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Smith Haven Mall

'Star Wars: A New Hope' kicks off this weekend's round of movies on Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.

Based on a successful summer season, Long Island event producer Starfish Junction has announced it will continue its pop-up drive-in movie series, Movie Lot, at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove through the fall. The series has entertained over 4,000 cars since it launched in May.

“We’re working on a fantastic lineup for fall. We’ve had such a positive response to the summer series that we decided to extend the drive-in movies into the fall season. We’ve got some awesome movies coming for the next few weeks and we’re currently finalizing plans for a Halloween spooktacular weekend, with movies sure to appeal to both kids and adults,” said Lauren Powers, Senior Director at Starfish Junction. 

While drive-in theaters have been staging a comeback across the country, Starfish Junction has positioned itself as one of the leaders here on Long Island, owning the biggest pop-up drive-in screen, 52-feet, available locally. Future showings will include movies perfect for date nights, family fun nights, girl’s night out, sing-alongs, and classic films.   

There are a limited number of tickets available for each showing. Tickets are on sale now ($40 per carload for early shows, $30 per carload for late night shows) and must be purchased online in advance at the Movie Lot website to adhere to the promise of contactless processing.

Ticketholders are permitted to bring their own food and snacks to enjoy during the show. Attendees may also consider Smith Haven Mall restaurants for curbside pick up before filing into the lot for the movie.  Portable restrooms will be available for use and the showings will take place rain or shine. All ticket sales are final. For tickets and more information, visit www.MovieLotDriveIn.com.

As the Smith Haven Mall reopened, some stores such as Yankee Candle stayed closed. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

After months of being shuttered, Long Island malls were given the green light to reopen July 11 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), with the caveat that the mall installs a high-efficiency venting system to follow “proper ventilation protocols.”

“HVAC systems will be required to include filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value — or MERV — rating that filters out the COVID-19 virus, but can, if the system makes additional protections, run on a minimum MERV of 11,” the governor’s office said on its website. “Ventilation protocols include increased outdoor air, reduced air circulation, longer system run times and frequent filter checks.”

Although both Smith Haven and Walt Whitman malls are open, several stores such as Express, Victoria Secrets, Bath & Body Works, Yankee Candle and more remain closed the first few days. At Smith Haven, most stores plan to open next week, and the food court is open for take-out only. Guests are met with hand sanitizer stations and occupancy capacity signs upon entrance to the stores that are open. Most have one-way aisles to ensure social distancing.

Simon Property Group, which runs operations for both Smith Haven and Walt Whitman malls released a series of guidelines on its website to ensure customers and employees stay safe.

Employees, who will be trained on the proper safety protocols, must not report to work if they have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms within 72 hours of the start of their shift. All employees will have their temperature taken upon arrival, and those with a temperature above 100.4 and/or show flulike symptoms will be sent home. All Simon employees will be required to practice social distancing and wear a face covering. Employees who do test positive will be required to quarantine and the area they inhabited will be disinfected. The company says it will “encourage our tenants, vendors and contractors to implement the same precautions.”

Customers will also be “encouraged” to wear face coverings, and the mall will provide masks and sanitizing wipes to customers at the mall office or designated entrances.

Breakrooms, restrooms, counters, registers, workstations and employee-only areas will be disinfected several times per day. Customers are discouraged from handing an employee their credit card and should rely on credit card receptacles. Simon encouraged its vendors to maintain a 6-foot distance between customer and employees and install barriers at checkout.

Occupancy is limited to 50-square-feet per person. If occupancy is reached, customers will be asked to wait in their cars or outside stores, standing 6-feet apart. Social distancing markers will be placed near restrooms, checkout lines and food courts. Mall security has been tasked with “actively reminding and encouraging customers/public to comply with the social distancing standards.”

As of now, child play areas, water fountains and strollers are not available for use. All events hosted by the mall have been canceled or postponed.

