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small business

John Keating, manager of economic development for PSEGLI, announces initiative to invest in downtown areas during a press conference on Monday. Photo from PSEGLI

On March 28, in honor of Tuesday’s National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day, representatives of PSEG Long Island met with public officials and business leaders at PJ Lobster House to announce an initiative to revitalize Long Island’s downtown areas.

Representing PSEGLI was John Keating, manager of economic development, and Michael Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewables. According to Keating, small business districts are the engine behind Long Island’s regional economy.

“We’re celebrating this National Mom and Pop Business Day by announcing that we are adding $500,000 to our programs for small businesses for 2022,” Keating said. “To bring more people into your downtown, we offer a main street revitalization program which offers $25,000 grants for anyone who wants to renovate that property and make it more appealing for people.” 

In addition to these beautification investments, PSEGLI will also offer a vacant space program. According to Keating, investments in vacant spaces are a way to remove blemishes from local business districts.

“We’ve all been to downtowns and when you see a lot of vacant spaces it really doesn’t make you want to spend a lot of time in that downtown,” he said. “We created this vacant space revitalization program to occupy a space that was vacant for at least a year and we can give you a discount on your first year’s energy.”

Voltz discussed the various improvements made through these grants by James Luciano, owner of PJ Lobster House. According to Voltz, due to this investment the restaurant now operates with greater energy efficiency.

“You see the beautiful lamps and chandeliers — all LED lighting,” he said. “LED lighting is very efficient. We provided a rebate of about $1,200 for all of the various LED lamps in this building and that’s going to save James about $500 each and every year.” He added, “It’s good for small business, it’s good for his expenses and it helps PSEG Long Island by reducing the strain on our electric grid.”

Small businesses are what give a community a sense of place and a sense of identity.

— Jonathan Kornreich

Luciano, whose business relocated in June 2021, said PSEGLI had offered him the vacant space grant, enabling him to save money on energy. According to him, this had provided much-needed relief to his small business at a time when it was most needed.

“We had PSEG come down to our chamber [of commerce] and they introduced the programs they had and we were able to take advantage of the vacant space grant, which actually helped us out tremendously,” Luciano said. “We saved over $10,000 the first year on the energy that we used. We were also given during COVID the outdoor grants as well,” adding, “Starting out at a new location, that money definitely goes a long way, so PSEG is definitely a great partner to have in the community.”

Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D) thanked PSEGLI for supporting local businesses during their time of need. He welcomed the partnership between PSEGLI, local government and small businesses.

“Small businesses are what give a community a sense of place and a sense of identity for a lot of the families that live in those areas,” Kornreich said. “PSEG Long Island gets that and we appreciate you helping carry a lot of those businesses during the dark times of the pandemic.” He added, “Now that the pandemic is coming to an end, you’re helping to keep the lights on and we appreciate that.”

Mary Joy Pipe, owner of The East End Shirt Co. and president of Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, discussed the cooperation between the chamber and PSEGLI. She suggested that investments such as these require foresight and ingenuity to be successful. 

“A lot of foresight was given to how this could be an advantage for the small businesses in our community,” she said. “Thank you to PSEG for that foresight.”

To learn more about the grant programs offered by PSEGLI, visit the website www.psegliny.com/inthecommunity/revitalization.

Theresa Livingston outside of Harbor Square Mall, where her new Bar Method studio will soon open. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

Something new is heading into Port Jefferson village.

The Bar Method, a workout studio that was designed with high repetition and low impact resistance training, is officially set to open its third Long Island location right in Port Jefferson. 

Theresa Livingston, the franchise owner, said she fell in love with barre almost a decade ago, but during the COVID-19 pandemic realized she wanted to bring this method close to home. 

“As I got older, my joints really started to hurt and it just wasn’t maintainable anymore,” the Selden mom said. “I was looking for something that’s easy on the body and I found barre. It just works.”

Livingston said that in barre practice, one matches the working in the muscle to stretching where you lengthen and strengthen.“It’s just something you can do forever,” she said. 

The Bar Method is all about educating our students, how they can be in tune with their body.

