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Women’s EXPO returns to Middle Country Public Library for 15th year

Liz Carroll of Wild Lizzy’s with her staff, from left, Sue Nicola; Lynn DiCarlo; Libby Carroll and Camille Sena; not pictured, Samantha Luongo. Photo by Elizabeth Malafi

By Donna Newman

Has the news got you down? Are you worried about the state of our world? The Middle Country Library Foundation offers a “stop the world-I want to get off” event guaranteed to lift your spirits and recharge your batteries. “On Thursday, October 1, from 11 to 6, our Centereach building will once again be transformed into the bustling marketplace that is the Women’s EXPO. It’s one of my favorite days at the library,” said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of adult services and the Miller Business Resource Center at the Middle Country Public Library.

“We’re thrilled to be hosting our 15th annual Women’s EXPO,” added Library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. “Each year, new and former vendors come together to celebrate and showcase their unique talents and embody the spirit of entrepreneurship and community. We’re very thankful to our many sponsors and volunteers who help us make this day possible.”

Intermingled with the shopping is a matchless opportunity for a diverse group of women to network, support and inspire each other. “I love doing the EXPO!” said Jena Turner, owner of Breathe in Port Jefferson. “Having worked in advertising 13 years, I know how important it is to get yourself out there. The EXPO is better than a full page ad!”

Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion, is also excited to return this year. “The EXPO gave me an opportunity to showcase my products surrounded by amazing women entrepreneurs sharing their stories of struggle and triumph,” she said. “I sold out, got positive feedback and leads.” When interviewed, the common theme expressed by EXPO vendors is passion — and the discovery of the capacity to be successful doing something they love.

Since its inception in the year 2000, the Women’s EXPO has earned a loyal following. Attendance surpassed 2,400 last year for the 83 vendors. The event showcases female Long Island entrepreneurs: artisans, importers, designers and distributors of products such as jewelry, clothing, fine art, pottery, children’s items, culturally diverse crafts, fiber art, specialty food items, gift baskets, household goods, paper products and much more. Fitting its “harvest-themed” October time slot, the EXPO provides a veritable cornucopia of unique creations and gifts.

Admission to the EXPO is free. Lunch is available for purchase from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the EXPO Café, catered by Fifth Season Restaurant of Port Jefferson. Baked goods from Sweet Street will be sold from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The library is located at 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach. For a complete list of vendors, visit www.womensEXPOli.org/shop. For more information, call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.

Here are some of the women you’ll meet at this year’s EXPO:

Jena Turner realized a dream when she opened her shop on East Main Street in Port Jefferson Village in 2006. The previous year had brought a pair of tragedies. Her father, “an accomplished man [who] built everything from scratch – houses, boats, cars, and his last project – his airplane,” died during the plane’s inaugural flight. Seven months later, she lost her brother. An incident at work following the second loss propelled her into action to sign a lease. She had prepared herself for the business by becoming a Certified Yoga Teacher and studying Reiki (hands-on healing).

Jena Turner at her shop, Breathe, in Port Jefferson. Photo by Amber Sroka
Jena Turner at her shop, Breathe, in Port Jefferson. Photo by Amber Sroka

In tribute to her late father, Turner named the store “Breathe,” which summed up his philosophy of life. Given its stated mission “to help others understand their gifts and full potential,” Breathe is more than just a store, and Turner wears many hats: “I am the owner,” she said, “and with that, I am the buyer, the manager, the bookkeeper, the healer, the teacher, the reader, the unpacker, the shipper, the banker, and the cleaning lady!”

She stocks an assortment of jewelry, clothing, candles, home accessories, and spiritual items, and also offers meditation, yoga, reiki, psychic readings and other workshops. Visit www.breatheinspiringgifts.com for more information.

Liz Carroll spent her life serving others. She raised three children on her own while working for the Town of Oyster Bay in a succession of increasingly responsible jobs. “I’m holding on to my job for now,” she said, “as I’ve worked hard to be where I am, and still have children who depend on me.”

But when her children were in college, she began thinking. “I wanted to do something for myself that would be productive, something where I could earn extra money and, of course, something that makes people happy!”

Carroll turned her signature cookie, one she had always made for family and friends, into a gourmet cookie line and created “Wild Lizzy’s.” At first, the cookies sold via word-of-mouth, at street fairs and other events, and at a few specialty stores. Soon they began winning prestigious awards.

“I always offer samples,” said Carroll, “and the reaction is always ‘Oh, my God!’ So now I have an OMG bell. When you say it, you ring it!”

Last September, the bell attracted a customer with a link to QVC and plans are now underway to take Wild Lizzy’s to the TV shopping network. She ships nationwide, due to customer demand.

Visit her website at www.wildlizzys.com.

Jackie Maloney discovered her passion early and parlayed it into a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. “One of the main reasons I chose MICA was their dedication to making sure artists could actually make careers with their degrees. In my degree program, we all took a class dedicated strictly to business, taught by a successful/working art rep.” She likes that she can live and work at the beach, yet have clients all over the world, that she can work for different ‘bosses’ while being her own boss.

