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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.” 

An inside look at Huntington Village's Little Switzerland Toy Store. Photo by Lina Weingarten

COVID-19 has impacted business globally, but for local mom-and-pop shops across Long Island, they have been hit twice as hard. 

Between the impact of online retailers, plus big box stores, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to make a sale for these smaller businesses.

When people shop small, the sales tax goes right back into the local economy. The community depends on these stores to make the village look great, while also supporting a neighbor. 

That’s why on Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday immediately followed the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with hopes to bring revenue into the smaller stores. 

All weekend long throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, local shop owners gleamed with hope that customers would continue their holiday shopping “small” and keeping these businesses afloat. 

Here’s what some small business owners had to say: 

Madison’s Niche employees at the Stony Brook store. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Madison’s Niche 

83 Main St., Stony Brook/14 Wall St., Huntington

Madison’s Niche, with four locations throughout Long Island, is a lifestyle boutique that sells everything from baby onesies to UGG boots to home décor.

At the Stony Brook Village Center store, director Carolynn Mertens said that they did “fantastic” this past holiday weekend.

“We’re up in sales,” she said. “We’re very grateful to be up, and we didn’t think it was going to happen, but we’re very lucky.”

From Friday to Sunday, Mertens said she saw dozens of people shopping with their holiday lists in hand, while a lot of people were even shopping for themselves.

“I think people want to support small businesses,” she said. “They don’t want to see any more empty stores in their community and are trying to keep our mom-and-pop stores alive.”

Compared to a big box store or the mall, Mertens believes that customers feel more comfortable shopping in her stores.

“Our stores are easy to shop in,” she said. “We can maintain social distancing and we are constantly disinfecting.”

Morolay Children’s Boutique is now open by appointment only. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Morolay Children’s Boutique 

302 New York Ave., Huntington 

This holiday season is looking a little different for Morolay Children’s Boutique on New York Avenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Under these unique circumstances, we’re fully by appointment,” said owner Leah Casabona. 

But that works in the customers favor, because it provides an even more one-on-one shopping experience for people looking to come in. 

“The customer service here is much better than big chain stores,” she said. “We personally deal with our customers and live in the community.”

For the past 21 years, Morolay has been a staple to the Huntington community, known for selling special occasion wear to local children. 

“If you support small business, that sales tax goes back into our own local community,” she said. “And, the uniqueness of Huntington makes it a desirable place to live.”

Casabona said that shopping small is the way to go this and every other year.

“We need to be more conscious to help small businesses now more than ever,” she said.

Lily Bergh stands behind the counter at Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls

267 Main St., Huntington

Lily Bergh, owner of Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls, said she has been in the business for more than 30 years. 

This holiday season, she’s reminding people that shopping in-store is part of the magic that is Christmas. 

“It was so nice seeing the kids with their big smiles this weekend,” she said. “They were making lists for Santa while walking around the store.”

Since opening in 1981, Bergh said that three generations now have been walking through her front door to buy presents during the holidays.

“The kids will come in with their grandmas and say with excitement, ‘Wow, a toy store!’”

And that reaction isn’t the same when a child walks through a toy aisle at a larger retailer.

“You’re just a number at a big box store,” she said. “And, I think it’s important to actually be able to pick up or touch a toy.” 

Bergh said that the last nine months have been hard for her and the business, but Saturday and Sunday had a great turnout. 

“It was awesome,” she said. “But we need more to make up for the four months we were closed. We want to stay in Huntington. It’s important.”

She said her toy store is a “wonderland” and strives to bring good memories to little ones visiting inside. She hopes that more people will continue to shop at her store, especially now. 

“I don’t care who you shop from, but you need to shop local,” she said.

TandyWear in Commack recently expanded. Photo by Rita Egan

TandyWear

89 Commack Road, Commack

TandyWear has been in business for over 20 years and owner Tandy Jeckel said shopping at her store is a safe and fun experience, especially during these unprecedented times.

“We’re on a first-name basis with our customers,” she said. “You’ll get a personalized experience — we have an amazing team, amazing stylists, we’ll find your style.”

Jeckel said that this past Saturday was the best Small Business Saturday they have ever had.  

“It was amazing,” she said. “We had so much foot traffic. It was great.”

Known for their dressy wear, comfy wear, going out wear and trendy wear, the store has something for everyone. 

“We get new styles daily, and we sell masks to match,” she said.

Throughout the holiday weekend, Jeckel said she offered doorbusters and 20% off the entire store.

Jeckel thinks people are gravitating toward the smaller shops because the big box stores are also competing with online retailers and are closing due to them. 

“The big box stores aren’t around anymore,” she said. “You have a few small chain stores, and then us.”

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Broadway in Rocky Point is just one small main street on Long Island hoping for customers this holiday season. Photo by Kyle Barr

It was a fall shopping season like no other.

One doesn’t have to think too far back to remember the crowds you could practically surf off of during the annual season of Black Friday sales. Not so much this year, as more people stayed home to avoid potentially catching or spreading COVID-19. 

