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shop local

Torte Jeff Pie Co. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Thanksgiving is a time to connect with loved ones, enjoy a meal and express thanks for our many blessings. And for many, it marks the Last Supper before weeks of bustling traffic and relentless shopping.

We remind our readers, as they prepare their shopping lists, of the monumental importance of patronizing local businesses.

Mom-and-pop stores are the backbone of our local economy. Without them, our community would be diminished.

Vacant storefronts are all too familiar along the North Shore. These blights are not only eyesores but a reflection of recent disruption and struggle for our commercial sectors.

E-commerce continues to precipitously harm local downtowns, siphoning away customers and setting unsustainable market rates for smaller vendors who lack the bulk purchasing power to compete.

COVID-19 lockdowns further accelerated the decline of small businesses. In many cases, Amazon and a few other prominent web retailers were the only options available for consumers.

Local mom and pops are struggling to stay afloat today. But crucially, they depend upon our patronage. And we depend upon their survival.

Unlike the conglomerates, small business owners create jobs and pay taxes within our community. When we support them, the dollars we spend stay here, recirculating back into our local economy instead of shipping off to some distant corporate headquarters.

And aren’t we all tired of seeing these massive megastores and online retailers cornering the market, consolidating more power and desecrating our downtowns?

On Long Island and across America, the predatory and monopolistic practices of Big Business are forcing smaller retailers to shutter. And rather than resisting this stranglehold on our local markets, we willingly participate in the game, prostrating ourselves at the altar of sweet deals and unbeatable prices.

In the Faustian bargains of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we trade away the soul of our community for a 20% discount. In failing to patronize local businesses, we complicitly enable the decline of our commercial districts and are accountable for the potential loss of our community as we know it.

Through our dollars, we can speak truth to entrenched power and wealth. We can shop locally despite the hot deals elsewhere. We can choose to invigorate our small businesses, knowing that if we don’t, no one else will.

This Saturday, Nov. 25, marks the 13th annual National Small Business Saturday. We ask our readers to come out in force, prioritizing the local storefronts in our community. And then, we must continue supporting them for the remainder of the season and throughout the year.

Our actions will determine the face of our area, so let’s all do our part — because when we shop small, we are all enriched.

A scene from Benner's Farm 2023 Easter Egg Hunt. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The spring holidays and weather often fill people with hope and joy. This year is no different as residents may feel more optimistic than ever.

Local egg hunts and holiday events that took place last weekend exemplify the optimism our fellow residents are experiencing. While some community events during the past two years were able to take place, many of our social gatherings were severely limited. With egg hunts, organizers asked attendees to sign up for time slots. After egg hunting, they would need to complete any additional activities during a specific period due to COVID-19 precautions. Some events experienced low attendance amid COVID fears, with many people hesitant to return to their usual social activities.

This year, organizers were able to hold events resembling those held before COVID-19. Community members embraced the opportunity to get out of the house. For our reporters who were photographing the egg hunts and Port Jefferson parade, it was a delight to see community members able to fully enjoy activities and engage with each other.

It’s no surprise that we’re getting back to life as we knew it before 2020. It’s taken a while to get here, but it feels as though we are slowly approaching normalcy. As of April 6, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services reported 1.9% tested positive in the county, and the seven-day average was 1.8%. The COVID-19 Community Level for Suffolk is low. The DOHS also reported that as of April 7, 78.9% of county residents are fully vaccinated.

The community getting out and about regularly and mingling, as well as fewer COVID infections and more vaccinated people, are positive signs for the future.

This wave of good news is beneficial for small businesses as well. After spending a day full of fun activities, consider stopping by a local restaurant for lunch or dessert or patronizing a local store on the way home. Like community gatherings, our local mom-and-pops add a sense of place and charm to our towns and villages. Frequenting local downtowns gives these areas a chance to thrive, to employ even more of our residents and to pay taxes to our municipalities.

Our readers should keep an eye out for upcoming events in our coverage areas throughout the year as listed in our Arts & Lifestyles section.

We also remind residents that April 30 to May 6 marks National Small Business Week. Started by the U.S. Small Business Administration, these seven days recognize the contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners. While enjoying the warm weather in the months ahead, we encourage our neighbors to grab a bite to eat, buy a new ornament or a plant for their home locally.

