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Peter Goldstein, staff pharmacist at Jones Drug Store in Northport. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Amazon says it can save people money on their medications, but local pharmacy owners say there’s a big problem with that: There won’t be that human element customers get from a pharmacist behind the counter if they order from behind a computer screen. 

This week the online retailer announced new pharmacy offerings to help customers purchase their prescription medications through Amazon Pharmacy — a new store on the website that provides an entire pharmacy transaction through an Amazon account. 

Mike Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“People like their community pharmacy,” said Mike Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy & Homecare Supply in Port Jefferson Station. “I take care of the specialty patient populations that require intimate service — hopefully that will sustain me.”

Amazon Pharmacy states that by using a secure pharmacy profile, customers can add their insurance information, manage prescriptions and choose payment options before checking out. Amazon Prime members will receive unlimited, free two-day delivery on orders through the online shop.

But this announcement isn’t new, according to Nastro.

“They’ve been talking about this for a while,” he said. “It’s going to hurt the industry a lot. It may hurt the chains more initially, but it’ll hurt the entire brick-and-mortar industry.”

Two years ago, Amazon purchased PillPack, an online pharmacy startup, in a $753 million acquisition. 

“As more and more people look to complete everyday errands from home, pharmacy is an important and needed addition to the Amazon online store,” Doug Herrington, senior vice president of North America Consumer at Amazon, said in a statement. “PillPack has provided exceptional pharmacy service for individuals with chronic health conditions for over six years. Now, we’re expanding our pharmacy offering to Amazon.com, which will help more customers save time, save money, simplify their lives and feel healthier.”

Local pharmacies might be in danger with Amazon’s new pharmacy service. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Nastro said that there are many benefits with personal pharmacy service like privacy and face-to-face communication.

“We keep people out of the hospital by intervening, and by knowing the person and seeing what medications they’re on,” he said. “It’s an important role, and if that’s obliterated it will have an adverse effect on the medical industry.”

Peter Goldstein, a staff pharmacist at Jones Drug Store in Northport, said in the 30-plus years he’s been in the industry, Amazon will not be able to help patients like he and his colleagues do.

“I will put my service against any mail order or Amazon any day,” he said. “We know the patients, especially in the community. We know their family history and there’s so much that goes into it, that quite frankly people will miss. What will you do if your insulin gets sent to the wrong site?”

Goldstein noted something like storing medications at the required room temperature is an issue if it ends up sitting in a mailbox. 

“It’s personal touches that we take for granted,” he said. 

And one of those personal touches is quick delivery that Nastro’s store has been doing all along.

“We’re not there in two days,” he said. “We’re there in two hours.”

Michael DeAngelis, owner of Village Chemists of Setauket, said his family has owned their store since 1960. DeAngelis and his father saw the changes in pharmaceutical care throughout the years although this is a whole new level. 

Michael DeAngelis, owner of Village Chemists of Setauket. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We managed to survive Genovese, Eckerd, Rite Aid and now Walgreens,” he said. “[Those stores] even sent people here to solve a problem or order something they couldn’t get.”

While COVID-19 has conditioned people to stay indoors more, DeAngelis said contacting a pharmacy store is a different experience.

“If you call the Village Chemists, you will not get a machine that makes you listen to an endless menu,” he said. “You will get a human being who will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.”

These local pharmacists want people to know they are here for them and will be, despite the larger competition coming their way.

“Community pharmacists are really your advocate,” Nastro said. “With Amazon, what you’re not going to have is that personal service. It’s not just buying goods — we both have medication — there’s a service that comes with that medication and that service keeps people out of the hospital. It keeps people alive.”

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Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

After a fire devasted The Meadow Club more than two years ago, the family behind Setauket’s The Curry Club and Port Jefferson’s SāGhar felt like their world was falling apart. 

Known for its weddings in Port Jefferson Station, and being a structure on Route 112 for more than five decades, the building has been fixed and revamped. It’s a whole new sight. 

The Meadow Club’s new look. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

“Our logo has always been a closed lotus, but the closed lotus represented the fire,” said Kiran Wadhwa, owner, creative director and event planner at the Meadow Club. “The lotus needs to open up and blossom — it represents rebirth, freshness and a peaceful, new environment.”

Wadhwa and her sister, Indu Kaur, took over the club in 2014. 

“We’re looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kaur said. “Two years ago, we thought we were done, but now we’re excited to bring our gem back to Suffolk County.”

The rebirth of The Meadow Club began after Kaur got the call her venue was a blaze in the early morning of July of 2018. Since then, she and her team had been working hard to get the property back in shape. “This is our legacy,’ Wadhwa said. “We want to leave this behind to our kids.”

