Southold summers have been less complete since Thompson’s Emporium closed several years ago, leaving hamlet residents with nowhere to go to pick up a beach pail, a badminton racket or sunblock and sunglasses for a trip down to the water’s edge.
Southold resident Peggy Killian, co-owner of Eastern Tire in Cutchogue, has missed Thompson’s Emporium badly and, judging from her conversations with friends and neighbors at the post office and around town, she’s not alone.
“If you needed something, they always had it. They were open a long time,” she said.
After Thompson’s closed, Ms. Killian began thinking about the possibility of opening a similar shop in Southold. But it wasn’t until the Arcade in Greenport, which carried variety store items similar to Thompson’s Emporium, closed last winter that she decided to jump head first into the retail business.
This Saturday, her new shop, Southold Emporium, will open on the south side of Main Street in the space that had been Lamps by Vincent and, before that, Frohnhoefer’s Electric.
“Even to buy a pair of socks, you have to go to Riverhead, or to Mattituck at best,” she said Tuesday afternoon as she worked to finish stocking shelves for this weekend’s opening.
Ms. Killian is betting that her personal quest to save money will help her shop succeed. In addition to her main showroom, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily starting Saturday, she has two other rooms that she plans to stock with seasonal products. A former frozen food manager at Key Food in Cutchogue, she decided late last year to brush off her retailing skills and scour the wholesale market for cheap essential goods.
“It’s so expensive to live,” she said. “I’ve been working on finding suppliers for six months, cheaper non-brand names. The supermarket charges $5 for a bottle of Windex, but I can sell something similar for $2. We have inexpensive party supplies and I can carry just as nice cards as Hallmark for $1.25.”
She also stocks cleaning and health and beauty products and plans to carry a large number of inexpensive school supplies this summer and fall.
There is some risk to opening a business in Southold, which doesn’t have the foot traffic Greenport has. That’s why Ms. Killian still plans to work at Eastern Tire several days a week while a clerk works the Southold Emporium.
The shop is within walking distance of the Colonial Village and Founder’s Village retirement communities, nestled between Century 21 Albertson Realty and Rothman’s Department Store, and Ms. Killian is hoping it will help Southold become a bit more of a destination.
“I think more and more people walk to shops,” she said. “But there haven’t been places to walk.”
She’s hoping shoppers will tell her what essentials they’d like her to carry.
“I had someone ask me to carry yarn the other day,” she said. “I didn’t know where to get yarn, but I found a variety pack. People will have to tell me what they want and I’ll get it for them.”