New York State Department of Health statistics indicate that nearly 5,000 Suffolk County residents have died from COVID-19. Many more throughout our state, nation and world have not survived the last few years. While we cannot undo what has happened, we can chart a course ahead. May these COVID years make us stronger, wiser and more socially responsible citizens. May we begin to thrive again, reminded of the joy and hope life has to offer. May we continue to rejoice and celebrate right in our backyards.

The Cinnamon Candle will be selling custom-scented soy candles at the 1st annual Three Village Winter Market.

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Garland-bedecked main streets and ancient forests blanketed in sparkly snow aren’t the only idyllic qualities of wintertime in the Three Villages; it is the area’s warm and embracing community that invokes the holiday spirit above all else. That said, there’s nothing that says “community” and “holiday spirit” better than a winter market! 

From farmers and chefs to crafters and artisans, vendors from all over are welcome to participate in the very first annual Three Village Winter Market, hosted by the Three Village Historical Society on Dec. 10 and 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

As the TVHS says on their website, “Give big by shopping small”—and locally —this season. Not only does shopping locally at fairs and markets support the community we love, but it can also reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, you’re bound to find one-of-a-kind items that are homegrown, handcrafted, or home cooked. According to Dan Murphy, the TVHS staff member organizing the event, “There is something personal when you visit these small shops and vendors. I love the care that everyone puts into their work; it’s not just an item to sell, it is a passion, an art, and it’s worth sharing and certainly worth supporting that type of art and creativity.”

Located on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society’s headquarters at 93 North Country Road in Setauket, the Winter Market is expected to feature at least 50 vendors selling everything from soaps, candles, beeswax, stained glass, and chainsaw art to wine, cheese, chocolate, and macarons. 

Keep an eye out for adorable and skillfully made felted gifts at Ewes and Coos Felted; delectable, homemade treats at Barry’s Baked Goods; fragrant soaps; and balms at Amadeus Aromatherapy; beautifully crafted stained glass ornaments and hangings by Cashmere Pecan; custom scented soy candles by The Cinnamon Candle, woodworking inspired by our rich maritime history by The Nautical Arts Workshop and so much more. The event will also feature a children’s crafting station and is dog-friendly 

Stop by the Society’s museum, located in the circa 1800 Bayles-Swezey house and decorated in Victorian-era holiday finery to check out their award-winning exhibits and the gift shop’s exclusive holiday offers. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcomed. 

If you are interested in participating as a vendor, please reach out to the TVHS through their website at www.tvhs.org/wintermarket to sign up. Artisans and small businesses of all kinds are welcome to bring their wares to sell. Each space is 10×10 feet, and participants are required to bring their own tents and tables. Vendors can purchase a spot for $100 for one day or $150 for the whole weekend. These fees are non-refundable unless the whole event is canceled due to inclement weather. Please reach out to Dan via email for additional information at [email protected].

“It truly is so inspiring to see so many Long Island-based entrepreneurs that bring so much talent to the table,” said Mari Irizarry, TVHS director. “This Winter Market honors their struggles and their craft. Our one and only wish that we’ll be sending off to Santa is that the community comes out and helps each vendor completely sell out! … See you at the Winter Market!” 

For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Shop local! METRO photo

After tackling the Black Friday frenzy at local malls and major department stores, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is set aside for our small businesses.

For over a decade, holiday shoppers have taken part in Small Business Saturday, an initiative created by American Express and the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation in the midst of a recession.

The annual event is an excellent opportunity to patronize mom-and-pop stores in our towns and villages. Many of these places provide personal services that consumers can’t find at larger retailers or by shopping online, such as exceptional customer service and wrapping gifts.

When shoppers support a neighborhood store, they are also helping the surrounding community. Many small business owners sponsor local sports teams or events. Those same owners also pay sales taxes to local municipalities, involving dollars going back into nearby public schools, parks, roads and so much more.

The multiplier effect of small businesses creates more jobs in our communities, too. With many mom-and-pops suffering from the aftereffects of pandemic shutdowns, shoppers at local businesses play a part in keeping small brick-and-mortar stores open and people employed.