But because the venue was so old and outdated, the process took longer than they initially thought. Kaur and Wadhwa had to redo the roof as well as add new air conditioners, sprinkler systems, floors and bathrooms. The permits prior to renovation were also outdated.

“We thought of everything,” Wadhwa said. “Everything we had issues with inside the old building, we fixed.”

Which worked in their favor. Although they didn’t disclose when the grand opening date is, construction is almost done and they’re starting to book weddings for 2021 and 2022.

“Everything is literally brand new,” Wadhwa said. “We build the new COVID guidelines into our construction.”

When one walks through the front door of the new Meadow Club, they are greeted with white walls and marble floors. Several crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings in each room and the staircase, which was formerly to the right-hand side, now expands on the left. A waterfall is located at the bottom of the stairs, and a live-moss wall sits above it. They added handicap accessible restrooms to the space, redoing everything. 

The Meadow Club’s former look before its fire. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

There are other changes, as well, including COVID-friendly additions the family made to their venue. Each of the three ballrooms now has their own exits and there is a new outdoor patio full of flowers and evergreens. Owners also installed sanitation stations throughout the property and have planned for sanitizing after each and every event. 

“We don’t want anyone to get sick,” Kaur said. “And we don’t want them to feel unsafe.”

As for the food, they are changing up the menu. They are adding a new chef who specializes in fine Italian cuisine, but also offer Pakistani and Indian food. They also made their kitchen completely Kosher. 

“We’re the only catering hall that offers Halal, Pakistani, Italian and Indian,” Wadhwa said. 

Although for now weddings must be at the 50-person limit, with no mingling, dancing or cocktail hour, the family said they are excited to bring this whole new space to couples walking down the aisle next year and beyond.

A family-owned business, they want their brides to feel special. 

“We’re accommodating and flexible,” Kaur said. “We personalize to each brides’ different needs.”

“I wait for the gasp,” Wadhwa added about the current tours they’re offering. “And I love seeing the look on their faces. The venue is brand new, clean and safe. It’ll be every brides’ dream come true.”

Completely redone by Ronkonkoma-based BELFOR Property Restoration, Project Manager Scott Sommerville said redoing the venue has been a journey. 

“It’s been the most wonderful transition from old to new,” he said. “We resurrected it.”

Back to Basics in Rocky Point has been around for over four decades before its owner, Drew Henry Tyler, died earlier this year. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though he may have passed on, a local shop owner, one who helped pioneer the health foods market on Long Island, is still appearing to thank people passing by his small corner store.

Drew Henry Tyler, a resident of Shoreham Village and owner of Back to Basics in Rocky Point, passed away in June. Photo by Robert Gutowski

Back to Basics, a natural food store in Rocky Point, has been vacant for months. In its window a sign is posted: “Thanks for 43 Years.” The longtime owner of the shop, Drew Henry Tyler, 67, passed away June 8 after a battle with adrenal cancer. 

His wife of little under 28 years, Lee Frei, is a longtime resident of Shoreham village. She and her future husband originally met at the store. 

She got to know him as an honest and quiet man, but the kind of quiet that hides a unique intelligence. She said if he hadn’t passed, he would have likely still been there, manning the counter and talking to customers about anything from politics to music to yoga.

“There was so much to Drew,” she said. “He was calm and wise. I often thanked him for that.” 

Tyler grew up with his brother Rick on a chicken farm in Lake Ronkonkoma, back when the area was still mostly rural, and some of the main roads still remained dirt paths. Rick Tyler called that just your average life of “barefoot boys growing up in the woods.” 

The two were introduced to Provisions, a health food shop in Port Jefferson back in the  1970s, the brother said. Working there, the two formed a side business called Journey Foods, where the two would go into New York City, bringing back “tubs” of tofu, sprouts and other such items to sell to the still-small market of health food stores on the eastern side of Long Island, back when many wholesale distributors didn’t come out past Route 110. The brothers even got into the business of growing sprouts, which Rick said were “temperamental.” 

The two made connections with many of the health food retailers on the Island, but the brothers had a unique opportunity when the original owners of Back to Basics in Rocky Point were looking to sell.

Jane Alcorn, who now helps lead the effort to transform the Shoreham Tesla property into a museum and science incubator, started the store in 1976 with her husband and two friends. When a few years after opening, her business partners moved away, she and her husband decided to sell to the Tyler brothers, who had expressed interest in the place for a while. She thought of Drew as a “kind man — he was quiet and hardworking.”