— Theresa Livingston

During the pandemic, Livingston said she started trying The Bar Method through their online classes and she knew it was the right fit. 

Compared to other barre studios, instructors for The Bar Method have “hours and hours” of training, Livingston said. 

“We work with personal trainers, we’re taught proper alignment and modifications, and then we work in the studio to train for months before becoming an instructor,” she added. 

According to the company’s website, The Bar Method exercises also include elements of Pilates, yoga and other strength training workouts fused into a ballet-inspired barre workout. 

But Livingston said one doesn’t necessarily have to have a dance background to succeed and see results. 

“The choreography that we do is easy to follow,” she said, “We have so many different props and equipment that you can use to help and bars in the room or different heights. So, everything can be modified.”

While Livingston was practicing online, she also traveled to The Bar Method’s only two other locations on Long Island — Huntington and Roslyn.

The commutes were long, so she said, “Let’s get one closer to us.”

“I just thought I thought the village would be the perfect spot for this,” she said. “It’s such a community. People live here, they shop here and they want to stay here. So, I just felt like it would be great to have The Bar Method here.”

Livingston signed her franchise agreement in September and officially locked in the space inside Harbor Square Mall at the end of October. 

Located right on Main Street, The Bar Method is planned to take over the back part of the mall with its own entrance right next to PJ Lobster House. Livingston said that when a student walks in, the plan includes a big, open lobby featuring different apparel and retail. Inside, the studio space will have roughly 30 bar spots along with a locker room, makeup area and showers.

Livingston is anticipating a summer opening and for now is looking to get the word out about the method and what it’s all about.

“The Bar Method is all about educating our students, how they can be in tune with their body and know what’s happening,” she said. “It’s a workout that just kind of fits whatever it is they need.”

In the interim, Livingston said that she and her instructors are planning free community lessons that will pop up around the village. 

For more updates on Port Jeff’s new workout spot, interested students can follow on Instagram @barmethodportjeffvillage.

Photo from Barbara Ransome

PSEG Long Island is continuing to help local downtowns — this time in Port Jefferson village. 

John Keating, manager of economic development with PSEGLI, said that the company began its Main Street Revitalization Program about two years ago with the goal to bring business back to local mom and pop shops. 

But because of the COVID-19 crisis last year, PSEGLI had seen an opportunity to help out during the changing times and now, nearly a year and a half later, they’re adding more ways to help small businesses.

“This year, it’s the same concept as far as the grants for the chambers of commerce,” Keating said. “The only real difference this year is that we added a new category for beautification, which has the effect of adding another $2,000 to each chamber.”

Last year, the outdoor commerce grants gave chamber and business improvement districts up to $5,000 to help purchase durable goods that support outdoor commerce.

“Mid-to-last year, it became very clear that outdoor dining and commerce was a real lifeline to small businesses who are struggling because of all the COVID restrictions,” Keating said. “So, we offered it as a way of helping individual businesses, but in a group setting.”

By offering it to the chambers, they could set up a centralized area for dining and shopping.

“It turns out to be very effective and was really appreciated by a lot of the participating chambers,” he said.

PSEGLI decided that for 2021 it would create an extra level to the grants. 

“We added the beautification piece of it,” Keating said. “So, anything else that they might have wanted to do, like landscaping or planters and things like that, they could do a separate application and be eligible for another $2,000 — a total of $7,000.”

Barbara Ransome, director of operations of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said that Melanie Gonzalez of Simple Good sent in the original request and idea to beautify Chandler Square. Shops like Sweet ’n’ Savory, The Spice & Tea Exchange, The Soap Box, Port Jefferson Ice Cream Café, Hannaford Studios and Simple Good are now surrounded by delicate canopies of hanging lights, while flowers to be planted throughout the square. 

Roughly 90 percent of the Long Island economy comes from small businesses, so the pandemic caused stress for the smaller shops. Keating said that between 2020-21, PSEGLI has provided about 36 chamber of commerce grants — some $80,000 in total. While the beautification grant is relatively new, there are six preapproved, including Port Jeff. 