We know with lingering COVID-19 concerns, it can be overwhelming for some to step into a store sometimes. Many have become accustomed to ordering online, but if you can’t get out or don’t want to, many local businesses have websites or social media pages where buyers can purchase goods online. 

There are also quiet weekdays to stop by a local store and check out their unique items. Shopping small doesn’t have to be restricted to one day out of the year.

After a long day of shopping, remember small businesses aren’t limited to clothing or gift stores, either. Get a bite to eat or a drink at a restaurant or bar in town. Buy a gift certificate to your favorite Friday night spot for a friend or family member. Or maybe someone waiting at home would appreciate flowers from the local florist. Have a loved one who loves yoga, dancing or self-defense classes? Many schools and gyms offer gift certificates, and it’s an easy way for people to try out a business before committing to it.

Most of all, frequenting small businesses creates a stronger sense of community. The last few years have been difficult for many, and the support of others, especially neighbors, can make a huge difference in someone’s life and livelihood.

It is time that we think about the big picture. If we fail to support our local small businesses, then we will soon be left with vacant storefronts. Blighted downtowns can affect property values and diminish the quality and character of our community.

This Saturday, remember to patronize your local mom-and-pops. It may seem like a small gesture, but it can make a big difference for our community. 

METRO photo

There are certain things Cyber Monday and the internet can’t do for us as we shop during this holiday season. While the sales may be great online, there are some downfalls that we’ll experience this year making shopping locally even more important. 

The next several weeks are going to be hard for devoted holiday shoppers thanks to COVID-19 and the continuous supply chain concerns that are happening across the country. 

Experts are anticipating that large retailers like Apple and Amazon will experience a hit with sales due to shipping issues and staffing challenges. And although this will be tough for those businesses, it will also be a stress for the consumers themselves. 

Whereas shopping via online Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals in the past was an easy click with shipping coming days after, buyers might see a delay in receiving those products in the mail. 

But this might be a good time for us to take a step back and really support our neighbors who own their own shops in our local villages and towns. 

Instead of anticipating a package in the mail — which might not even get here on time — we should head into town and shop small this holiday. The goods will be there right in front of us and we can take them home that day — easy one-stop shopping that makes our lives easier, but also provides income to a family owned business. 

Shopping small comes with its own benefits: we can see the products, touch them and measure them for size. We can find unique things that may not be available on a larger company website, making that gift a one-of-a-kind present the recipient will treasure. 

And on top of that, it provides that shop owner with extra money to pay their own bills. Shopping small is a win-win for everyone.

After a tough two years post the initial outbreak of the pandemic, mom and pops have been hit hard with little ability to recover. 

By shopping locally this year, it brings money back to the economy which then goes back to our own street repairs and our community. 

We know that online shopping is usually easier, but with the current state of inventory and the surrounding issues, it might actually be better to walk over and visit a family owned shop. 

Try it out this holiday season, and you certainly won’t be disappointed. 

Pixabay photo

It’s been a difficult 18 months, especially when we think back to the early days of the pandemic as we watched businesses across our communities adjust to state mandates after COVID-19 raged through our area. From limiting capacity to some businesses not being able to operate at all, many owners had difficulty adjusting.

Despite the lifting of state mandates a few months ago, many are still suffering.

As we look around more and more, places are closing or are in jeopardy of shutting down. In the last two weeks, we have heard the news of the Book Revue in Huntington set to close by Sept. 30. After 44 years of business, the village staple is in a financial hole.

The store had been shut down for three months during the pandemic. Once it was reopen, the business struggled to get back on its feet, and the owner fell behind on the rent.

To the east, Smithtown Performing Arts Center is having trouble holding on to its lease of the old theater. The nonprofit is also behind in its rent and has been unable to make a deal with the landlord, which led him to put the theater up for sale two weeks ago.

Both businesses received assistance during the pandemic. The Book Revue, like many others, was fortunate to receive loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program to pay employees’ salaries and keep the lights on. For SPAC, the nonprofit received a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant but needs to have a full account of debts to be able to reconcile grant monies.

With the pandemic lingering, what many people are discovering is that the assistance just artificially propped them up for a short while. Now more than ever, local businesses and nonprofits need the help of community members to enter their storefronts and buy their products. When a consumer chooses between shopping or eating locally instead of online or going to a big chain, it makes a difference.