“It was always a pleasure to go there and see how they had made some changes, but still kept the essence of the store — natural foods, and healthy and specialty products for the people of the surrounding area,” Alcorn said. “He obviously did a good job to have been in business so long. Back to Basics was one of the oldest stores in Rocky Point and, even now, I’m sure many people, like me, miss running in to pick up some special items that aren’t available anywhere nearby.”

The store was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Frei said and, after Drew passed, family came to help sell the remaining merchandise at cost.

Rick Tyler, who now lives in Pennsylvania, worked at the store for a little over a decade before moving on. As the health food market boomed, he said it got harder to compete, and they were “always fighting against the mass market and Trader Joe’s.” 

Still, despite any difficulty. Rick said his brother was the kind of man who would leave the counter to help a woman bring her purchases to the car. He was the kind of man who engendered trust, and when Rick came back to Long Island to help with closing down the shop, he and those manning the shop were greeted with a bevy of longtime customers who fondly remembered the store owner, some young enough to say they had been coming there for practically their entire lives.

“He was a very gentle, kind, smart, funny guy — he was very well liked,” Rick Tyler said of his brother.

Jan Tyler, the brothers’ mother, said the people who came to the store in those final days were coming in with both sympathy and expressions of sorrow.

“I think you couldn’t help but love Drew,” the mother said. “He tried to help everybody he could, he would drop everything and help a woman with bundles in the rain. On the whole everybody cared a great deal for him.”

Linda Stever, who worked for Drew at Back to Basics for several years, said the owner was inherently trusting of his customers and community. She wrote in a post to Tyler’s obituary that from the first day she worked for him, the man simply trusted people.

“I lived in Rocky Point for years, but I never felt such a sense of community until I worked with Drew at Back to Basics,” Stever wrote. “He was my boss, but I considered him and his wife Lee to be my friends as well. I’m thankful for knowing him.”

Tyler was well known in Shoreham village, especially as a man who was competitive on the tennis courts. Frei said he loved the “mechanics of moving,” of having motions done with expert grace. Family friend Laura Baisch wrote in a tribute to Drew that he was known for his “quiet laugh and look of complete satisfaction when he hit the perfect shot.”

Frei said he was in the village doubles finals one year, and residents would come to watch because he was so much fun on the courts. 

“His perspiration would make a heart-like mark on his shirt, and the crowd would chant, ‘I heart Drew,’” she said.

The family behind Druthers Coffee in Stony Brook Square. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Many stores, shops and restaurants had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide. Sustaining a business was just too hard, especially during the unprecedented times of the virus spread then government-mandated shutdowns of most venues and shops. 

Despite these massive hardships, several so-called COVIDpreneurs, or people who opened up shop during the pandemic, decided to take a risk during a rather bleak time, some putting their livelihoods on the line for the sake of their passions as well as for the community.

While it’s hard to know the future of these new businesses, most owners said not even a pandemic could stop them from realizing their dreams.

SāGhar: 111 W. Broadway, Port Jefferson

Kiran Wadhwa and Indu Kaur inside their family’s new restaurant, SāGhar in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The family behind SāGhar officially took over the former Harbor Grill in January. With plans to open up a brand-new fine dining experience with Indian cuisine on the water in March, their first day open was also the day they closed, with no real way to prepare for what was going to happen on the horizon.

“Our main attention was, ‘How are we going to survive’?” co-owner Indu Kaur said. Since their concept was more upscale, they didn’t initially incorporate takeout or delivery options.

“We had to sit and brainstorm: ‘How are we going to handle not having any of those things and still be functioning and operating?’” co-owner Kiran Wadhwa said. 

They decided to spend their time helping essential workers while they waited for state restaurant guidelines to change. During the height of the pandemic, they donated over $30,000 worth of food and more than
2,500 meals.

“Instead of thinking about our own business and menu and takeout, we came up with the idea to donate food to hospitals from Riverhead to New York City.” 

During the summer, indoor dining was finally allowed and in just one week the family moved quickly to set up SāGhar, but it was tough. Since their original plans of opening were halted months before, they had to complete their menu, renovate the kitchen to accommodate Indian cooking and train their new staff under social-distancing rules. 

It was hard on the family financially as well. On top of typical expenses that would be spent during a new opening, they had to add masks, shields and signs on top of a budget that was already depleted. 

Kaur said her family began using personal savings and personal savings just to pay bills and make their dream restaurant a reality. Although customers were flocking to SāGhar during the summer and since their grand opening, now that the cooler weather is here, they’re getting worried again.

