What local professionals had to say about the year in business

01/02/2016 12:00 PM |

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People in the local auto, banking, hospitality and retail industries agreed: for their businesses, 2015 was an improvement over the previous year, making it their best year yet.

Customer loyalty, community involvement, technological advances and the North Fork’s growing visibility have made the last 12 months nearly record-setting for many local businesses.

“People know that the North Fork is here,” said Sarah Phillips, owner of First and South restaurant. “They see and appreciate it for what it is and the authenticity behind it and the hard work behind it. And I think that really appeals to the general public.”

Read below to find out what other businesspeople in the area had to say about 2015.

T1231_YIR_biz_Lucas_ns_C.jpgAuto Sales

Howie Lucas

president, Lucas Ford in Southold

The past year marked a banner year for his business, Mr. Lucas said, going so far as to call it “one of our best years ever” in the 26 he’s been running the Hortons Lane dealership. He attributed its success to a loyal customer base and improvements in technology, especially the release of a new pickup truck that was a big seller at the Southold location. He added that the automotive industry across the board saw growth in 2015.

T1231_YIR_biz_Dank_ns_C.jpgSmall Retail

Alex Dank

owner, Love Lane Toys in Mattituck

It was the revival of old-fashioned values coupled with a supportive community that made Love Lane Toys’ second year even better than its first, Mr. Dank said.

“It’s been great,” he said. “More people know we’re here and the community is just really supportive of an old-fashioned toy store, so that’s nice.”

Additionally, having more experience at the store has been beneficial for business, as he now has a better understanding of what works best there. He added that board games were a popular seller in 2015 as well.

T1231_YIR_biz_Reichert_C_.jpgBig Retail

Charles Reichert

owner, IGA in Southold and Greenport

Sales increased at the two East End IGA stores in 2015, but not without some difficulty. Mr. Reichert said the increased development in Riverhead allows people to travel there and get all their shopping done at once. Still, the store found success this year. Calling IGA a “neighborhood store,” Mr. Reichert attributed it to focus on the customer and the community — something he said other chain stores of the same size don’t do.

“I think we should be fine,” he said of the year ahead. “We just need to continue what we’re doing, helping the community and caring about our customers.”

T1231_YIR_biz_Phillips_C.jpgHospitality

Sarah Phillips

owner, First and South in Greenport

According to Ms. Phillips, an increase in second-home owners led to a growth in sales, as those who previously came to the North Fork only once or twice a summer now frequent her business more often. She said large events, such as Tall Ships, increased recognition of wineries and breweries, the farm-to-table movement and that a demand for “casual quality” dining helped grow her business.

“When we were first opening [in 2012] there wasn’t a place to go just for a drink and a high-quality burger, in Greenport at least,” she said. “And now there’s Industry Standard, American Beech, ourselves, so I’ve definitely seen casual quality [eating] grow.”

TR1231_YIR_biz_Orsino_C.jpgBanking

Michael Orsino

executive vice president and chief lending officer, Suffolk County National Bank in Cutchogue

Confidence in the overall economy has led to continued improvement at the bank, and for its customers, this year, Mr. Orsino said.

“Our business growth would be limited if our clients, and the market at large, did not feel confident and a willingness to improve and expand their businesses,” he said, which is indicated by a strong loan pipeline and deposit growth at all branches. Medical and health-related industries, as well as commercial real estate, stood out as expanding the most.

Additionally, the bank found success by paying attention to existing customers and simultaneously bringing in new clients, all while focusing on its niche of small to mid-sized businesses and being involved in the community, he said.

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Photo: The raw bar at First and South’s summer pig roast. (Credit: Vera Chinese, file)

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