The malls will operate at reduced hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

By Rita J. Egan

As the warm weather arrives, many people look forward to picking up fresh vegetables, fruit spreads, honey and more at local farmers markets. This year though the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way many business owners and customers go about selling and buying.

Jennifer Ross, founder of HeartBeet Farms, knew this year she would need to do things differently. Known for selling vegetables out of a food truck at the Stony Brook Village Center and the Smith Haven Mall, Ross decided to organize a new type of outdoor market. 

On May 21, lovers of fresh, local goods found a drive-through farmers market in the southwest corner of the mall parking lot by Bahama Breeze Island Grille. Ross said she thought it would give customers the chance to shop from the convenience of their cars and also provide a safe environment for both them and vendors.

The first night was a big success with scores of cars lining up throughout the evening to purchase items such as vegetables, local honey, pizza-making kits, popcorn, organic coffee and more.

Ross said Ann Schultz, the director of marketing and business development at Smith Haven Mall for the Simon Property Group, told her about a drive-through farmers market that was set up at a Florida Simon mall. She reached out to a few product owners to get their feedback, and she said it was positive so “I said, you know what, let’s give it a try.” 

All vendor fees from the outside market will be donated to local charities, she said, and the nonprofit they donate to will change each month. For the first month, the money will go to Long Island Harvest, which at the end of the May 21 market, in addition to checks, received leftover food from many vendors. Ross said the farmers market will look at all nonprofits that may need help, not only food-related ones.

“That was key to me because nonprofits are struggling in all categories,” she explained.

Ross said as Long Island businesses begin to reopen, HeartBeet Farms will be able to set up a traditional walk-through farmers market at the mall. The parking lot is one that usually only fills up during Christmastime, she added, so there shouldn’t be an issue with parking.

Until then, the drive-through market offers prepaid options for those who may not have the time to wait. Items that need to be chilled are kept in coolers until customers pick them up, she said.

Upon entry last Thursday customers received a flyer detailing what the more than a dozen vendors who were participating had to offer. Ross said in the future the participants will be adding more information to the handouts, and there will also be more vendors setting up booths. Ross said for the first night she wanted to make sure there was enough room for everyone before saying yes to all who were interested. Participants are only asked to commit to a month and not the whole season, she added, as Ross is aware of the difficult economic times many are facing during the pandemic and the possibility of getting ill.

“I don’t want to take their money and then something happens and they can’t be there, and they need their money,” she said.

Ross said she feels the drive though farmers market will help even the mall as the weekly drive-through will bring renewed attention to it. “It will bring business to a mall that is suffering right now,” she said.

Helping out at the farmers market were Ross’ daughters Anna and Abby Morrongiello who founded the nonprofit Don8tions with twin brothers Joshua and Zach Young and friend Meena Tommasino-Storz. The group sells products, such as at the Chocolate & Honey, a holiday concession stand in the Smith Haven Malland, then use their earnings to buy soup for those who attend The Children’s Community Head Start Birth-to-Five Program in Port Jefferson Station. To supplement the soup, the students also provide bread donated by Premier Pastry to the head start families.

Ross and the twins’ mother Michelle Young said the teenagers purchased PopInsanity popcorn wholesale to sell at the farmers market and will donate all profits to their soup drive. While Anna, Abby and Meena worked at other booths for vendors who were unable to work with the public May 21, the Youngs sold the popcorn. Michelle said she even got in a car to drive around to experience everything firsthand, adding that the farmers market came at a good time because since COVID-19 hit, the teens were worried they wouldn’t be able to raise money for the families they have grown to care about. “They’re hard workers,” said Michelle. “I’m always really proud of them because there are a lot of teenagers who would be like I’m not doing that.”

Zachary and Josh, who are completing eighth grade at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School in Setauket, both enjoyed the drive-through farmers market. “It was actually pretty good to get out of the house,” Zachary said. “There were a lot of people helping out, and it was a little bit of returning to normalcy while being safe at the same time.” 