“It’s just been amazing to us how positive it is when the community can get together in a place that they didn’t have before,” Keating said. “Now, that is a nice place with tables and chairs, patio heaters and some nice lighting. It really has helped bring the community together.”

Keating added that while these grants are just for chambers and BIDs, there are other grants that individual businesses can apply for. Details are available online.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Ecolin Jewelers of Port Jefferson has maintained a loyal customer base while offering a wide variety of jewelry and services.

The owners, Linda and Russell Baker, began their business in 1971. The couple rented a small storefront in Stony Brook to get their footing as the new jewelers in town.

A few years later, the Bakers’ business became successful enough to enable them to purchase their current property, located across from the harbor in the heart of the village. In 1979, the store had finally finished being built.

The well-known Ecolin Jewelers is a unique name choice for a jewelry store. However, Ecolin was not the Bakers’ first choice when they first set up shop.

“When we were sending name ideas off to Albany to be approved, we had picked three pretty plain names like The Gem Shop, The Gem & Mineral Store and Stony Brook Gems,” Linda said. “But we were rejected on all of them because someone else was using a similar name.”

Thus, Ecolin was born. Linda’s father suggested she take the “Eco” from her passion for ecology and use the first three letters from her name. The title was immediately approved, and Ecolin Jewelers was open for business. 

Along with running the business, Linda also worked nights pursuing her other passion, music. As a musician, she played piano and sang at clubs, on cruise ships and the Three Village Inn. 

“When I was doing music I worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she said. “The idea was to get the business on its feet, and it worked.” 

Growing up on Long Island, Linda and Russell have always found themselves staying close to Stony Brook and Port Jefferson. The couple pride themselves on using American products.

“I think what’s unique about our store is that we make and design a lot of the jewelry here. We don’t just buy from factories in China,” she said.

Linda truly believes in supporting local and national American businesses, so all of the brands she buys from reflect the integrity of her own shop. A few of the brands she displays are LAGOS of Philadelphia and William Henry of Oregon. 

During the pandemic, Ecolin shut down for a few months but reopened when curbside trade was permitted. Although operating business by curbside, which included repairs and cleanings, may have been completely out of the ordinary for a jewelry shop, Linda made do with the obstacles thrown her way.

“We had one or two customers during the pandemic who really wanted to get engaged, and we successfully pulled that off,” she said. “It was strange going outside and showing the jewelry in the parking lot, but you do what you have to do and adapt to whatever comes your way, just like the generations before us did.”

The growth of Port Jefferson over the years has benefited Ecolin in many ways, especially with the increase in tourists. When Linda and Russell first bought the property, few people resided in the community.

“It was sort of a ghost town,” she said. “We were part of that first wave of town improvement. There were only a few businesses surrounding us in the beginning.” 

With the major growth of the village came the major growth of Ecolin, keeping it successfully running for 50 years from its modest Stony Brook beginning. 

For more information about Ecolin Jewelers, visit ecolin.com or call 631-473-1117.

Photo from Lavender Fields

For two decades, one local shop has seen it all. 

Lavender Fields, located at 118 Wynn Lane in Port Jefferson, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. 

Known for its homewares, furniture, luxury bedding, gifts and interior design services, it officially opened on April 14, 2001 and has kept its doors open since. 

Owner Lori Ressa said it wasn’t always easy, but staying creative and innovative was the secret to her success.

“I think just being unique and passionate about what you do, instead of copying another store or just trying to be what you’re not is key,” she said. “Something I learned back in the day in business school is be open to change.”

Originally from Brooklyn, Ressa had a background in e-commerce, but always had a passion for design and antiques. She also always wanted to be an entrepreneur and opened her first antique store in New Jersey.

Ressa decided she wanted to change pace and landed in Port Jefferson. She and her then-husband saw an advertisement for a store being sold and immediately knew this is where she belonged. 

“We came here, fell in love with the town, purchased the store and 20 years later, here we are,” she said. 

Since opening, they had several different locations — starting off on East Main Street under Pasta Pasta, they moved to where the current space for Fame & Rebel is down the street. Six years ago, she found the current spot tucked away off the beaten path. 

