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Middle Country Library Foundation

Making up more than two-thirds of Long Island’s business community, small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy. In this challenging time, it is more important than ever to shop local and support Long Island entrepreneurs. The annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library, in Centereach on Thursday, October 5 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. is a great opportunity to meet with and shop from some of these local entrepreneurs. 

An initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation, this annual event doesn’t just “provide physical space for Long Island Women to sell their products, it goes beyond that,” says Alexandra Mallilo, Vice President, Commercial Private Banking, BankUnited, N.A. and EXPO Education Sponsor. 

“The entrepreneurs become part of a community of professionals, with access to subject experts on everything from photographing products for virtual sales, to determining appropriate pricing, collecting payment, social media marketing, and brand awareness. These business tools help women turn passion projects into profitable businesses.”

Small businesses support and enrich the communities they serve and the chance to meet its members is important. “The Women’s EXPO is a wonderful opportunity for the community to meet and hear women entrepreneurs tell their story and promote their businesses,” says Maryellen Ferretti, Retail Market Manager, V.P. of TD Bank, the EXPO’s raffle sponsor. “It is just part of what makes Middle Country Library a great partner with TD Bank, they create innovative spaces and hold inclusive events where strangers become neighbors—and neighbors, friends.” 

When you shop locally you often deal directly with people who genuinely care about the quality of goods and customer satisfaction. Whether it’s the corner deli, the neighborhood coffee shop, or a woman entrepreneur at the Women’s EXPO, every local purchase is a vote of confidence in your community.

Let’s shine a spotlight on some of the incredible local entrepreneurs who will be this year’s Women’s EXPO:

Jeanette Candido, The Granola Plant

Jeanette Candido

After deciding she “didn’t want to sit in an office anymore,” Jeanette Candido started The Granola Plant five years ago. She started selling her gluten free, oil free and processed sugar free granola at farmers’ markets on Long Island and it took off right away. Being an entrepreneur in these trying times is “not easy…but it’s still going,” says Jeanette. Over time she has increased her offerings, depending on the season and the location, to include hot cocoa mix, homemade marshmallows, and granola in decorative canisters. 

Like other small business owners, she is feeling the effects of the economy, although it seems to be getting better. Jeanette is looking forward to her 3rd year at the EXPO. “It’s such a fun day seeing those shoppers that visit every year.” 

When asked if she had advice for other women entrepreneurs, Jeanette said, “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.” Words we could all take to heart but for small business owners it is especially important.

Lori Ledek, Lori’s Originals

Lori Ledek photo by Miranda Gatewood

Driving on Middle Country Road in Calverton, you might notice an interesting shop connected to J&R’s Steakhouse. Opened in 2012, Lori’s Originals features the beautiful, hand painted glassware and gifts of Lori Ledek. To round out the store, Lori sources items from local artisans to “curate a homemade & handmade look in the store.” This enables her to support local artists and put their wares in front of new shoppers.  

Shoppers love it; they appreciate the affordability as Lori tries to keep prices as reasonable as possible.  In these economic times, “it’s a dance to make things affordable,” she says, but one she is willing to do for her community.  

With a retail location, Lori is doing only a couple of shows each year. She is part of the EXPO year after year “because of the people. I love the support you give to small business owners.” 

Visit Lori at the EXPO or at her store (4364 Middle Country Road, Calverton) to see her beautiful hand painted designs and for a chance to meet her store mascot, cocker spaniel Bosco.

Ashley Settle, Sweet Legends Bakeshop

Ashley Settle

Originally from Las Vegas, Ashley Settle started Sweet Legends Bakeshop a little over a year ago. After working at a bakery in college, and loving its atmosphere she says, “I have always loved baking,” so starting a home bakery seemed like a perfect fit. Beautiful, decorated cookies are the cornerstone of Ashley’s business with many customers exclaiming, “OMG they are too beautiful to eat.” Ashley assures us they taste as delicious as they look! 

Being a new business in a new area, Ashley began attending workshops and events at the Middle Country Public Library’s Miller Business Center and “found it so helpful.”  There she not only increased her business skills, she also met other business professionals including local business owner Bertha Portalatin of Painting with a Twist in Selden. This connection has led to Ashley and Bertha partnering to offer cookie decorating classes.  

At the Miller Business Center, Ashley also learned about the Women’s EXPO. She heard from several women how great it was to be a part of a local event celebrating women entrepreneurs. Ashley is excited for the event and the chance to really meet the community. 

As a new business owner, Ashley’s advice is to cover all your legal bases from the beginning. Once you’ve done that “just start,” she says.


The 23rd annual Women’s EXPO will take place on Thursday, October 5 at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Snacks and lunch will be available for purchase in the EXPO Cafe. Need a break from shopping? Take a rest in the Zen Den on site. Admission is free and there is ample parking. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393 x296 or visit www.womensEXPOli.org.


