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shop local

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Look for something special in the newspaper and online next week. Earlier in the year, some of you may have noted we ran a contest asking you to write in your favorite business or service on the North Shore by category. We wanted to know your favorite bank, your favorite bakery, favorite hotel, hair salon, nail salon, restaurant, accountant, lawyer and so forth. The entry form, which filled a whole page, could only be found in the newspaper, although we publicized the contest on the web and on our social media platforms as well. But you had to pick up the newspaper in order to vote for your favorites, and we of course did that on purpose to get you to read the paper, which is today an endangered species.

Well, the contest was a big success. We received over 2,500 submissions and we have winners in more than 100 categories, including those that are in ties. We tabulated the answers on our computers and were fascinated by the results. The winners and/or nominators come from as far west as Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington and as far east as Wading River, as well as from Northport, East Northport, Kings Park, Smithtown, St. James, Three Village, Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station, Middle Country, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Rocky Point and Shoreham—our entire North Shore areas of news coverage and distribution. Readers took the time and made the effort to salute their business contacts in this way.

We think our readers will benefit from this information, a kind of recommended list of some of the best businesses in Suffolk County, as they do their shopping and meet their needs around town. The “Readers Choices” will be named in their categories in a pullout section next Thursday, in time for holiday shopping. And we know the various winners are proud to have been singled out in this way. 

It’s pretty special to be No. 1 in customers esteem. It means the businesses, services and professionals have some sort of differential advantage over their competitors, and it gives the winners bragging rights and the spotlight to talk about their newest products even as they thank their customers. We, of course, thank the winners who have chosen additionally to advertise all that information in our supplement — although no ad was required of them — and that is part of the reason for the several weeks of space we devoted to the contest. In so doing, we are following the traditional business model that has always supported news media: Advertisers underwriting news for the readers, even as some of that news is about their products and services.

In addition to being named in the supplement, the winners will be invited to a dinner reception at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook on Wednesday evening, Feb. 5, 2020, from 6-8 p.m. There will be valet parking, a great help in the event of inclement weather. At the historic inn, they will walk up to the podium on a red carpet, be asked to speak for one minute about their business or profession if they wish, and videoed and photographed as they do so. The videos will then appear on our website and the photographs in our newspapers and social media after the reception. In addition, there will be a drawing for the three gift certificates of $150, $75 and $50 to be used in the winners stores or offices by those who sent in nominations.

Tickets to the event may be ordered on our website (tbrnewsmedia.com) after the first of the year, by phone with a credit card (631-751-7744) or by mail (P.O. Box 707, Setauket, NY 11733).

In addition to the winners and their guests, we will also invite the customers who nominated their first choices and the general public in what we hope will be a wonderful show of support for local businesses. They are at the core of our communities and today, as we know, they too are an endangered species.

Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance Co-President Donna Boeckel, co-owner of Awsomotive Car Care in Mount Sinai, talks to members about new goals during the chamber's first meeting May 16. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance has sprung up from the ashes after the dissolution of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce and hopes to learn from its mistakes.

“We will help promote shop local,” said Donna Boeckel, co-president of the chamber and co-owner of Awsomotive Car Care in Mount Sinai. “We want to help people recognize how much value and how many personable small businesses we have in these two areas.”

The first meeting of the new chamber was held last wednesday and was

“We want to help people recognize how much value and how many personable small businesses we have in these two areas.”

— Donna Boeckel

She was joined by more than 30 local business operators and owners, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) who wanted to show support during the chamber’s first meeting May 16. The Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance expects to hold meetings the first Wednesday of every month.

In October 2017, the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, which covered businesses from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, dissolved because the time commitment proved too much for such a large coverage area. It was then decided that the chamber would split up to take on original shapes, which focused on business in just a handful of hamlets.

“It got too big — the businesses of separate hamlets, whether they’re in Miller Place or Mount Sinai, know their needs and know their concerns,” Bonner said. “If you think about the Shoreham-Wading River chamber, their competition is the [Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.] That isn’t the same here.”

Boeckel said the previous group did not encompass enough volunteers but said that while these splintered chambers will remain separate organizations, they do expect to work with each other.

“We’ll probably do some joint meetings, maybe some joint events — we’ll bounce ideas off each other,” said Jennifer Dzvonar, owner of Bass Electric in Port Jefferson Station and president of the Port Jefferson/Terryville Chamber of Commerce. Her association began meeting in January of this year.

Chamber leadership anticipates forming connections with leaders at Heritage Park and Cedar Beach for plan or sign on to participate in events. Members also hope the chamber will help them and their business with networking and exposure.

“People have to remember to shop local — Amazon is not going to the schools, Amazon is not supporting your community, it’s not employing your children.”

— Jennifer Dzvonar

“It’s good to immerse yourself in the business community,” said chamber member Brett Hochreiter, managing director of Long Island Tint in Rocky Point. “You get your name out there, you get some exposure, hopefully you get some leads.”

One of the biggest issues that members said they face is maintaining clientele when the lure of online shopping, especially with Amazon, is so strong.

“People have to remember to shop local — Amazon is not going to the schools, Amazon is not supporting your community, it’s not employing your children,” Dzvonar said.

Anker echoed the Port Jefferson Station chamber president’s sentiment.

“Chambers are so important because you can energize your community,” Anker said. “You can make sure people understand they need to put their money where their house is. Made in the U.S.A and shop local are taking precedence over convenience.”

Boeckel emphasized that the work for the chamber was and will continue to be done on a volunteer basis. Every members work full time, but she said the important thing is that local businesses should continue to support one another by donating just a little time.

“That’s what it takes,” Boeckel said. “We’re all doers. It takes doers to do what we do.”