Ressa and her 12-year-old daughter Ava Madrid run the store now, monitoring the e-commerce through their website, working the retail part of the store and helping clients with interior design. 

Lori Ressa’s daughter, Ava, inside their shop. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Customers love the experience of just coming in,” Ressa said. “They walk around, they’ll see the candles, the home keeping stuff, the soaps, and then we have other clients that come in for the bedding and the rugs. We have a real mixed demographic.”

She said that for the anniversary, she will be remodeling the store. For now, the front door will feature a decorative flower arch, with their signature bundles of lavender outside for sale. 

Tucked away on the cobblestone-paved walkway of Wynn Lane in Port Jefferson, across from Ruvo’s. 

Inside the store is filled with a treasure trove of bedding, apothecary items, candles, artwork, luxe pajamas and lounge wear, gifts for children, kitchen wares, home decor, and more. Ressa and her staff are also able to create custom gift baskets.

“Many of our customers wander in before they go to a baby shower, birthday party, or bridal shower at a local restaurant, see all of the things we offer, and we end up creating a custom gift for them to take to their event,” she said. “You need to think outside the box.”

Ava, who has grown up in the shop, said she loves Port Jefferson and the community where she helps her mom every day.

“I love the environment here,” she said. 

Her plans? It might be to take over Ressa’s store one day, but she said the customer service skills she’s learning as she works alongside her family might lead her to run for village mayor one day.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Village Boutique saw an opportunity a few storefronts away and decided to move in.

The former Thomas Kinkade art gallery located at 128 Main Street in the village has stayed vacant for more than 13 months, said Abby Buller, The Village Boutique’s owner.

So she talked to her landlord — who owns her former spot at 216A Main as well as the Kinkade space — and decided to move down the street. 

“I think the location is a little bit better and because of the way this store is configured, it allowed me to expand more into shoes and accessories the other store didn’t allow me to do,” Buller said.  

And the new store is a better fit.

Since originally opening up in May 2019, Buller said her store carries a variety of women’s apparel for ages 16 and up. The new, much larger, space allowed her to begin selling footwear and more accessories.

“I’ve always wanted to have shoes in my store, but the back storage area was just too small,” she said. “This gave me two storage areas, and the space to display shoes of the other store didn’t have — so the configuration is what’s different.”

Buller said after things opened back up, she wanted to use the opportunity and start fresh. In January, she and her landlord came to an agreement, closing down her former location on Feb. 23.

It took her and her business partner about two weeks to move everything over, steam it all, barcode it and of course do some construction and cleaning up. The new Village Boutique opened on March 15. 

“I’m getting people into the store who said, ‘Are you new?’ and when I said no, they would say they never saw me up the block,” she said. “So, I think the new location will pay itself off in the end.”

Owner Abby Buller inside her new space. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Village Boutique, Buller said, is the type of place where a shopper won’t have to step foot inside a big-box store, or shop online, ever again. She personally shops for her inventory in the city and brings in designers from all over the world.

“If I can’t touch the clothes, I can’t buy them,” she said. “Because we first look for style, then when we look with touch. If you don’t like the way it feels, you’re not going to buy something.”

She also said she has a price point for everyone’s budget.

“We have a little bit of Manhattan in Suffolk County,” she said.

Buller said the last couple of years she has grown her shop in the village has even led her to now make the jump to move out here, herself. 

Born and raised in Queens, since 2019 she has been commuting the almost two-hour drive to Port Jeff every day.

She said she just sold her place in Bayside, and is looking to find a new place in the Port Jefferson, Rocky Point or Mount Sinai areas to call home.

“I remember being a child and a day trip for us would be coming out to Port Jeff,” she said. “So, when I decided to own a business, my concept was that I didn’t want to be in a strip mall. I wanted to be in a town. And I had such fond memories of this village so I took the jump.”

The Village Boutique is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday’s.

The gooey inside of the O-Mellow cookie. Photo by Julianne Mosher

This Port Jefferson Station mom has a secret that everyone is talking about: Secret Stuffed Cookies.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused Ashley Winkler to halt working at her beauty salon, the mother of three decided to get creative. 