Online sales, however, have jumped tremendously. Amazon’s Prime Day started early in October, and Forbes has reported that original projections for the weekend before Cyber Monday indicated increases of online purchases compared to 2019 from 36 to 50%. Amazon has already said this year’s holiday shopping season has been the biggest in its history, contending that medium to small businesses that sell on Amazon have seen record numbers.

Meanwhile, as much as small brick-and-mortar businesses have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, we will still have to wait and see how well they did on Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday promoted by American Express.

Experts, from as close as the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University have expressed fear for these small shops, with expectations that close to half of businesses like restaurants could be closed by 2021. 

Alignable, a Boston-based online business referral network, reported Dec. 1 based on a poll of 9,204 small business owners that 48% fear they will not earn enough revenue this month to keep their businesses afloat. 

Main streets all over Long Island have experienced their share of woe, and while some retail owners say times remain tough, others expressed their thanks to customers who went out of their way to patronize their local mom-and-pop.

Feasts for Beasts owner Alan Ghidaleson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Feasts For Beasts

45 Route 25A, Mount Sinai

The pet store and groomer in the small outlet along Route 25A in Mount Sinai normally does not do too much for the Black Friday weekend and doesn’t have many extra sales on top of what they already do. Owner Alan Ghidaleson said things on Small Business Saturday were a bit slow.

“For brick-and-mortars, this is a tough time,” Ghidaleson said. As for the pandemic: “We’re surviving it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but we get by.”

The owner said sales start to lag after Thanksgiving, as they have for the past five years or so. However, he said his business will survive the year, and hopes for better next year.  

Tricia and Stan Niegocki of Niegocki Farms. Photo by Kyle Barr

Niegocki Farms

604 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai

As the last farm in Mount Sinai, the family owned Niegocki located at the southern corner of Heritage Park has a lot riding on its shoulders as the last holdout of the area’s agricultural charm. 

It’s why co-owner Tricia Niegocki said they have been able to survive the past few months, because of the customers and locals who know and support them. For Thanksgiving, the farm sold turkeys and eggs, though on the whole more people were looking for smaller birds. The farm opened up for tree sales after Thanksgiving, and since then sales have been good.

“We have a lot of locals that love to shop local and support local,” Niegocki said. “Since we’re the last farm here in Mount Sinai, we’ve actually been blessed to have a good past couple of days.” 

She said that because Christmas trees do not have a very large margin, they did not do any sales for Small Business Saturday. Still, things on the farm do not change very much, and while other businesses were forced to close early in the pandemic, Niegocki was considered essential. She said they will be able to maintain over the winter, adding they plan to use their space to host other small shops as a pop-up mall of sorts. They have already hosted two such events over the past year.

“Most of our customers are friends, people who have become friends over the years,” the farmer said. “We are very blessed we have animals that provide us meat and eggs, so that demand will always be there.”

Cat Rosenboom, owner of Rose & Boom in Mount Sinai. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Rose & Boom Boutique

176 N. Country Road #3, Mount Sinai

Cat Rosenboom, owner of Rose & Boom in Mount Sinai and St. James, said that supporting local business is more important than ever.

“I always say to shop small,” she said. “But it’s even more true this year.”

Rosenboom, who has owned the Mount Sinai location for four years this month, opened her second store in St. James nearly six months before the stay-at-home shutdown.

“We had just opened up and then had to close the door once we started to get our name out there,” she said. 

But despite the coronavirus crisis, she said people were shopping and supporting her stores throughout the whole pandemic, by purchasing things online through her social media accounts and delivering them personally to customers close by.

“You get a personal experience here that you won’t get at a big box store,” she said. “We take pride in getting to know our customers and their families.”

She also will host local retailer pop-ups to support fellow small business owners.

“We like to help local retailers and get the word out about their business,” she said. 

Leading up to Black Friday, the shops did daily surprise sales every day in hopes to bring people in – and it worked. “We allowed 10 people in the stores at a time, and they were busy the entire day,” she said. 

— Julianne Mosher

Merrily Couture in Mount Sinai. Photo from Google Maps

Merrily Couture

340 Route 25A, Mount Sinai

Manager of the Mount Sinai formal wear shop, Krystle Weber Hughes, said times have been tough since the start of the pandemic, as so much of their business depends on formal occasions. Their stellar event, school prom, was largely canceled by every school district in the local area. They were closed during the pandemic’s height, and all their shipments were delayed. To this day they are receiving items they ordered all the way back in January.

The store doesn’t have too many discounts around the time of Black Friday, but Weber Hughes said COVID has meant they have had to clean dressing rooms every time one is used, and they have to manage their space to make sure people are socially distanced.

She said they have received some returning customers, while others are somewhat hesitant to buy anything too early before an event that may well be canceled.

“Everything really got turned upside down because of COVID,” she said. “I think people are so afraid of events being cancelled, they’re waiting until the last minute to purchase a dress.”

Weber Hughes said they are waiting for January to see how things are, as that is when their prom season starts. Once that comes around, she said they will likely know how good the year will be.

