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Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce

Port Jefferson hosted its 24th annual Charles Dickens Festival In 2019. It won't be back until 2021. File photo by Kyle Barr

The 25th annual Charles Dickens Festival may be quarantined until next year, but Santa himself may be coming down from the North Pole for some socially distanced festivities come December.

Village and chamber officials both confirmed the annual Dickens fest is moving to next year, skipping this year to host their quarter-century event. Though Charles Dickens won’t appear on any of the taglines or advertising, there will still be holiday-based events. 

The village is hosting what’s been dubbed A Touch of Holiday Cheer on the three Saturdays before Christmas. 

“What we really would like to see happen is on the Saturday’s through December, we can find some small ways for having people come down and celebrate the holiday season,” Mayor Margot Garant said. 

Although Garant said that not hosting the festival’s 25th anniversary is “gut-wrenching,” they do not want to create an atmosphere that could become unsafe, since the festival normally brings in thousands of people Down Port. 

“We want to give reasons for people to come down here, celebrate the day, do some local shopping, support our local markets,” she said. “That’s the underlying reason we do Dickens, after all, to be together and hopefully we have something to celebrate come December.” 

A full list of happenings are still being determined, but the chamber has set several events already for the three December Saturdays before Christmas. Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said they still plan to do Cookie Land for kids to decorate cookies by appointment at the Village Center. The chamber will host a photo opportunity with Santa on his big red sleigh from 1 to 4 p.m. Children will be staged in front of the sleigh instead of their usual position on his lap so there will be no direct contact. People are also asked for a $5 donation to the chamber.

Garant added the Festival of Tress – with social distancing – is planned on the third floor of the village center, some outdoor concert and plays, as well as a performance from Setauket resident and singer Carolyn Benson. A belle choir is also scheduled for Dec. 5.

“It’s going to be an interesting season,” Garant said. “But I think the one thing that brings everyone together is the holidays, and I think we can all agree on that.” 

More information on chamber events can be found at portjeffchamber.com

Additional reporting by Kyle Barr

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Professional muralist Linda Menda-Alfin, pictured, worked alongside Jennifer Hannaford to paint the new mural behind Chase Bank. Photo by Barbara Ransome

As Port Jefferson, as well as the rest of Long Island, is struggling to its feet after the last sorrowful months of the pandemic, Port Jeff business entities are looking to inject a little more life and art into places that haven’t seen it before.

The electrical box before it was painted with the mural. Photo by Barbara Ransome

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District worked together to fund a new art installation on a previously graffiti-covered electrical box behind Chase Bank on Main Street. The solid green box now features an aquatic scene like staring into a fishbowl, complete with painted faux wood panels on both the top and bottom of the cabinet. 

The project was actually being planned in January, but once the pandemic hit all plans for the new art installation were pushed back into summer. Chamber President Mary Joy Pipe was actually the one to suggest the fishbowl design, according to chamber director of operations Barbara Ransome. Artists Linda Menda-Alfin and Jennifer Hannaford, both of Port Jeff, spent two and a half days in July crafting the mural. It has been sprayed with a coat of varnish to protect the paint, and there is a security camera watching the space in case of any attempted vandalism.

Ransome said the chamber requested $1,000 in seed money back in January for the project.

“It was a three-pronged reason, one for beautification, two was for those areas that were blighted a little bit or vandalized with graffiti, and the third was to recognize our artistic community and make people aware of our artwork,” she said.  

The chamber has plans to paint another such mural on the electrical box on East Broadway just east of The Steamroom’s dining area. Both artists have already told Ransome they were interested in a second project.

Mayor Margot Garant said at the village’s Aug. 3 trustee meeting the chamber did an “outstanding job” on the murals. 

However, even more public art installations could be coming to Port Jeff in the next few months. The chamber has worked with tourism promoter Discover Long Island in creating a kind of mural tourism, with Port Jeff set to be one of the first of what could be many such installations. Maggie LaCasse, director of communications for Discover LI said the other mural is also being planned for Long Beach. The project is being funded by the tourist promoter though is working with local groups in finding the best locations. The installation of both murals is set for September.

The finished mural behind Chase Bank in Port Jefferson. Photo by Barbara Ransome

Street art, or murals, has seen a new wave of popularity in places like Philadelphia, which has been called the mural capital of the world for the number of incredible building-spanning artworks. 

“This is to generate more foot traffic in our downtowns for people to safely enjoy all our wonderful businesses — drum up some extra excitement for our shops,” LaCasse said.

The new mural is planned for the alleyway off of Main Street between Salsa Salsa and Chris Silver Jewelry. Ransome said this could be the perfect spot, with plenty of foot traffic and a nice solid brick wall. She said the tentative plan is for an interactive mural, to create a set of angel wings for people to stand under and take photos and selfies with.