The Hallock family played with the “Rigamajig” building toys in the “Engineering at Work” Museum Corner exhibit at Middle Country Public Library in Centereach. Photo courtesy MCPL

The Museum Corner at Middle Country Public Library in Centereach has a new exhibit, “Engineering at Work.” 

Visitors can come in during regular library hours to enjoy fun and engaging hands-on learning activities that will generate interest in and knowledge of different types of engineering.

The exhibit, geared toward children five- to 11-years-old, includes several activity stations providing role-play, experimentation and problem-solving opportunities in addition to displays featuring real-life engineers. 

These are just some of the exciting elements to be found in the exhibit, presented with support from the Middle Country Library Foundation.

Strictly Business. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

Business people know the power of networking; the power of connecting face-to-face with potential clients, partners, and mentors. While the Miller Center at the Middle Country Public Library has been offering virtual networking for the business community since the pandemic began, nothing beats connecting face to face. Which is why they are excited to be hosting Strictly Business: Back to Business outdoors and in person on Tuesday, June 8. 

Strictly Business. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

Sal DiVincenzo of the Miller Business Center acknowledges the struggles of the local small business community. “Networking is the lifeblood of small businesses. The opportunity to personally interact with potential customers is something every salesperson knows is fundamental to building business and relationships. The pandemic literally put barriers between customers and businesses.” 

The Director of the library, Sophia Serlis-McPhillips continued this sentiment. “The mission of the library’s Miller Business Center has always been to promote economic development on Long Island. This mission has been continuing virtually for more than a year. We are happy to bring business owners and professionals together again at the in-person Strictly Business.” 

An initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation and held in partnership with the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce and the Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition (BCCC), Strictly Business is a vehicle to promote economic development and encourage chamber of commerce participation in Brookhaven and the surrounding areas.  

“More than ten years ago the BCCC wanted to give back more to the small businesses they represented in the Town of Brookhaven. With this initiative, they collaborated with the Miller Business Center to create Strictly Business. Over time this annual event has grown with more vendors and networking opportunities for our business partners,” says Barbara Ransome, BCCC President. 

Participants missed having this opportunity last year and response to the announcement of an in-person event has been overwhelmingly positive.  Many of the businesses that signed up to exhibit in 2020 were eager to be a part of the event and there is even a waitlist to exhibit. 

Lenore Paprocky, president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce noted, “I know a lot of business owners are excited about meeting in person.” She continued that they are looking most forward to “re-connecting and networking with other local businesses and the community.”

Attendees to this free event will have the opportunity to meet and network with 50 exhibitors made up of a wide-array of local businesses and entrepreneurs. While primarily a business-to-business networking opportunity, the community is encouraged to attend and shop local as a way to support the small business community. There will be photo ops throughout the day and a chance to win a raffle prize. 

“The BCCC is grateful to support the Miller Center, that acts as an essential resource for our most important commodity … small businesses,” said Ransome.  

Discover local businesses at the Strictly Business: Back to Business event at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on June 8 (rain date June 15) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For further information, call 631-585-9393

Participating exhibitors:
Strictly Business.  Photo by Miranda Gatewood

Venture Sponsor

Flushing Bank

Entrepreneur Sponsor

Synergy Wealth Strategies

Mentor Sponsor

Pure Mammography

Partner Sponsors

Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP

Holiday Inn Express – Stony Brook

SafeGuard Print & Promo

Media Sponsor

Times Beacon Record News Media


Anchor Business Group, LLC

Bay Harbour Insurance Agency

BESTech Education

Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Co.

Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Coalition

Burner Law Group, P.C.

CardHop Inc.

Caring People Home Health Care

CBMS Consulting Services

Central Staff Services

Conference Associates Inc.

Emics Elder Care

Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce

Independent Business Women’s Circle

Insight Healing and Wellness

Integrity Expediting


Island Federal

LeTip Port Jefferson

LI Tech Advisors

Lisa Albinowski, Realtor, Coldwell Banker 

Manantial Cleaning Services, Inc.

Miller Business Center


My Mom Knows Best, Inc.

North Isle Wellness Center of Hope

OB Davis Funeral Home

Peconic Landing

People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union 

Pete Marcano – New York Life

ProSysCon Computers

Rocket Juiced Studio

Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce

Soundview Pregnancy Services

Stay Clean Long Island

Suffolk County Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition

Synack Technology Services, Inc.

TAB – The Alternative Board

The Bristal Assisted Living

Three Village Chamber of Commerce

Times Beacon Record News Media


Kellly Wong of Lai Life Products

If we had to pick one word for 2020 it might be pivot. We’ve all been pivoting our lives to accommodate changes due to a global pandemic. Perhaps no one has pivoted more than small business owners and entrepreneurs, especially local micro entrepreneurs who rely on sales from weekend markets throughout the holiday season.

