Changes stir up downtown Riverhead

08/19/2010 12:00 AM |

Blue Door Gallery owner Sandi Woessner holds the keys to the space she will move to at 121 Roanoke Ave. in late September.

When word got out that Sandi Woessner was closing her Blue Door Gallery in Riverhead, it seemed nearly everyone in town came to rally behind her.

Some stopped by the East Main Street store to offer a kind word, some to pick up a piece of art and quite a few who never even knew the gallery was there stopped in just to check it out.

In fact, Ms. Woessner had her busiest weeks in years.

“It was nice to know that people cared,” she said.

And though the uptick in sales has not been enough for her to consider keeping the shop open at its current location, she has decided to move to smaller space on nearby Roanoke Avenue.

At 121 Roanoke Ave., former site of the Dominican Sisters Thrift Store, Ms. Woessner will continue her framing business and sell her artwork, though she will no longer sell jewelry or works by local artists.

“My new place will have better exposure,” she said. Her current store is tucked away on downtown’s Flower Alley, just behind Haiku sushi downtown. The new store, near the busy intersection of Roanoke and Main Street, will be much more visible.

She will close the current store Sept. 15 and hopes to be operating out of the new space by Oct. 1. Ms. Woessner credited community blog founder Nancy Swett and downtown community garden advocate Amy Davidson for making the move possible by raising awareness, as well as Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, for helping her find the new space.

“These are real community-minded folks who are the heart and soul of Riverhead,” Ms. Woessner said.

The Blue Door’s new location is one of three changes shoppers can expect to see downtown in the coming weeks.

A few storefronts to the east on East Main Street, shoppers will soon be able to purchase anything from 19th-century armoires to enormous vintage Japanese-style screens.

The Red Collection, a furniture consignment shop opening at the former Ben Franklin Crafts store, should be up and running before the end of the summer. Owner Carol Hayes of Springs said she decided to open the secondhand store after seeing the success of another consignment business, also called the Red Collection, owned by her aunt in Greensboro, N.C.

In a concept Ms. Hayes jokingly referred to as selling “homeless furniture,” the store will accept antiques and quality used furniture, lamps, mirrors and other household items for sale. After an item is sold, the owner will receive 60 percent of the sale. The seller and the store’s employees will determine the price, she said.

She hopes the low cost of acquiring inventor and the number of people looking for a bargain in a down economy will combine to help the business become a success.

“In these times, we should recycle, reuse, reimagine,” Ms. Hayes said.

She also plans to soon change the massive Ben Franklin Crafts marquee that has adorned the vacant storefront for years.

Directly across the street at the Riverhead Grill, former owner Liz Strebel will return to the eatery she ran for three decades. “It was my baby for 30 years and I can’t wait to get back there again,” she told the paper.

Ms. Strebel sold the business to its previous owners in 1999, but said she reclaimed the space after a legal dispute came to a close last month. In her opinion, the last owners deviated from the diner’s original basic “meat and potatoes” concept, which she hopes reinstate soon.

She has spent nearly every day of the last month at the restaurant, scrubbing the floors and making sure every corner is spotless before the grill reopens in mid-September.

“It’s going to be just as beautiful as it was 50 years ago,” she said.

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