“Street art tourism is a fantastic way to encourage foot traffic to our downtowns and keep our communities buzzing with pride during this unprecedented time,” said President and CEO of Discover Long Island Kristen Jarnagin in a statement. “This initiative is part of a series of targeted projects designed by Discover Long Island to boost economic recovery for the region. Long Island’s tourism industry is a $6.1 billion industry and an essential component in providing relief to the small business community whose lifeblood is at stake.”

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From left to right across the top, Rich Klefsky, the senior vp of retail and banking for SFCU, Micah Schlendore, the assistant vp for retail member experience at SFCU, John Urbinati, the owner of Fifth Season; bottom row, left to right, Mayor Margot Garant, Community Outreach Manager for St. Charles Hospital John Perkins, SFCU President Ralph Spencer, Port Jeff chamber president Mary Joy Pipe, BID President Roger Rutherford, Manager of the Steam Room Vincent Seiter. Photo by Kyle Barr

With close to $9,000 raised online, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and chamber’s program to donate food to hospitals just got another big boost in funds.

On April 14, Suffolk Federal Credit Union donated a $7,500 check to the BIDand Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s program that takes food made by local restaurants to the two hospitals in Port Jeff, St. Charles and Mather.

The funds come on top of another $5,000 check donated last week by Teachers Federal Credit Union. The program’s Gofundme, which can be found at gofundme.com/f/help-port-jeff-restaurants-feed-hospital-workers, has so far raised just over $8,500 as well.

The program is twofold —one helps restaurants stay active and keep staff on payroll, and other is aiding the hospital workers who are burdened under the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“We were trying to coordinate this ourselves, but we were ecstatic when we found out the chamber was doing something, so it worked out very well.” said SCFU President Ralph Spencer.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the chamber, said she was “thankful for your participation and community involvement,” of SCFU, calling the credit, which has an office at St. Charles, a good partner to the business community.

Participating restaurants include Slurp Ramen, 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.

Photo from PJCC

RIBBON CUTTING

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for Knitting Cove & Yarn’s new location in the Pen and Pencil Building at 1303 Main St., Suite D, in Port Jefferson on Nov. 21. The shop offers classes in knitting and crocheting for all skill levels and has needles, knitting supplies, notions and yarn for sale. 

New holiday hours through Dec. 23 are Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. 

Pictured from left, James Tavernese, Greater Port Jefferson Chamber President Mary Joy Pipe, owners Toni and Barry Burns, Terry Stephan and Greater Port Jefferson Chamber Director Nancy Bradley. 

For more information, call 631-473-2121 or visit www.theknittingcove.com.

Photo from PJCC

RIBBON CUTTING

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting and grand opening for Hair, Lash, & Brow Bar, located at 138 East Main St., Port Jefferson, on Nov. 9. The storefront was previously North Shore Interiors.

The salon joins the already existing Hair, Lash, & Brow Loft at 120 E. Main St. Both businesses specialize in natural looking permanent makeup, scalp micropigmentation along with lash extensions, lifts and tinting. The expansion offers a larger facility to provide services for wedding and special occasion events.

Hours for the Hair, Lash & Brow Bar are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The salon is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For further information, please call 631-509-5944.

Pictured by bow, from left, owners Thomas Marr and Nancy Piazza (holding scissor) and Port Jefferson Chamber President Joy Pipe surrounded by family, staff and friends.

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Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven join Port Jefferson officials in dedicating the new peace pole in Rocketship Park. Photos by Kyle Barr

An 11-foot wood pole installed inside the fence of Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson is looking for residents to stop and think about how peace may prevail around the globe. 

Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven join Port Jefferson officials in dedicating the new peace pole in Rocketship Park. Photos by Kyle Barr

The civic group Building Bridges in Brookhaven gathered together with Port Jeff village officials Nov. 19 to dedicate the new pole. On it reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 10 different languages, including sign language and Braille. Art depicts small handprints and flowers, courtesy of Setauket resident and artist Maryanne Hart, also of the North Shore Peace Group. 

Community activist group Building Bridges in Brookhaven got themselves behind the project and after buying a 16-foot length of cedar from Riverhead Lumber they cut it down to 11 feet, where now 3 feet is in the ground.

Reverend Gregory Leonard of the Bethel AME Church spoke to those congregated to unveil the pole. The pole features a solar-powered light at the top, and the reverend led those there to dedicate the pole in singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

“The elements of peace are many, but I think it’s important to think of how we treat one another, how we are humble toward one another,” he said. “Of all the things, communication is so important — being able to talk to one another.”