Jackie Maloney with some of her artwork. Photo by Amber Sroka
Jackie Maloney with some of her artwork. Photo by Amber Sroka

In truth, the career she describes is her dream job. “Every day is different,” she said. “An average day in the studio, I could spend the morning painting the instructions for baking an apple pie, the afternoon Googling locations to complete a custom map for a wedding gift, and then finish the day unloading/loading my kiln. I get to travel all over and meet tons of people. Then I get to retreat into the peace of my quiet studio to create.” In addition to contract work for independent projects, she exhibits her art at outdoor arts and crafts fairs and has a shop in the online marketplace Etsy. Visit her website: www.jackiemaloney.com.

Tiana Le began a poem with the words, “We left during the fall of Saigon in 1975, blessed that we were alive.” Her family emigrated to the United States and eventually settled in Flushing. When it came time for Le to train for a career, her parents steered her toward information technology – a good job in great demand. She began a career in IT.

Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion. Photo by Sal DiVincenzo
Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion. Photo by Sal DiVincenzo

Later, her mother was diagnosed with cancer soon after retirement. “It was the hardest time of my life,” Le said, “caring for my Mom and watching her wither away. She was my top priority, and when she expired I needed time to recoup and recharge. I came out stronger, with a greater appreciation of life – and the emotional and physical freedom to pursue my passion.”

That passion is food as related to her Vietnamese heritage. In May 2014, she launched “Le Fusion,” thinking “Why not combine the best of both worlds? East and West!” Her menu items are healthy, handmade, all natural, and baked. “Vietnamese foods are light and refreshing, with exotic herbs,” she said, adding, “The French-influenced dishes are my all-time favorites.”

Her cuisine is created at the Stony Brook University Incubator in Calverton and marketed through the Port Jefferson Farmer’s Market, scheduled tastings at Whole Foods, and the Le Fusion website: www.lefusion.co.

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As a community newspaper, we value reader feedback and welcome any and all letters to the editor on the stories that compel our neighbors. But we received one letter in particular this past week that we felt warranted a larger editorial response.

Last week, we ran a story on Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) spearheading a new law that aims to more aggressively address domestic violence by empowering victims — connecting them with agencies and offering up a self-assessment questionnaire — and analyzing offenders. The bill was approved without a single “nay” in the Legislature, showing the county’s commitment to the issue.

On Monday, we opened up an anonymous letter addressed to the publisher of this newspaper, responding to our domestic violence reporting.

“Women can be opportunists,” the letter started. “If a man just pushes his girlfriend or paramour or even his wife, the next thing you know, she comes to court with a brace on her neck and bandages and a story that complains how she was pushed down a flight of stairs and strangled.”

Our initial reaction to this argument was scoffs and rolling eyes. (And why is this man pushing his partner to begin with?) While some people may have valid concerns over the consequences of tighter domestic violence laws, our anonymous reader’s remarks underscored the very same symptomatic problem, which affects both women and men, that Hahn’s legislation is looking to end in Suffolk County.

“No wonder guys go off the deep end and murder their so-called girlfriends. If I could not see my children, I would be mad as well. Enough to murder — possibly,” the secret letter writer said about custody battles. “Women are so thick-headed, unreasonable and vindictive, especially where money is concerned, that the greed of a woman scorned cannot be fathomed and we, the dads, husbands, boyfriends, are left out in the cold with no recourse.”

The writer asked that this newspaper “do something about these issues.” That is why we chose to dedicate this week’s editorial to his letter — to do something when we are confronted with a disgusting diatribe that condones violence against a group of people.

We hope the county law, still in its infancy, helps shift the train of thought of those like this reader.

Thank you for the letter.

The 2015 Women's Recognition Awards honorees. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town celebrated some of its most dedicated women at the town’s 29th Annual Women’s Recognition Night on March 19. Twelve women were honored at the reception for their commitment and excellence in their respective endeavors.

Every year, Brookhaven residents nominate women who either live or work in the town to receive the award. Members of the town’s Women’s Advisory Board then select the honorees based on resumes and letters of recommendation. Winners are selected in a variety of areas and professional fields including business, community service and health care. Below are the 2015 honorees.

Business: Lorice Belmonte, Patchogue, The Colony Shop owner
Community Service Professional: Linda Bily, Selden, Stony Brook Cancer Center director of patient advocacy
Community Service Volunteer: Michelle L. Benincasa, Patchogue, South Country Ambulance Co. emergency medical technician
Education: Deborah A. Lang, Middle Island, Longwood Central School District educator
Government: Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Stony Brook, Middle Country Public Library director
Health Care Provider: Pamela Koch, Yaphank, Stony Brook University Hospital certified nurse midwife and clinical instructor
Law: Karen M. Wilutis, Miller Place, Suffolk County District Court judge
Law Enforcement: Gail P. D’Ambrosio, Port Jefferson Station, Suffolk County senior probation officer
Medicine: Dr. Alice J. Kolasa, Mount Sinai, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital director of palliative medicine
Religion: Grace G. LoGrande, Selden, St. Margaret of Scotland Roman Catholic Church volunteer
Science: Dr. Nancy C. Marshall, Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University professor
Visual and Performing Arts: Judith Levy, Stony Brook, Gallery North director