Josh agreed. “I thought it was interesting because I never have done anything like that before, with all the cars,” he said. “It was nice to finally meet new people and somewhat interact.”

For years, HeartBeet Farms operated out of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach where Ross leased land, but she said now she is currently growing produce at the Smithtown Historical Society. Starting a garden is something Ross encourages everyone to do, and she said it’s an ideal time to do so not only for health reasons but also to lessen trips to the grocery store.

“In general, you just have to do your best to keep your body healthy, and one of the ingredients in that is vegetables,” she said, adding that local, organic and sustainable foods are better. 

Ross also said gardening has other health benefits. “It’s a great stress reliever. The main reason is putting your hands in the soil and being connected. It’s the greatest thing.”

The drive-through farmers market will be held every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., rain or shine, in the Smith Haven Mall southwest parking lot (off Middle Country Road) near Bahama Breeze restaurant through the fall. Pre-ordering is available but not required. For more information, call 516-343-6247 or visit www.heartbeetfarms.com/farmers-market.

Vendors scheduled for May 28

Pecks of Maine — locally made fruit spreads including strawberry rhubarb, dark sweet cherry and many more

Jason’s Healthy, Gluten-Free Meals — dinners to go including chicken franchese with basmati rice and broccoli plus dressings and glazes

Rustic Roots — sustainable vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, meat, seafood

My Favorite Hummus — 8 oz. classic hummus and Salsa Salta tortilla chips

Sansone Market — pizza kit: sauce, dough ball, shredded mozzarella and pizza cutter

Long Island Microgreens — broccoli, superfood salad mix, speckled pea, leek, mustard microgreens and North Fork Potato Chips

Nina’s Fresh Batch — sweet & salty, chocolate chip and five spice oatmeal cookies; pistachio golden raisin, pecan dried cherry and three nut ginger granola

BeeWitched Bee — local honey, infused honey, elderberry syrup, maple syrup, honey sticks

Pixie Soaps & Suds — cold-processed soaps, body scrubs and more

Popinsanity — classic caramel, sweet & salty, chocolate drizzle, and cookies & cream popcorn

Horman’s Best — classic bread & butter sweet, half sour whole, kosher dill, honey mustard pickles and more

Tend Coffee — organic blends, single origin coffee, Kind Leaf tea and more

Jericho Cider Mill — half gallon apple cider, donute bites and small apple crumb pies 

HeartBeet Farms Farm to Table Soups, Salsa and Sauce  — farm to table potato leek soup, Margherita sauce, tomato tomatillo salsa and Carroll’s Kitchen tortilla chips

New! Le Fusion — homemade spring rolls, vegan and vegetarian

New! The Ferm — fermented farm goods including Kombucha and sauerkraut

New! The Simple Cookie — cookie ingredients in a jar

All photos by Rita J. Egan

'Star Wars Rise of Skywalker'

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep indoor movie theaters closed for now, drive-in cinemas have staged a comeback on Long Island, most recently in Lake Grove. Event producer Starfish Junction has entered into a partnership with Simon Malls to safely entertain families this summer with the launch of MOVIE LOT — a pop-up drive-in series offering movies shown on a giant 52-foot screen erected in the parking lot of the Smith Haven Mall. 

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’

Visitors may enter the mall area via Middle Country Rd. Follow signs to the Verizon lot. Security and staff will direct you where to park. The lot will open 45 minutes prior to show time. Radio frequencies are used to play sound in your vehicle. Upon arrival, you’ll see the radio station channel up on the big screen. 

Ticketholders are permitted to bring their own food and snacks to enjoy during the show. Attendees may also consider Smith Haven Mall restaurants for curbside pick up before filing into the lot for the movie. Portable restrooms will be available for use. 

“Drive-in movies naturally adhere to the social distancing guidelines and gives people something fun to do. We’ve all been sheltering in place for weeks, our goal is to deliver a safe and entertaining way to lift the spirits of our neighbors while at the same time adhere to social distancing guidelines,” said Lauren Powers, Senior Director at Starfish Junction.  “I think we are all ready to go out, do it safely, and have some fun.” 