“We were able to recoup a little bit during the summer, but now it’s that same feeling of stress, because people aren’t walking in and going out as much,” Wadhwa said. “We’re just hoping that things normalize … I think now I’m feeling it more, because now that we’re settled from the summer, it’s just so draining. … You feel so down from it.”

Although it has been tough, the family is still fighting to keep their restaurant afloat because they believe in their brand and want to share good food with the community. “Breaking even would be ideal for the next year,” Wadhwa said. 

Taco Island Tex-Mex: 5507 Nesconset Highway, Mount Sinai

Taco Island opened up late this summer despite the fear of COVID-19. Photo by Aman Bhola

Aman Bhola has been in the food truck industry for a few years, owning a popular North Shore Tex-Mex vehicle. But he said in early March, he decided to leave that business endeavor and start anew with a brick-and-mortar location in Mount Sinai in April, even though the COVID-19 virus was spreading fast. 

“My customer base was already a strong motivation for me to come back,” he said. “But nothing in the world would stop me from following my dream.”

Taco Island officially opened up in July after a quick, but hefty, renovation of the space’s former occupant. Bhola, a 27-year-old Indian American knew his customers could use some good, affordable food while riding the pandemic out. 

“I believed in myself and I believe in my brand,” he said. 

Taco Island offers an extensive menu of Mexican options, all made fresh and from scratch with every order. 

“At Taco Island, our main focus is authentic flavor,” he said.

But it wasn’t the easiest task to open during the crisis. 

“It’s been a huge challenge,” he said. “My team has been working above and beyond.”

But to get through the rest of COVID-19, he’s come up with a plan to stabilize his business and “deal with the next wave.”

“We’re not increasing our staff or inventory,” he said. “We’re taking the right precautions.”

The young COVIDpreneur said that although it’s a worrisome time, he still feels motivated and excited to be doing what he loves. 

“For the last three Friday’s we’ve been opened, we’ve had to close early because we sold out,” he said. 

He didn’t fully remove himself from the food truck business, either, which helped out for catering outdoor events. 

Long Island Beer and Burger Experience: South Setauket 

These vehicles conveniently bring the party to you. Photo by Thomas Francis

When COVID-19 hit New York, Thomas Francis, of South Setauket, was worried because March is usually the start of his industry’s season. “My season starts St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “From that time until the end of June it was bad.”

Four years ago, he started a small wedding business, the Long Island Cuban Cigar and Bourbon Experience. His mobile cigar and bourbon lounge sits inside a 32-foot vintage Airstream trailer that can be brought to any type of outside event. 

“It’s the only experience like this in the world,” he said, noting that he has brought his services across the country. 

Since the cigar and bourbon mobile was such a hit, two years ago he began the Long Island Wine and Cheese Experience, featuring wines from local vineyards and cheeses to pair with them.

With his businesses going so well, he began thinking of his next venture featuring burgers and beers. Accordingly, the Long Island Beer and Burger Experience was planned to roll out in April. Using the same model, it would feature craft beers from local breweries and a burger to go with them. 

“In April I had plans to begin the Beer and Burger Experience, but I thought I wasn’t going to open because of COVID,” he said. 

Despite the pandemic, he decided to start up his third vehicle anyway.

When everything shut down and events were canceled, it was hard, he said. But then as outdoor weddings, parties and gatherings became more common, it worked out in his favor. 

“Things really shifted,” he said. “It was the right time and place. … This is where the market is going.” 

His experiences are ideal right now for families planning small, intimate events. 

“It’s a safe, responsible, fully fledged experience,” he said, especially with vineyards and breweries closing during the summer, or not hosting a full capacity of visitors. 

“The Wine and Cheese Experience was the most popular because the vineyards were closed,” he said. “It literally saved me.”

While the pandemic was hard on him and his businesses right at the start of his busy season, he said it worked out and now he’s booked solid for the near future. “During this climate, we can easily have the party of your dreams in your backyard,” he said. 

Druthers Coffee: 1113 North Country Road, Stony Brook

The family behind Druthers Coffee in Stony Brook Square. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kathryne Piazzola, Zachary Russell and Michael Buchholz had their plans to open a local coffee shop set for some time. Their goal was to open Druthers right across from Stony Brook University in a new center being built, Stony Brook Square. 

“We signed the lease three years ago,” Piazzola said. “And we were hoping to open actually in January.” 

But there were some construction delays and then the virus hit Long Island. After a few hurdles, they finally opened officially on Aug. 14. With their opening, they had to change their plans a little to fit into the new state health guidelines, like not allowing guests to bring their own glassware while still trying to be sustainable without many paper cups.

