open to help feed the front line and also the people who are in need of supplies and meals.”

The chamber has established a Gofundme page at www.gofundme.com/f/help-port-jeff-restaurants-feed-hospital-workers. So far they have raised nearly $6,500.

“The restaurants and shops are the backbone of our community,” Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate and BID president said. “When we see partners such as Teachers stepping up it’s a really wonderful thing that helps us sustain and weather the storm.”

The idea of supporting hospitals during the crisis has spread to downtowns all throughout the Island. Sprague said Teachers originally caught on to what Port Jeff and other communities like Patchogue were doing through the Greater Long Island websites. Last week they donated $5,000 to the fundraising efforts in Patchogue. Later this week the credit union plans to donate another $5,000 to restaurants in Bayshore and Babylon.

“Our goal is to continue to support frontline staff who are deemed essential to our society, as well as keep our local businesses employed and functioning and operating,” she said.