‘King Kong’

“We’ve got a great lineup for the summer and we anticipate a great response from the local community. But make no mistake about it, we will be strictly enforcing social distancing rules and regulations at each and every showing,” said Powers.

Kicking off the series on Thursday, May 28 at 8:45 p.m. will be the 1981 mega-hit Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (PG). Other movies included in the summer series weekend kick off include the newly-released Sonic the Hedgehog (PG) on Friday, May 29 at 8:45 p.m. followed by the 2005 version of King Kong at 11:45 p.m. (PG-13); the 1976 The Bad News Bears (PG) on Saturday, May 30 at 8:45 p.m. followed by the 2020 blockbuster Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker at 11:45 p.m.

The rest of the summer lineup will be announced soon and will include movies perfect for date nights, family fun nights, girl’s night out, sing-alongs, and midnight showings of fright-night classics. There are a limited number of tickets available for each showing. Tickets are on sale now ($40 per carload) and must be purchased online in advance at www.MovieLotDriveIn.com.

After 50 years in business, the Sears store  at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove will close on May 6 for “economic reasons” according to a Feb. 6 notice its parent company Transform Holdco LLC filed with the state’s Department of Labor under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice Act. The decision, which includes the Sears Auto Center, will affect 77 workers. The closing will leave only two Sears on Long Island: at Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa and Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. 

Photos by Heidi Sutton

Brian O’Reilly with Leg. Rob Trotta at a recent car wash fundraiser

Superheroes needed

Eagle Scout Brian O’Reilly will host a Bone Marrow Donor Drive at Smith Haven Mall’s Center Court in Lake Grove on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Brian is a sophomore at Smithtown High School West and a member of Boy Scout Troop 888. The event will benefit the Gift of Life for his Eagle Scout Project. Participation in the bone marrow drive is for people between the ages of 17 and 35. All a potential donor has to do is answer a few questions and get a quick swab of his/her cheeks. It takes just a minute to save a person’s life. “I think Brian is doing a terrific project that could benefit so many people,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta.

Photo from Melt Shop

Melt Shop, known as the “pioneer of the Melted Sandwich Movement,” recently opened in the food court at Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. A soft opening was held on Sept. 7.

Founded in New York City in 2011, the restaurant’s menu includes grilled cheeses, chicken melts, burger melts, chicken tenders, salads, shakes and drinks. This is the brand’s 10th store in New York and 17th nationwide.

“Our brand has created a loyal following within our home state, and we’re excited to keep the momentum going,” Spencer Rubin, founder and CEO of Melt Shop, stated in a press release. “Our melted sandwiches have become a staple in the communities we serve and we can’t wait to expand Melt Shop’s unique culinary experience to Lake Grove.” For more information, call 631-236-9120.

File photo
Mugshot of Louis Shelton. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have arrested the operator of a carousel ride for allegedly inappropriately touching a child on a ride at the Smith Haven Mall.

Police said a 7-year-old girl was riding on the carousel at the Dreamland Amusements carnival at the Smith Haven Mall June 5 at around 7 p.m. when she was allegedly inappropriately touched by the operator, Louis Shelton.

Special Victims Section detectives charged Shelton, 50, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, charged with sexual abuse 1st Degree and endangering the welfare of child. He is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip June 6.

Detectives are asking anyone with information or who believes they may be a victim to call the Special Victim’s Section at 631-852-6184.

Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ will be screened at the Crab Meadow Beach Drive-In on July 19.

By Sabrina Petroski

Mark your calendars! With the beautiful summer weather comes another season of free outdoor movie screenings for families on the North Shore. Parks, beaches and other outdoor spaces will magically transform into theaters, presenting a mix of animated films, current releases and family favorites.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and the Town of Huntington recently announced this year’s schedule for its annual Movies on the Lawn event. Now in its 14th year, four movies, handpicked by the councilman himself, will be shown over the course of the summer at various locations in the town for free.  