Mayor Margot Garant said she had met with civic leaders Tom Lyon, Myrna Gordon and the director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ransome. Once she was told it was a peace pole, the mayor said she didn’t ask any other questions but “when and where.”

“We really wanted to make a message about providing peace,” Gordon said. 

Lyon said the idea for the polls came to the group from The Peace Pole Project in Wassaic upstate, who are working to put up peace poles all over the globe.

“This should be visible — out where kids are going to see it, children are going to grow up talking about the peace pole and talking about the park,” Lyon said.

The pole is one of more than 250,000 in more than 200 countries. Each one is inscribed with the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in hundreds of languages. The project began in 1955 with Japanese peace activist Masakisa Goi, and Ransome said they’re looking to spread his message into today.

Building Bridges was formed almost four years ago and host the MLK Community Festival yearly at the Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Lyon said this could be just the start of what could end as a project covering the whole of Long Island. He said his group, working alongside local Rotary organizations and Pax Christi could set a goal by the end of 2020 to plant 100 peace poles across the Island, whether in churches or in playgrounds such as Port Jeff’s Rocketship Park. 

This year’s event will feature samplings from Danford’s WAVE Seafood & Steak. Photo from PJCC

It’s back! The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosts its 12th annual  The Taste @ Port Jefferson at the Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson overlooking Harborfront Park and the harbor on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. 

In celebration, the chamber has reached out to the greater Port Jefferson restaurant community and will highlight over 30 restaurants and purveyors offering top-quality food tastings and desserts as well as samples of wines and beers. The event will feature musical entertainment by the Denice Given Band, a local favorite performing swing, standards, Latin, disco, top 40, pop, rock, R&B, Motown, reggae, country and everything in between.

This year’s event will feature samplings from Kilwins. Photo from PJCC

New this year is a 20- by 40-foot beer tent featuring Po’Boy Brewery, PJ Brewing Co., Montauk Brewing Co. and Blue Point Brewing Co. and a LI Cuban Cigar and Bourbon Experience mobile lounge — a 25-foot trailer with a master server catering to each guest, cutting each cigar, while artfully speaking to each flavor of bourbon. 

Adding to the ambiance for the evening Kunz Greenhouses will be suppling table arrangements for the special VIP dinning lounge and Organically Green Horticultural Services will be providing planters and horticulture to welcome attenders into the event.

Participating businesses also include Barito Taco & Cocktails; Fratelli’s Bagel Express; Costco; Dos MexiCuban Cantina; Due Baci; Fifth Season; Kilwins; Flying Pig Cafe; La Bonne Boulangerie Bakery; Local’s Cafe; Lucky Lou’s Gourmet Rice Pudding; Nantuckets; Roger’s Frigate; Pasta, Pasta; Port Jeff Lobster House; Port Jeff Bistro & Pub; Prohibition Kitchen; Slurp Ramen; Starbucks; The Steam Room; Tuscany Gourmet Market, Top Shelf Trading Corp; Uncle Giuseppe’s; The Waterview at Port Jefferson Country Club; Danford’s WAVE Seafood & Steak; and Zorba the Greek.

Sponsors this year include St. Charles Hospital, SERVPRO of Port Jefferson, TBR News Media, BNB Bank, Blue Point Brewing Co. and DiCarlo Food Service.

Transportation will also be provided for those who don’t want to be bothered in finding a parking spot. A shuttle will make continuous loops from the northeast corner of Belle Terre Road and Myrtle Avenue to the Port Jefferson Village Center. Cars may park in this large and well-lit parking lot and have a quick ride to the event. You can text our Port Passport shuttle at 516-939-8960 to obtain a ride. 

Save your appetite as there will be samplings in abundance and TASTE the local fine cuisine, wines and beers.  

Tickets are available on line through Eventbrite: $50 per person for general admission entrance at 7 p.m. and $75 for VIP guests at 6 p.m., which includes early access by one hour and exclusive third-floor water view VIP lounge. This is an adult evening so guests must be 21 and over. For more detailed information call the chamber office at 631-473-1414 or visit www.thetasteatportjefferson.com.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the village’s latest restaurant, Due Baci (Two Kisses), on Sept. 25.

From left, owners Patrick and Maria Aubry, Maria’s father Joseph Cuffaro, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; back row, from left, sons Yannick and Nicolas with a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven

Owners Patrick and Maria Aubry were joined by family, friends, staff, Mayor Margot Garant, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and members of the chamber to celebrate the momentous occasion.

“On behalf of the chamber we welcome both Maria and Patrick to our restaurant community, our business community. Best of luck and congratulations,” said chamber president Joy Pipe.

“I’m one of your biggest fans … and wish you lots of success,” said Mayor Garant. Councilwoman Cartright presented the Aubrys with a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven and also wished them well before the ribbon was cut.