Marion Bernholz, center, the owner of The Gift Corner. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Gift Corner

157 N. Country Road, Mount Sinai

Marion Bernholz, owner of The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai, has seen the impact a loyal customer base can have on a small shop for getting through a tough time.

TBR News Media has talked to Bernholz every Small Business Saturday for the past three years, and each time she has said it’s the customers who look at her as a friend and neighbor who help her survive in a time of booming online retail.

“We have been doing OK,” Bernholz said. “People have come up to me in Stop & Shop and asked if I worked at the store. They asked me, ‘Are you doing OK?’” 

But it seems word of mouth has worked for her. She said they have been receiving a host of new customers, adding that she estimates they had been ringing up 20 new customers a day from people coming to the North Shore during the summer and fall, many of whom were not able to take their usual vacations.

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of Game On in Miller Place and Smithtown

Game On

465 Route 25A, Miller Place

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of Game On, a used and refurbished video game and console retailer with locations in Miller Place and Smithtown, said he has been doing 200% to 300% better than last year, both in terms of sales and customers, which is something that to him was concerning considering just how hard it has been for so many other businesses out there. 

When businesses were forced to close, Whitworth and his business partner each came to the separate stores on the North Shore and sold some of their product online, which kept things moving.

“We’re very blessed,” he said. “We were profitable during that phase, too, while other stores couldn’t. For example, you couldn’t do anything for a nail salon. … It’s a weird feeling to have so many places struggle and then us flourish. We didn’t do anything different, we just got lucky.” 

Whitworth hosted two $1,500 giveaways to two local businesses this year. 

While Whitworth did a host of sales during last year’s Small Business Saturday, this year he tried to make it more subdued to make sure there weren’t too many people crowded close together in his store. Still, there was a steady stream of people coming into the store all day Saturday.

“We’re lucky, we sell things people really, really want right now during a pandemic when they stay home, so we really didn’t push it this year,” he said. “I didn’t want people thinking they need to come support us, because there are a lot of stores that are really actually struggling.”

Jim Donnelly, the owner of Grand Slam Tennis in Miller Place. and Commack. Photo by Kyle Barr

Grand Slam Tennis

816 Route 25A, Miller Place

Jim Donnelly, the owner of Grand Slam Tennis in Miller Place, with his main store in Commack, said his prospects for year to year are much different as a specialty shop. Small Business Saturday normally has no effect on him.

“People that enjoy specialty stores, and have all the information, they constantly come to us, we don’t have to advertise or anything,” Donnelly said. “They’re our advertisement.”

The biggest problem for him and his shop was when different municipalities closed tennis courts all over Long Island, despite the argument that tennis is one of the safer sports one could play during a pandemic, as by necessity players are well distanced. The tennis store owner said he and other tennis advocates got together to put a paper on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk arguing for tennis to be permitted, and was shortly thereafter allowed along with sports like golf. 

“We had a good summer — I hate to brag — I’m just glad I was in the right business for a pandemic, because I would hate to be the rest of these guys,” he said.

Jim and Sue Fiora, along with Misty the dog. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Bait and Tackle

834 Route 25A, Miller Place

The fishing business had some interesting ups and downs this year, according to Miller Place Bait and Tackle owners Jim and Sue Flora. Their store had to close along with many others for several months, but once they opened they found many people who had never tried fishing before were buying rods and bait. It was one of the few activities still available to people during the height of COVID.

“It’s been a good season for us because everybody went fishing,” Sue Flora said. “So many people come in saying, ‘I want to learn to fish.’ It was very good for us. They supported us through it.”

She said customers were coming into the shop on Saturday to buy products or even gift cards, specifically to support them. 

“We have a nice bunch of loyal customers — we’re really fortunate,” she said.

Jim Flora said they were doing slightly better than last year, and should be in a relatively safe place going into next year.

Flowers on Broadway owner Stephanie Navas. Photo by Kyle Barr

Flowers on Broadway

43 Broadway, Rocky Point

April was supposed to be Rocky Point flower shop Flowers on Broadway’s 20-year anniversary celebration. Owner Stephanie Navas said they are still somewhat struggling as so many weddings are still on hold while big events, which usually means big sales for florists, are much more subdued.

They have had more to do with funeral work but, despite the morbid implication, even those sales are down compared to previous years, as more funerals have become much smaller events.

“Walk-in traffic isn’t anything like it used to be,” Navas said. “We are doing more home deliveries then we did in the past, but it doesn’t quite balance out.”

While she expected to see some more traffic for Thanksgiving, especially considering more people weren’t traveling, they didn’t see too big a jump in sales. Black Friday, on the other hand, is the “absolute worst” day to be open. This year she said they made little to nothing on the biggest shopping holiday of the year. Saturday did get slightly better, and now Flowers on Broadway is trying to start its big Christmas push. 

Still, she said she’s not ready to throw in
the towel. 

“My hope is just to do as well as last year,” she said. “I’m not hoping for an increase, I’m just looking to maintain at this point.”