“We are excited to bring you another great lineup of movies this summer. Pack your picnic dinner, blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy this summer’s lineup,” said Cuthbertson. 

This year’s program includes “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” at Heckscher Park, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington on June 25 (rain date July 16); “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at Crab Meadow Beach Drive-In, Waterside Ave., Northport on Thursday, July 5 (rain date July 31); Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” at Crab Meadow Beach Drive-In on Thursday, July 19 (rain date July 31); and “Despicable Me 3” at Peter Nelson Park, Oakwood Road, Huntington on Aug. 13 (rain date is Aug. 20).  

A sandcastle contest and basketball shoot off will be held on July 19 before the movie. All movies will begin at dusk. 

According to Cuthbertson’s office, no alcohol is allowed at any of the events. If a showing is rained out, the event will be moved to the listed rain date and be shown indoors at Walt Whitman High School, 301 West Hills Road in Huntington Station at 7:30 p.m.

For more information about the movies, including updates, visit https://huntingtonny.gov/moviesonthelawn2018 or call 631-351-3112. 

More free outdoor movie offerings:

•The St. James Chamber of Commerce will host a Movie Night at Deepwells Farm County Park, located at the corner of Route 25A and Moriches Road, St. James on July 17, with “Coco” and Aug. 21 (updated) with “Breaking Legs.” Movies begin at 7:45 p.m. Call 631-584-8510 or visit www.stjameschamber.org for updates.

•Grumman Memorial Park, Route 25, Calverton will screen “Top Gun” on Aug. 3 at 8:30 p.m. Call 631-727-574 or visit www.riverheadrecreation.net for further info.

•Hoyt Farm Park Preserve, 200 New Hwy., Commack will screen “Beauty and the Beast” on Aug. 3 at 8:30 p.m. (rain date is Aug. 10). Alternate street parking is available for nonresidents of Smithtown. For more information, call 631-543-7804 or visit www.smithtowninfo.com.

•North Shore Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai, resumes its annual Movies in the Moonlight series on July 6 with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” July 20 with “The Incredibles” and Aug. 17 with “Toy Story 3.” Sponsored by Heritage Trust, all movies begin at dusk (approximately 8:15 p.m. Bring a blanket or chair. Movie refreshments will be available at The Shack concession. No rain dates. Questions? Visit www.msheritagetrust.org, or call 631-509-0882.

•The Village of Port Jefferson’s Movies on the Harbor returns to the Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson on July 10 with “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” July 17 with “Wonder,” July 24 with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (updated),  July 31 with “Cars 3”  and Aug. 7 with “Coco.” Movies begin at dusk and the rain date is the next evening. For additional info, call 631-473-4724 or visit www.portjeff.com.

•Movies Under the Stars returns to Smith Haven Mall’s Lifestyle Village (located next to Dick’s Sporting Goods), Lake Grove, with a screening of “Moana” on Aug. 6, “Justice League” on Aug. 13, “Coco” on Aug. 20 and “A Wrinkle in Time” on Aug. 27. Call 631-724-1433 or visit www.simon.com for updates.

Smith Haven Mall. Image from Google Maps

Suffolk County Police have arrested a Smithtown man for committing several acts of lewdness during the past week at the Smith Haven Mall.

A woman was inside Barnes and Noble May 13 when police said she allegedly observed a man masturbating while sitting at the table next to her. The woman fled and notified police.

Following an investigation by Fourth Squad detectives, Samuel Bartolotto was arrested May 14 at approximately 7 p.m. Detectives determined that in addition to the incident May 13, Bartolotto had also masturbated in his vehicle in the parking lot of the mall May 8 and May 12.

Bartolotto, 26, of Hurtin Boulevard, was charged with three counts of public lewdness and will be arraigned at a later date.

Anyone with information on these incidents is asked to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.