Ashley Winkler, founder of Secret Stuffed Cookies, holding her Rainbow OG cookie. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I’m a baker,” she said. “So, I started doing it for my family. I stuffed a rainbow cookie into another cookie. Then we had some Girl Scout cookies, and I stuffed those in. I just had fun with it.”

That’s when Winkler posted her tasty creations to social media — and they blew up. Friends began asking her if they could order a dozen of her stuffed, hearty treats. 

“I was just doing it for fun,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to make money.”

Winkler said she felt guilty operating a cookie company out of her home when other local bakers were struggling to keep their doors open. She also wasn’t sure how long she’d be able to do it. 

Last March, she thought the pandemic might only last a month — but nearly a year later, her quarantine project has become a passion.

Originally her Secret Stuffed Cookies Instagram page was private, only accepting close friends and relatives for local cookie pickups.

“But then May came and people were getting stimulus checks … They started ordering two dozen cookies every week from me and referring my account to their friends,” she said. 

Back to work, and raising three little kids, Winkler wasn’t sure if she’d want to continue the baking. With a little help from her sister and a few neighbors, she decided to keep at it. 

By February of 2021, 11 months since her first cookie being made, she has nearly 4,000 followers and ships her baked goods nationwide.

Three days a week, she bakes a minimum of 300 cookies. She always has her “Rainbow OG,” a chocolate chip cookie stuffed with a homemade rainbow cookie, the “O-Mellow,” an Oreo marshmallow cookie and several others on the menu — but she’s always switching it up.

Compared to other stuffed cookie companies, Secret Stuffed has several options for people with a sweet tooth. 

“I don’t want to tell people what they have to get. I want people to choose what they want,” she said. “There’s a whole range, and they can choose how they want to pay and how many cookies they want to get.”

Secret Stuffed offers same-day pickup from her Port Jefferson Station home, next business day shipping and a pre-order option. She also recently set up a cookie subscription box, which features new types every month.

Baked fresh and packaged individually, Winkler said her cookies stay good for two weeks. They can be frozen or refrigerated to last up to a month. 

She also teamed up with local businesses to sell cookies in-person. Right now, customers can find her sweets in Town and Country Market in Miller Place, Joe’s Campus Heroes in Selden, and Rose and Boom Boutiques in St. James and Mount Sinai. 

To order and find out more information, visit @SecretStuffedCookies on Instagram and Facebook

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Carlos Cano in his new upholstery shop in Upper Port said business has been good despite the pandemic, and the community have been more than supportive. Photo by Kyle Barr

Carlos Cano, a new face to the Port Jefferson scene, could not be happier to be where he is now.

The new shop owner of Cano Decor in Upper Port Jeff has a lot to be thankful for. Though he only opened a month and a half ago in the midst of a pandemic, and in a location more known for empty storefronts than prosperous ones, he said the community has already come out in support of him and his business.

“I’m so happy, you have no idea,” he said. “The neighbors here, they are incredible. … The town is helping me, and I want to help the town.”

Carlos Cano in his new upholstery shop in Upper Port said business has been good despite the pandemic, and the community have been more than supportive. Photo by Kyle Barr

Cano originally owned an upholstery business in the Bronx, where he serviced a lot of high-end clientele in the commercial and restaurant businesses, but because of COVID-19 there was little-to-no work available. Earlier this year, he came to the area to see his brother-in-law’s house, and he immediately fell in love with Port Jefferson village. The restaurants were great, and he enjoyed the walkable aspect to everything. Talking to the landlord of the Upper Port shop, he moved his business here and has been instead focusing more on residential work.

The difference between where he used to work and where he is now could not be more different, and Cano said it’s all for the better. Satisfied customers have even bought him presents, something that would never happen in the city.

“In the Bronx, I used to see the rats fight,” he said. “Here I see the squirrels play.”

And surprisingly, he has been seeing people come through. He’s gotten plenty of work for Thanksgiving and the holidays, and he’s been kept constantly busy since he’s opened. It’s just him and his seamstress working now, where his previous business had six employees.