“Nevertheless, we’ve really developed an incredible following of regulars,” Buchholz said. “Everybody who comes by is truly so understanding about the circumstances that makes it so much easier.”

While continuously changing their opening date, and finishing the painting, decorating and preparing, they also had to go through the Paycheck Protection Program. “We knew we were going into it with a limited budget, we had to operate as intelligently as we possibly could,” Buchholz said. “So, navigating federal loan programs was not at all easy, while finding our footing and feeling confident about everything that we had spent three years planning.”

Piazzola said three months later things are running smooth. 

“You start talking to people and meeting our guests when they were first coming in,” Buchholz added. “And it just turned out that it’s exactly what people needed. They wanted an experience that felt welcoming and warm, and a bit of hospitality from the heart of a small business that had the human story behind it.”

Even with support from the community, they’re beginning to get a little anxious about the upcoming winter. “Rather than planning for growth in the way that we wanted to do initially, we’re planning for winter that might be a little bit more challenging,” Buchholz said. “There’s still things that we’re wrapping our heads around, but it’s been surprisingly gratifying.”

Osteria Umbra: 197 Terry Road, Smithtown 

Marco Pellegrini in front of his open-fire BBQ at his new restaurant in Smithtown. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s always been chef Marco Pellegrini’s dream to open a fine dining restaurant, and when he found the space in Smithtown over a year ago, he knew it was where he belonged. 

A chef from the age of 14, Pellegrini comes from the ancient Italian town of Foligno in Umbria. He and his family moved to the United States seven years ago to partner with another restaurant out on the North Fork. The partners decided to go their separate ways and Pellegrini moved west.

“Everywhere I stopped from Mineola to the south, I was not impressed,” he said. 

Then he found Smithtown. He said he visited the area when he first came to the U.S. and was impressed by the family oriented community.

“It’s more what I’m looking for,” he said. 

Together with his wife, Sabrina Vallorini, and partners — Stephen, Diane and Daniel Bragoli — they signed the contract in September 2019. From that point on, they renovated the whole space, decorated it with marble, chandeliers, wine racks and an open-oven BBQ imported from Italy. Their goal was to open in March. 

Although it was an uncertain and scary time, they made the most of it. Pellegrini, his wife and their partners took on the renovations themselves, painting the space and completing it at their own pace. The restaurant officially opened Sept. 9, more than six months past its planned date. 

But the uncertainty of another virus wave is stressful. “I really want to try and stay open,” he said. “We just have to cross the bridge until the end of COVID right now, and run the restaurant without losing money.”

He’s still hopeful, because he stands behind his brand. Pellegrini said that the food at Osteria Umbra is different than typical Italian — everything is made on-site, from the pasta to the gelato and the authentic Italian cuisine. 

“The way we do the food in Italy is little bit different than what we’re doing here in the USA,” he said. “Usually you find more authentication in the city, Long Island there are not too much.”

ENDO Ethos: 289 Main St., Huntington 

Christine Ruggeri at her second shop, Endo Ethos, in Huntington Village. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Clark and Christine Ruggeri opened their first hemp and CBD storefront in Northport last year. When space in Huntington became available, they knew to jump on it, signing their second lease in November. With the intention of opening their new location in March, COVID hit and halted their plans. 

“Who would have ever imagined,” she said. “We almost backed out of it. When it came time to decide what we were going to do, we decided to go through with it anyway.” 

While struggling to keep their other store afloat through e-commerce and local delivery from March until June, the Ruggeris opened their Huntington “dream location” on Aug. 1. 

“I think that’s why we were able to survive the first round of quarantine, because people that we didn’t even know were ordering from our website,” she said. “This might be the opportunity for people who don’t want to buy online but feel really stressed or anxious or can’t sleep … there are people who needed this space, and that’s why we decided to do it.”

She added that as they had the space since November 2019, they already had so much invested. 

“Then you have to find a way to pay that back without making an income from the space,” she said. “We kind of felt like we had no choice.”

But since they opened, although it’s been tough, the couple said they have been able to sustain their business. 

“We’re hoping that post-pandemic, it will pick up again. So, for now, as long as we can stay afloat, meet new people and introduce them to our products, I think that’s the goal,” Christine Ruggeri said. 

But right now, the village isn’t as crowded as it normally would be in the pre-pandemic world. 

“Huntington depends very much on the bar and restaurant scene,” she said. “With the bar and restaurant scene being so minimal right now, you can definitely feel the impact of that on the street.” 

Although the couple are concerned about the upcoming winter, they said it might work out in their favor since CBD, which stands for Cannabidiol, was an explosive market before COVID. 