The annual Women’s EXPO, an initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation and Miller Business Center, has also pivoted and will be held virtually this year on Dec. 10.

“The mission of the Library’s Miller Business Center has always been to promote economic development on Long Island and we felt that more than ever, we needed to support Long Island’s women entrepreneurs,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Director of the library. “With support from Bank of America and our other sponsors, we are able to offer workshops that would help provide the necessary tools to succeed in this virtual marketplace,” she said. The programs, focusing on social media, selling online, marketing, and photography, helped entrepreneurs with the online environment.

“Bank of America is committed to supporting economic mobility for those within the communities we serve,” said Bob Isaksen, Long Island market president for Bank of America. “Women entrepreneurs play an important role in driving economic growth here on Long Island, and this year more than ever, it is important to support and advance their businesses. We’re grateful to have a strong, long standing partnership with the Middle Country Library Foundation for this event and encourage everyone who is able to virtually shop the EXPO this holiday season.”

Here are just a few of the women you will “meet” at this year’s virtual event:

Kelly Wong: Lai Life Products

Kellly Wong of Lai Life Products

After seeing how hard it was for some people to kneel on their thin yoga mats, Kelly Wong created a high quality knee pad to alleviate pressure on knees, wrists, or tailbone. She never expected that her passion project, Lai Life, would be so successful. Feedback from those customers showed Wong that the implications for her product reached far beyond the yoga studio. Now she markets the pad with its many other uses including for gardening and game day.

With in-person events being canceled, Kelly turned to her ecommerce site.  Targeted online ads and a move towards exercising at home has helped and Kelly has even sold out a few times. The move to more online sales has forced her to learn a lot more but overall it has helped with the business. Interestingly, she’s been developing more relationships with her customers in this new virtual world. This year will be Kelly’s first as an exhibitor at the EXPO and she is “very excited to join this elite group of small businesses.”

Lori Rosenberg: Red Gems

Lori Rosenberg of Red Gems

Primarily a pop-up shop, Lori Rosenberg’s Red Gems, was not prepared for all the event cancellations. “I have always told my children to play to their strengths, one of my strengths is building a strong rapport and trust with my customers,” said Lori.

This rapport has brought her many repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals who reach out to purchase the jewelry, rain ponchos, and other accessories she sells. But not seeing new and loyal customers at events has been a challenge. While Lori knows she has to build her online shopping presence, she is also the first to admit that tech does not come easily to her.

Like most of us, she’s had to learn a lot of new skills in 2020. Lori is looking forward to learning what she needs to create a virtual booth for the EXPO. “I signed up for the virtual EXPO because I was honored to have been an exhibitor for the last two years and from start to finish it was a true pleasure as well as profitable. The staff could not have been more professional, supportive or accommodating and it was inspiring to be in the company of other Long Island entrepreneurs.”

Tamar Perry: Creative Treasures

Tamar Perry of Creative Treasures

Tamar Perry has been creating since her first art class at age 12. Her hobby turned into a side business in 2011, when she began making paper jewelry and selling at local shows.

This year has been a challenge — the pandemic caused her employer to close its New York office — but Tamar is an optimist and saw an opportunity to invest in her own company, Creative Treasures which focuses on vintage, romantic, steampunk and old country style paper crafting and mixed media art.

While her main focus is creating scrapbooking albums and mixed media art, she has partnered with Plasterkraze in Selden to offer make-and-take events and online classes.

As a first time exhibitor, Tamar is looking forward to using the virtual EXPO to interact with the local community and introduce them to her art. “The virtual EXPO gives me the ability to invite you to my studio, share my techniques and show you hands on how I make these crafts.”

Dana Porciello: The Soothery

Dana Porciello of The Soothery

Like many other small businesses without a storefront, Dana Porciello, of The Soothery, has been seeking ways to get in front of customers. In these times especially, finding markets for her handmade soaps, lotion bars, lip balms, and face masks has been a big challenge, but one Dana knew she wanted to take on. She’s been working on her website – thesoothery.com – to get her business in front of a wider audience. Dana has also joined any safe, in-person markets. “I met amazing people and customers who wanted to support local makers which was inspiring and made me love what I do even more.” She has learned a lot about her business and sees this year overall as a tremendous learning experience.

Dana’s excited about the opportunities a virtual EXPO brings. “I love the Women’s EXPO because every woman here started with an idea and made it a reality. I find this so powerful and love to be around that energy. The library and its community does an amazing job supporting the EXPO and women in business and I love being a part of it.”


Support local businesses and finish your holiday shopping at the 20th annual (and first VIRTUAL) Women’s EXPO on Thursday, December 10, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at www.womensEXPOli.org. Virtual attendees will be entered to win one of many door prizes. Computers for browsing will be available at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on the day of the event. For more information, please call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.