Cano Decor stands out among the other empty storefront of Upper Port with his bright, cursive letterings on the windows and its floral pattern and leather furniture just behind them. 

“I want to bring that feeling — I want to create that [sensation that things are happening],” he said.

Cano has been doing upholstery practically ever since he came to the United States from Colombia when he was just 14. Now 54, the man said experts in the field are rare. One can count the number of upholstery professionals on Long Island on just one hand.

“This is a dying art,” he said. 

The owner said his business offers residential reupholstering services on furniture, car and marine, as well as curtains and services decor services for restaurants. He promotes that all his material is high quality, with his fabrics being all American made and his leathers sourced from the U.S. or Europe.

Even beyond his work with fabrics, he also wants to see about opening up the shop for quilting or sewing classes, stuff that could perhaps reinvigorate the love and art of working with furniture.

“I want to teach this to somebody — somebody that can take up the torch, in other words,” he said.

Cano Decor can be found at 1530 Main St. in Upper Port, next to Keny Barber Shop. The upholsterer can be contacted at 631-828-2346.

Coco Teodoro, owner of Cocomotion yoga studio in Miller Place, has hosted free online yoga classes during hte pandemic, but is concerned about his business. Photo by Julianne Moser

They went from selling out classes several times a day, to having one person in a class.

Coco Teodoro, owner of Miller Place and Patchogue-based Cocomotion Yoga + Movement Space, said that the virus has hit his industry just as hard as others. 

“Our business, just like rock concerts, musicals, they’re in the business of bringing people together,” he said. “And that’s the one thing we can’t do. So, our entire business model is toast because if you’re good at bringing people together, then what are you good at after that?”

Teodoro said that because of the pandemic, he has lost 90% of his business — just one of many things that hit him hard in 2020.

“I kept telling everybody that this is the year of loss for me,” he said. “I lost my mom just a few months ago, then lost my job [at an advertising firm in Manhattan] of 17 years, and then I could end up losing my business.”

But Teodoro tries not to be negative. There’s hope and he sees a silver lining, despite the hardships he and his colleagues are facing because of the coronavirus. 

“I always felt that as long as I can teach, I can always make it in this world,” he said.

Teodoro, a certified instructor, has been practicing yoga for more than 20 years. He opened his first location in Miller Place five years ago and added a second space on the South Shore in 2017.

In March 2020, he was all ready to open up his third location on top of that in East Setauket. He took over the second floor of the Country Corner Bar on Route 25A and then the virus hit.

The front of Cocomotion in Miller Place. Photo by Julianne Mosher

While they are still renting out the other two locations, they haven’t been able to use their Patchogue and new Setauket spaces yet. 

Teodoro said they are focusing on maintaining their flagship spot in Miller Place because it’s the largest out of the three. They just recently opened up to in-person classes, where they marked spots on the floor six-feet apart. A class that once held nearly three-dozen people can now only hold eight.

“We feel like this is the safest place to practice,” he said. 

And it’s been hard, he said. Early on in the pandemic, Teodoro had more than 20 instructors on his payroll, now he has just two — who are doing their classes for free. Since March, he and partner Jane Irvine were putting out over 500 yoga classes online for no charge. 

“We’re actually going out of business and working at the same time,” he said. “We’re literally staying here so we can hold on to the community that we built.”

And that community has become their family.

“We know every single person,” Irvine said. “We know what’s going on in their lives. We know their children, we know what’s happening. So, we’re here, and we say that we love this family. This is our family.”

Irvine said the community has been as supportive as they could be during this difficult time, and while the business is struggling, the teachers at Cocomotion just want to make others feel better because they know of the impacts stress can cause someone.

“Pre-COVID, people would have multiple memberships,” Teodoro said. “They’d have a membership at the local gym, then they’d have a membership at the yoga studio, and then they might have a psychiatrist, as well.”

That’s how this studio is different than the rest, adding, “We decided to squeeze all three of those in.”

Irvine said that now more than ever, people need a ritual.