“Hemp or CBD might be the thing that people need right now,” she said. “Maybe we’ll actually end up doing better than we thought because this is something that’s so needed.”

Susan Rodgers, owner of Susan Rodgers Designs. Photo by Kyle Barr

Susan Rodgers had her storefront on East Main Street in Port Jefferson for seven years. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, she decided it was time to change shape and focus on online sales for her Susan Rodgers Designs business. 

“The numbers were going continuously down,” she said. “So, I decided to react and be proactive.” 

Rodgers, a jewelry artisan known for her delicate and beautiful designs first opened her original store in Sayville 10 years ago. Three years later, she moved to the North Shore, settling in the village of Port Jefferson.

The Stony Brook resident said that while the village helped her grow her clientele, the pandemic made it harder to stay afloat because of high rent prices and less customers shopping. She made the hard decision to close her shop and focus on e-commerce at the end of August. She officially closed her door in mid-September. 

“It killed me because I was there for seven years but, as the years went on, I saw my site doing better than my store,” she said. “It made me realize I don’t need 800 square feet to show my work.”

Bernie Ryba, regional director of the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University, said that Rodgers isn’t the only small business owner to focus on online sales during the pandemic. 

“Businesses that were reluctant to be more accepting of social media marketing and making sales over the internet are now much more willing to do so,” he said. “We’ve really had a bump in internet retail and also the use of social media marketing.”

Ryba added that business owners during COVID-19 realized that taking on more debt wasn’t the best option, opting to check out of their leases. “Banks are working with more industries,” he said, “But more small businesses are trying not to take on more debt.”

And that’s why Rodgers decided to leave. “Every month was $4,000 just to keep everything afloat,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I could have hired more people to help out. … It was a tough decision, but I know I made the right choice.”

Now she’s working out of her home in Stony Brook with one assistant. By saving money on rent and by being home, she’s able to focus on her online sales, which have started booming. 

“Working on social media, contacting buyers …  these are the things I never had the time to do before,” she said. “During all of this, I was able to fine-tune everything that I already had.” 

Although it’s working out now, it was a heartbreaking experience to close her store, nonetheless. “I had to make a decision with my head and not my heart,” she said. “The sales aren’t there, it’s hard — and for my small business owner friends, too.”

Rodgers said that even with Phase 4 reopening, she still had customers who wouldn’t come out and shop because they were still too nervous. Now her customers can shop in the comfort of their own homes. 

“I’m still here,” she said. “I’m just different for now.”

The entrance to the new DJ’s Clam Shack in East Northport. Photo from Paul Riggio

Long Island’s second DJ’s Clam Shack is open and ready to serve.

“Bringing the seafood joint to East Northport was an easy decision,” said co-owner Paul Riggio. “We wanted to go to the North Shore, further east, and get more exposure.”

Originally founded 14 years ago in Key West, Florida, Riggio and his childhood friend, Jeff Gagnon, decided to expand the restaurant’s name to Wantagh three years ago. 

The East Northport location has a larger dining space. Photo from Paul Riggio

The original location is a hotspot down South, and has been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

Both men hail from Setauket and are graduates of Ward Melville High School. Riggio said the success of the Nassau County restaurant made them want to open up another, to get the name out to people who may not frequent the South Shore. 

“What’s different about the East Northport location is that we have a full liquor license, perfect for summer cocktails,” he said. In Wantagh, they only serve beer and wine. 

So, a few months before its opening, the duo took over the space at 1972 E. Jericho Turnpike and began planning. 

“We wanted to give it a Key West kind of flair,” Riggio said. “And we’re going to keep growing it little by little.”

Known for their lobster rolls, tacos, fried ship, clams, DJ’s is a causal seafood restaurant with “a laid-back kind of feel” that combines favorite seafood dishes from the north and south. On their menu, they feature New England clam chowder and Maine lobster rolls, also mahi-mahi, shrimp and roast pork tacos. 

The space is larger than its counterpart and features more room for socially distanced dining. Eventually the owners plan on adding outdoor dining.

“The community has come out to support us and they’ve been great,” Riggio said. “It’s a casual, fun place, with homemade food that’s always fresh.”

The town’s Chief Fire Marshal Chris Mehrman said small businesses need to think about the fire code with outdoor dining this fall. Photo from Brookhaven Town

As the temperature drops in the fall and into winter, fire departments on Long Island and elsewhere are trying to help restaurants and other businesses remain open outside while ensuring a safe environment for customers.

“The town has gone above and beyond and continues to try to accommodate those businesses to keep them open or get them open, to increase their occupancy load,” said Brookhaven Town Chief Fire Marshal Chris Mehrman. “We have to balance between safety and allowing businesses to operate.”

