WMHO president, restaurant manager respond to residents’ cries

WMHO president, restaurant manager respond to residents’ cries

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Chelsea Gomez, left, is a former employee who says Pentimento's owner has properly taken care of the septic system at the restaurant. Photo by Kimberly Brown

Residents who have banded together to save Pentimento Restaurant in Stony Brook Village Center, before taking to the village streets Sunday to protest, started a Facebook page and petition earlier this month.

The petition on Change.org, started by Patricia Kirchner, has received almost 3,300 signatures as of Aug. 18. It states that the restaurant has been refused a lease renewal by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

Eagle Realty Holdings is the owner of the Stony Brook Village Center storefronts, which selects tenants, collects rent and maintains the shopping center property. Net proceeds are distributed to WMHO. According to Gloria Rocchio, president of Eagle Realty Holdings and WMHO, the realty company pays more than $725,000 in real estate taxes a year.

Rocchio added the WMHO board of trustees are non-salaried volunteers.

On the Save Pentimento Facebook page, which has more than 400 followers, the administrators have requested that, in addition to members calling and emailing WMHO’s office and Rocchio, they also contact trustees and have listed the board members’ phone numbers and email addresses.

In a phone interview Aug. 16, Rocchio said she believes many community members are acting on misinformation.

“They don’t have all the facts,” she said. “They only have one side of the story.”

Rocchio added that it’s not standard protocol to discuss where a tenant stands as far as a lease, rent or any other interactions between the landlord and business. 

Earlier this month, Pentimento owner Dennis Young told TBR News Media that last year he was required to request an extension of the lease, which expires at the end of September. He said while trying to keep the restaurant afloat during the pandemic, renewing slipped his mind.

While Young is thinking about retiring in the near future, he said friends were interested in buying the business and keeping Pentimento as it is.

Rocchio said in addition to not providing notice of an interest to renew the lease last year, the tenant failed “to comply with the requirement to maintain the septic system” which is described in the lease. She added the new owners that were recommended by Young were interviewed as well as other candidates.

Young said he has maintained the property during his 27 years of ownership.

Restaurant manager Lisa Cusumano in a phone interview said she and Young have not been part of any of the planning of the petition or the rally and have been too busy running the business to keep up with the comments on the Save Pentimento Facebook page.

“The community is taking it in their own hands, and it has a life of its own,” she said.

In an Aug. 6 post to the Pentimento Restaurant Facebook page, residents were asked to remember that the business isn’t a separate entity but is part of Stony Brook Village Center. Patrons were encouraged to support all the businesses in the shopping center.

“The community outpouring has been overwhelming and it’s touching, but we don’t want people to go against the village center because that’s our home, and they’re all our neighbors — those businesses are just like us,” Cusumano said.

Not only have Young and her been overwhelmed by the community’s response via social media and the Aug. 15 rally, they said customers come in every day asking why they are closing.

“There isn’t a customer that does not walk in our restaurant every day and says, ‘What is going on, why is this happening?’” Cusumano said.

According to Rocchio, no final decision has been made as far as a future tenant.