“People need something to devote their time to, otherwise the mind is just going to go crazy,” she said. “It gives you a focus, a point in your day to do something to take care of yourself.”

Cocomotion’s free classes are still available on their social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, but he’s encouraging people to take advantage of the sacred space he worked half a decade on in Miller Place.

“Everything that we’ve built is our dream,” he said. “So yes, we’re going to struggle — everybody’s struggling at this moment in time. But ultimately, we still get to wake up and have this community that we love and do what we love to do.”

Tandy Jeckel, above, stands in the expanded Tandy Wear. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A pandemic didn’t stop TandyWear from expanding, in fact, it gave them the push do something great. 

The upscale clothing boutique located at 89 Commack Road in Commack is celebrating 10 years at its location with a store expansion and launch of its junior’s selection, TandyGirl.

An inside look at the expansion of TandyWear in Commack. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Owner Tandy Jeckel began her brand 25 years ago selling woman’s accessories and handbags. Then 10 years ago, she moved to the current brick and mortar store with a goal to dress local women in the trendiest of clothes with a low budget. She said that she began noticing girls shopping alongside their mothers, so Jeckel wanted to cater to them, too, by expanding her inventory and sizes. 

“Everybody feels like they can shop here,” she said. “They can feel good about themselves, and they can be with their moms.”

With inclusive sizing ranging from extra small to 2XL, Jeckel realized that she needed to expand her square footage to meet the demands of a bigger catalog. 

And while the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on many businesses, Jeckel said she and her store lucked out, taking advantage of masks early on and making them a fashion statement. “That was something that we knew everybody needed, but they wanted to be fashionable,” she said. 

Jeckel said that next door to her shop, an empty storefront laid vacant for nearly three years. She always wanted that space, she said, and decided in August to make the jump.

“Since we were doing really well during the pandemic with the mask sales and curbside pickup, we pivoted,” she said, “We just took something and made it happen.”

She had a short amount of time to break down the wall of the former Karate school and reinvent the space. They officially opened the second side the day before Black Friday.

With the new side of the store contemporary casual wear for the young and young-at-heart, it also includes a wall of dressing rooms, sparkling chandeliers and a positive message.

TandyWear wanted to give back to the community while opening up their new space. This week, a portion of all sales from the weekend of Dec. 11-13 will be donated to the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying.

A table featuring cards from the anti-bullying campaign that TandyWear is taking part in. Photo by Julianne Mosher

LICAB helps to create bully-free communities across Long Island through education, increased awareness and therapeutic outlets, offering a variety of programs and services such as school assistance programs, care packages, youth leadership programs and subsidized therapy. 

On the counter and inside those fresh dressing rooms, are 5×7 index cards that subtly say that “you’re beautiful,” and encourages girls who are struggling with bullies to reach out — a discrete way for girls to find information. 

LICAB founder and Executive Director Joe Salamone said that partnering with a store like TandyWear helps get the word out on his organization and gives girls an outlet that will make them feel better if they’re struggling. “Any opportunity that gets us in front of the community who may need us so we can help is great,” he said. “The cards give us the opportunity for kids to get in touch with us in a judgement-free way.”

Salamone said the cards were delivered to the store in early November, and Jeckel said the first pile of cards is almost gone. 

Jeckel said the anti-bullying campaign hits close to home, as her daughter was bullied as a child.

“I’m very happy to get involved with the anti-bullying coalition because my daughter was bullied in middle school and high school,” she said. “She never really came out and said anything — she just dealt with it and masked it, and she was one of the lucky ones that got through it. But if she had this group, it would have really helped her.”

Jeckel said that she knows girls are embarrassed to talk about how they’re feeling, and often hears stories from mothers and their daughters who were also struggling with bullies at school and online. But now with the partnership, she’s already receiving positive feedback. 

“Moms are just really happy because they know someone or their child is being bullied, and they didn’t know there was a place that could really go for help,” she said.

These anti-bullying materials will be available in store year-round at TandyGirl.

“I would like to make a difference,” she said. “I want to make people feel good who are all shapes and sizes. When they look good, they feel good.”