The fire marshals have been busy, as they try to educate business owners about the safest way to run heaters, as well as to prepare for the coming winter.

Some business owners who don’t typically have outdoor seating or who aren’t aware of the rules regarding heaters and tents have found the rules difficult, particularly amid the strains caused by the pandemic.

As examples, portable heaters are prohibited within five feet of any building and within five feet of any exit or exit discharges. They are also not allowed on any exterior balconies or within any tent, canopy or other membrane structure.

Some business owners “thought they could just do what they needed to do,” Mehrman said. “People don’t realize there are codes and standards that we need to enforce.”

Although there’s no cost, business owners need to understand the process.

“The town has gone to great lengths to make sure they get these COVID-19 accommodations for outdoor dining,” Mehrman said.

The fire department has been working with business owners to help them meet code and permit requirements.

Fire marshals are sometimes taking steps out of order. Merhman said they have arrived at sites and conducted inspections. Even though the business may not have permits, the fire marshals conduct inspections to see if a tent can remain where it is legally.

The marshals have told business owners to submit their application immediately and to obtain an engineer’s certification, so the marshals can legalize the installation.

The town department has streamlined the process. At the same time, fire marshals have focused on the next step in the march towards winter: snow.

While tents offer opportunities to expand restaurants and bars into outdoor space, they need to be able to handle the additional weight.

“We have to ensure that the tents are going to withstand the snow loads,” Mehrman said.

On a small number of occasions, fire marshals have had to order tents down, either because they were improperly installed or because they were not going to be able to meet the state code.

Putting tents up on decks against buildings is a violation of the state code. Businesses have to have a permit for an addition to a building.

Businesses have also improperly used heaters and were ordered to remove them.

“Thankfully, everybody is complying,” Mehrman said. In some cases, the fire marshals need to convince the managers or owners, but marshals are reluctant to issue court appearance tickets.

“We want to achieve compliance, but we want to do it in an appropriate manner,” Mehrman said.

The fire marshals have been checking and rechecking on sites, to ensure safety and compliance.

To accommodate and streamline the process for outdoor dining, the town has created a COVID-19 Dining Accommodation permitting process. The town is offering a one-stop location to submit paperwork for the accommodations, which includes putting up tents.

Residents who have questions about tents, heaters or fire codes can reach out to the marshals at (631) 451-6262 or by email at [email protected]

Mehrman said residents who read the documentation on the web site, fill out the application appropriately and submit it electronically could probably complete the process within a couple of days.

Young Rocky Point resident Geoffrey Psillos said he is brining mobile fitness to the local area in a new way to exercise post-pandemic. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s time to lose the “quarantine 15” — and it can be done outside. 

Geoffrey Psillos, a 22-year-old Rocky Point resident, recently became the first AWATfit (All Weather All Terrain Fitness) franchisee. The Hamptons-based mobile fitness concept uses equipment entirely out of a 20-foot truck, and allows people to exercise in a park, parking lot or outside their home in the driveway. 

“Working out outdoors is a natural mood booster,” Psillos said. “And to have the means to open this franchise is a really big goal I never knew I had.”

The AWATfit vehicle can help people with more than 800 different exercises. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Back in September, he met with the founder of AWATfit, Rich Decker, who encouraged him to become part of the new concept. On the truck itself are 25 pieces of exercise equipment and, by using them, a person can do between 800 and 900 different workouts, according to the new francisee. 

“At the end of the day you are the machine,” Psillos said. “As soon as someone tries it once, they love it. I’m a bodybuilder and I get a better workout on the vehicle than I do at the gym.”

Before getting involved with AWATfit, Psillos was a project engineer but lost his job during the height of COVID-19. Fitness has always been important to him, especially as a former competing bodybuilder. By bringing this franchise to the North Shore, he said he wanted other people to experience its benefits — especially during a time when people might not be entirely comfortable working out in an indoor gym. 

“I think it’s going to change the persona of fitness,” he said. “You don’t get the results you want from a cycle class or a Pilates class. This is different.”

Right now, for a few days during the week, he partnered with Miller Place’s Body Source store on Route 25A where he parks the truck in the parking lot, so clients can work out. 

Elizabeth Sagarin, co-owner of the vitamin supplement store, said that because of the COVID-19 crisis, her shop has seen a decline in customers, but by collaborating with Psillos, she hopes to bring more people in and help everyone get healthy.

“We paired with these guys in the hopes of just giving people a space to work out, feel good, get healthy and just build community,” Sagarin said. “He approached us, and it is a great fit.”