If one looks for a silver lining in all this, it may be that many business owners have come up with innovative ways to stay open, while others have embraced curbside pickup and created websites and social media accounts that will be an asset in the future.

And while it’s sad to see so many favorite businesses closing their doors, it also paves the way for new stores with fresh ideas to come in with items such as different types of ice cream or creative giftware or clothing.

Many of our main streets need revitalization and the arrival of new businesses or current ones reinventing themselves can be just what our communities need to reimagine themselves — and not only survive but thrive in the future.

We can all help small local businesses stay afloat, whether it’s an old staple or a new place. Because at the end of the day, if a store or restaurant has been empty and the cash register reflects that, we’ll see more and more empty storefronts in our future.

Spend your money wisely — shop and eat locally.

METRO photo

One thing that’s special about a community paper is that we are covering the stuff national or larger media corporations aren’t talking about. 

We’re covering your local school sport teams, the stay-at-home mom who has become a philanthropist and the new Eagle Scout projects sprouting up around town. 

The bigger outlets cover the national news. CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and FOX — they’re taking care of what the president is doing — not so much the local legislature or town council. 

When we receive your letters to the editor, we are thrilled and so appreciative. We absolutely adore that you want to share your opinions with us, and we’re so grateful you trust us with that responsibility. But sometimes we wonder why residents aren’t talking to us about the community. We want to hear more about that. 

Our readers are able to see things we reporters don’t see. You are out there, talking with people, seeing things with your own eyes and meeting people who we don’t know exist. We need you to help share those stories. 

National politics affect us — we agree, and we feel it, too. But as we continue into 2021, we ask of you to start sending us more letters that stem from where we live. What are you angry about locally? What do you want to see change here? What are you most proud of? What needs to be said? 

This is your chance as a local citizen to share something on your mind that could potentially make a difference. Local lawmakers read the community papers — President Joe Biden (D) and former President Donald Trump (R) do not. 

We love national news, as well, but let’s try — moving forward — that we keep it as close to home as we can. Remember, our letters are 400 words or less and we edit for A.P. style, which is the standard in most U.S.-based news publications, as well as for libel and good taste. We also ask that our writers provide sources or backup information for the more detailed letters, so we can fact-check the information.

Most of all, remember while letters can serve as a form of public debate, the purpose is to argue the issues, not personally attack an individual.

Shop local. Eat local. Support local. Read local. Write local. 

A scene from a previous Witches Night Out event before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Lucky to Live Here Realty

Witches, grab your broomsticks and head to Cold Spring Harbor later this month for a weeklong shopping crawl — just make sure you bring a mask to wear along with your hat.
What is usually one night on Main Street where witches come out to dine, shop and strut, Lucky to Live Here Realty, coordinators of the event, decided to make it a weeklong event to support small business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
For more than 10 years, Witches Night Out would gather thousands of witches, warlocks and non-magical shoppers to the town for one night of deals and promotions as a way to bring the community together and encourage local shopping.
“We were debating if we should do it or not,” Ashley Allegra, marketing coordinator for the Cold Spring Harbor real estate agency said. “We really wanted to help the businesses on Main Street, and this was something we could do safely.”
So instead of hosting the Witches Night Out, they spread out the event to a weeklong spree coined Witches Week.
Allegra said that by having witchy shoppers come throughout a several-day span was safer than congregating everyone into one night and implement more social distancing.
“It’s something different that gets people out and do something,” she said.
Witches Week will take place Oct. 27 through Oct. 30, and about 30 different businesses will be partaking in the festivities. Each store will have discounts and deals to bring customers in. Allegra added there will be a raffle with three winners at the end of the event, with chances to win a gift basket filled with the shops’ gift cards.
And on top of that, something different compared to past years, Witches Week will host a witch scavenger hunt. Each shop and restaurant will have several witches hidden indoors and customers can try to find them. The number of witches per shop is available on the Lucky to Live Here website.
“It’s a fun way to support the community and the local businesses of Cold Spring Harbor Main Street,” Allegra said.
Vita Scaturro, chairwoman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, agreed. She said that by shopping online and through e-commerce, small businesses cannot survive. “It’s a different experience because you have direct customer service, you can see and touch the items,” she said. “It’s imperative to support them.”

Stock photo

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.”