A Greenport High School graduate has made it his mission to bring the Arcade, Greenport’s iconic department store, back to its former glory.
David Akcay, 26, has taken over the old-timey shop — which moved to its current location on Front Street in 1928 after opening on Main Street in 1898 — and said he’s up to the challenge of battling Riverhead’s mega-discount shopping centers.
Mr. Akcay said he first thought about purchasing the Arcade a few years ago when he attempted to visit the store, but found it closed.
“As a kid, I loved coming here,” Mr. Akcay said of the store. “I decided I should try to keep it going.”
East Marion resident Bob Paquette, who had owned Arcade for about 15 years, said he decided to sell the business because he felt he could no longer go up against Walmart, Target and other large corporate stores.
Mr. Paquette closed the Arcade in 2010 and reopened a year later as One-Eyed Bob’s Clearance Center & Discount Emporium, but ultimately put the store up for sale.
Mr. Akcay said he knew Mr. Paquette because they both worked as downtown Greenport bartenders. Mr. Akcay worked at the former Farmhouse restaurant and Mr. Paquette is still bartending at the Rhumbline, which is in the process of reopening.
“I personally think it hasn’t worked since 2008 when the market changed,” Mr. Paquette said. “I want him to succeed … He’ll have to do something different that I wasn’t doing, but I don’t know what that is.”
What’s different, Mr. Akcay said, is that he believes the community has become more supportive of small businesses and is tired of having to drive 40 minutes each way to do their shopping.
They have also become more conservative when driving due to rising fuel costs, he said.
“If you need a pillow, you won’t have to go to Riverhead anymore,” Mr. Akcay said.
While Arcade currently features summer essentials — such as sunblock, towels, beach chairs and water toys — Mr. Akcay said his stationery section has been popular with local business owners looking for copy paper, pens and staplers.
He said he has no plans to change the store’s name or sign. Its wide-plank floors and “old-school, five-and-dime variety store” feel are also keepers, he said.
“We both talked about how we can make this work,” Mr. Akcay said, describing his business discussions with Mr. Paquette as casual with a handshake.
Mr. Akcay, whose mother has owned the JB Liquor Store on South Street in Greenport since the ’90s, said he’s slowly but surely stocking the nearly 10,000-square foot store, aisle by aisle.
He hadn’t planned to open until the shop was fully stocked, but decided to hold a soft opening so he wouldn’t miss the summer season.
After rumor spread throughout the village that Arcade was back in business, Mr. Akcay said hundreds of people have thanked him.
“It almost brought me to tears,” he said. “I plan to keep it going as long as I can.”