Cover Story: Women own majority of businesses on Love Lane

10/13/2012 8:00 AM |

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | A dozen of the 19 businesses on Love Land in Mattituck, and even more on adjacent Pike Street, are now owned or co-owned by women. They say this fact has led to strengthened camaraderie and added to the shopping district’s unique nature.

When Kate Altman moved her needle and fiber arts store from Cutchogue into a new space on Love Lane last month, she quickly felt right at home.

She was welcomed with open arms by neighboring business owners on Mattituck’s quaint downtown corridor. Her store also quickly filled with customers interested in attending her classes.

Then one day when Connie Schenone — who owns the building where neighboring Love Lane Kitchen now stands — stopped by her store, Ms. Altman found out one more reason why she fits right in.

“Moving to Love Lane was the best decision you’ve ever made,” Ms. Schenone told her. “You’re in good company, because most of the business owners on Love Lane are women or have a partner that’s a woman.”

She’s absolutely right.

More than three-quarters of the business owners on the small street fit that description, with at least a dozen of the 19 businesses owned solely by women.

Rosemary Batcheller, owner of the Village Cheese Shop, said the “female majority” has added to the warmth felt on Love Lane.

“Men are fabulously warm,” Ms. Batcheller said, “but I think a man’s approach to business is generally a little bit different than a woman’s approach. I think we’re as much about the bottom line as anyone else, but I like to think we bring even more soul and heart to business. Nurturing is part of what we do as women and whether it’s how we relate to our staff or our customers, I think that comes through.”

Cecily Jaffe of Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery is the matriarch of Love Lane, having opened her picture-framing business 17 years ago. She said the feminine revolution was not a sudden phenomenon, but rather a gradual occurrence that continued when Lauretta Bauer opened Bauer’s Love Lane Shoppe in 1999.

“At first it was a bunch of guys and a lot of them sold to women, but just about everything’s changed about Love Lane since I started, even the sidewalks,” Ms. Jaffe said. “The only thing that’s stayed the same have been the trees.”

And the trend doesn’t stop at Love Lane. The adjacent Pike Street also boasts a female majority with Blue Sage Day Spa, Pike Street Pilates, JABS and Michelle’s Beauty Salon.

In Ms. Jaffe’s time on the strip, she said, most of the shops on Love Lane have changed hands or evolved into an entirely different type of business.

Mint, a high-end fashion store, was once the clearance area for Orlowski Hardware. Mint owner Joanna Mazzella, who has gone on to open three other Mint locations — in Stony Brook, Westhampton Beach and New York City — credits the unique nature of Love Lane with the continued success of her business. She added that of the four Mint locations, the Love Lane branch is her favorite.

“It’s just such a beautiful street,” she said.

Ms. Mazzella said she didn’t even realize that the majority of business owners on Love Lane were female. Neither did male business owners Joe Vitale of Haircutters and Rich Orlowski of Orlowski Hardware.

“It never even dawned on me on me that I’m in the minority,” Mr. Orlowski said. “That’s great. It’s not something I ever would have thought about.”

New business owner Carolyn Iannone, who recently purchased Love Lane Kitchen, said there’s not an “inkling of competitiveness” among business owners on Love Lane. She said she even considers Ms. Batcheller and Ms. Jaffe role models.

Ms. Iannone said that while the female business owners certainly add to the character of the street, she believes the street itself is a special place.

“It’s the place that time kind of forgot,” she said. “People are so happy, polite and wave to one other and visitors love it. I’ve seen people go from regular visitors to homeowners on the North Fork from the time I started working here to now.”

Ms. Batcheller agrees that a sense of respect and community makes Love Lane a unique place to shop.

“I don’t think we operate out of fear or competition,” she said of her neighboring business owners. “We operate from the perspective that a high tide floats all boats. You can have a dinner party and not have to leave Love Lane in order to get what you need. You can buy cheese, meat, an outfit, chocolate and a gift for the hostess all on one street. I’ve seen it happen.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com