Sagarin, who often participates in the class, said she appreciates the facility. 

“It’s a great workout,” she said. “And it’s all ages, you don’t have to be at any level. It’s fun, you’re outside and he’s a great trainer.”

AWATfit’s workout stations attached to the truck address strength, flexibility, core, agility and cardiovascular matters, as well as the mind-body-spirit connection. 

Now that Psillos has been in business for about a month, he said his clientele is beginning to grow mostly by word of mouth. 

“It’s hard to get people since it’s a new concept,” he said. “But once anyone tries it, they’re hooked.”

He’s planning on bringing a workout truck to communities from Smithtown to Shoreham-Wading River. He’s also looking to bring the truck to retirement homes and senior centers so people can get fit safely.

“Gym facilities in senior citizen community centers are fully closed right now,” Psillos said. “We would love for us to come and provide them with an outdoor answer to meet their needs and by engaging them to be healthy.”

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The Rocky Point Starbucks is up and running, though one local business owner said the drive through line can be a little much. Photo by Kyle Barr

After more than a year of planning, Starbucks has officially opened in Rocky Point. 

Last year, architects and lawyers presented to the Town of Brookhaven a plan to turn the former KFC at 25A and Hallock Landing Road into a Starbucks. 

After it closed earlier this year, construction began on the space, renovating it from a former fried chicken eatery into a coffee serving powerhouse. The building’s footprint hasn’t changed, though the inside and outside exhibit the typical Starbucks look.

And what hasn’t changed is this new Starbucks’ neighbors — which includes two bagel stores minutes away. 

Although the new edition to the community can be considered competition to the mom and pop bagel shops, Jennifer Bell, manager at Fresh & Hot Bagels, said that they haven’t seen too much of a change. 

“It got a little bit slower, but it hasn’t affected us too much,” she said. “We’re different … we sell egg sandwiches and bigger breakfasts — things they don’t sell.”

Anthony Post, the owner Brooklyn Bagels & Café Inc. in Rocky Point just across from the new Starbucks, said they are doing just fine even with the early morning giant on their doorstep.

“I mean, if they want to go in there and spend $7, $8, $9 bucks on a cup of coffee that’s what they’re going to do,” Post said. “They know when they come here, they can get something else.”

The only complaint he has is with the traffic in the parking lot, especially line that now forms in the early morning at the Starbucks drive-thru. That line, he said, can sometimes wrap around in front of his shop, with cars backed up almost into Hallock Landing Road.

Additional reporting by Kyle Barr

Bob and Nancy Hendrick inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

After traveling throughout the country, Bob and Nancy Hendrick knew where their next stop would be — Port Jefferson at Lighthouse Landing. 

Everything inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery (or TAAG for short), is made in the USA. 

Both artists themselves, Bob Hendrick said that while traveling cross-country to and from California, the pair has seen a lot of talent that is often underappreciated. 

“With big-box stores, we often lose sight of the great people in our country who produce great work,” he said, “But there are people out there with talent who deserve the recognition.” 

The Kings Park couple said they have always loved Port Jefferson and wanted to become more involved with the village. Originally, they thought to open a pop-up shop for the goods to sell but decided on a whim to fill a vacant space at 14 East Broadway in Lighthouse Landing.

After about a month of planning, they officially opened their doors earlier this month. 

Inside the store are all handmade gifts and fine art from local to national artisans. 

“We seek out specific items,” he said. “And we want to give the opportunity for local artists to come by and show and sell their work.”

TAAG does custom work, as well, on-site.

While everything inside the Hendricks’ shop is made in America, they want it to be known they are huge supporters of those who have risked their lives keeping the country and its people safe. 

“We’re heavily involved in supporting military, police, firefighters and first responders because they mean a lot to us and to the community,” he said. “We like to give back to those who serve.”

One way they are giving back is by honoring different heroes every week. During the month of September, they offered 20 percent off purchases to firemen, healthcare workers and police officers, thanking them for their service. This week they honored military vets with an extra 10 percent discount.

The back part of the store is dedicated to veterans with its “Wall of Heroes.” The Hendricks encourage customers who have served to come in and sign their names within the stars that decorate the wall. Nancy’s father’s folded burial flag hangs upon them. 

And although they are new, the couple is excited to bring their own art and the art of others to downtown. Up until Oct. 15, TAAG is hosting a contest in honor of the upcoming election and will be creating a painting based on ideas that people in the community can submit. The winning idea will be created on a canvas, and the winner will be presented with the first number framed print.

“We have lot of things in mind for the future,” he said. “We want to support the area.”

TAAG is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.