Located at 154 West Broadway, the family-run restaurant offers southern Italian cuisine in a fine dining experience overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor. Open for lunch and dinner, hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, call 631-377-5111.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

Panelist discuss race and its relationship to the businesses in the Village of Port Jefferson. Photo from Barbara Ransome
the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted Stony Brook University at Due Baci Italian Restaurant for a panel and discussion about race and its relationship to the businesses in the Village of Port Jefferson. Photos from Barbara Ransome

Back in May, a Stony Brook University alumnus was restricted from entering the Port Jefferson bar and restaurant Harbor Grill for wearing what the bouncer had, at the time, thought was some kind of gang paraphernalia. The person in question, Gurvinder Grewal, was in fact wearing a turban, headwear of religious importance among those who practice Sikhism. Telling the bouncer this, he was restricted anyway.

Nearly four months later, on Sept. 24, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted Stony Brook University at Due Baci Italian Restaurant for a panel and discussion about race and its relationship to the businesses in the Village of Port Jefferson.

The event was moderated by Jarvis Watson, the chief diversity officer at SBU. Panelists included Robbye Kinkade, clinical professor in the School of Health Technology and Management; Chris Tanaka, assistant director of LGBTQ Services; Shaheer Khan, president of the undergraduate student government; and Yamilex Taveras, a political science senior and president of the Latin American Student Organization.

University officials said the framework for the discussion was centered around running a business near a diverse public university.

“We have a diverse population on campus, and we wanted to give the Chamber members a sense of who might be walking through their doors,” said Judy Greiman, the chief deputy to the president at SBU, said in a release. “It’s important for these shops to understand that differences exist, that we have buying power and that we all want to feel welcome,”

The panel walked through changing demographics at the university. Slides presented to the businesses documented that while the number of fall enrollment has steadily increased since 2012, the campus has become increasingly diverse.

Those on the panel relayed their own experiences shopping in Port Jeff. Kinkade spoke of  how, several years ago, she walked into a shop and was profiled. While there were several other customers in the store shopping around, she said an employee came up to her asking if she needed help, then continued to follow her around the entire time she was there. She noticed none of the white customers were getting the same treatment. While that shop has since closed,  she, a person of color, said she largely stopped shopping in Port Jeff after that experience. 

With the positive reception of the panel, she said she may intend to shop more in the village.

“I have nothing but the utmost praise for those folks, the members who attended,” added Kinkade. “I think for the chamber of commerce to want to come together and talk about this issue, is kudos to them. It was a bold, brave step.”

Joan Dickinson, the SBU community relations director, and Barbara Ransome, the director of operations for the chamber, had communicated together after the May incident. Ransome said they were looking for a way to present to local businesses on how to be more inclusive. They decided on a panel presentation including several officers and students from the university. Around 40 people, mostly Port Jeff business owners, came for the presentation.

The chamber director said the meeting was one of the most well received she’s had in her years at the chamber.

“The direct feedback that I was getting from people there was amazing — they felt there was so much information, with such sincerity and such genuine sharing,” she said. “They felt comfortable enough they were speaking because they felt they were in a safe space.”

This comes as Stony Brook and Port Jefferson are becoming steadily more intertwined. A PJ/SBU shuttle was first piloted last spring semester with a total ridership several thousand students coming into Port Jeff in its two-and-a-half-month tenure. Ransome called Stony Brook an increasingly vital partner with the village with the number of students who come down to eat and shop. She added this has been a change from previous years.

The SBU officials said those Port Jefferson businesses trying to be more welcoming to all walks of life should look toward examining dress code policies, revise their mission statements and hiring practices toward being more inclusive, and even look to include gender neutral bathrooms. 

Yet, even the smallest gesture makes a big difference. Panelists suggested simply posting a notice in front of the shop that all people are welcome, that those who enter don’t have to fear being profiled, can go a long way.

“It’s important that we need to be inclusive to all potential customers,” Ransome said. “One of the most important things I thought is we need to help educate and we need to examine our best business practices, so we can continue at our optimal level of service to our community.”

This post was updated Oct. 4 to amend Dickinson’s title as well as add context to several quotes in the original article.

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Photo by PJCC

RIBBON CUTTING

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for Port Bistro and Pub on Aug. 27. Owners Christine and Bob Nyholm cut the ribbon surrounded by members of the chamber, Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant, family, staff and friends.

Located at 201A Main St. in Port Jefferson, the restaurant is located next to Starbucks in the space previously occupied by Brewology.

According to its website, the family-friendly restaurant offers classic dishes and specializes in old world authentic foods and recipes. Port Bistro and Pub also offers catering for parties and other special events.

Hours are Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. For more information, call 631-828-2550 or visit www.portbistroandpub.com.