The Village Market has been a fixture on Love Lane in Mattituck since 1896, but when the market’s doors close on Sept. 30, it will be the end of an era.
Mike Bourguignon has owned The Village Market, which serves breakfast and lunch specials, sells groceries and has a full deli with counter seating, for 22 years. In the past year, at his wife’s suggestion, he began quietly seeking a buyer for the business.
He found one right next door. Michael Avella, who owns The Love Lane Kitchen, is in contract to buy The Village Market, which he plans to turn into a specialty grocery store before Christmas. Both men expect the closing to be within the week.
Mr. Avella said he was excited by what he plans to continue the counter seating offered at The Village Market.
“People can expect a butcher, a baker, a fish monger, produce that will be almost exclusively local, high quality imported goods,” he said. “We’ll also have pastries, gelato, a coffee station and we plan to make our own doughnuts. It’s all in the design phase right now.”
Mr. Bourguignon was grinning from ear to ear Saturday night, when the market’s cook, Judy Thilberg, threw a surprise going away party for him at the market. It seemed as if everyone in Mattituck had crammed inside to say goodbye.
Mr. Bourguignon had worked at several delis throughout Long Island before he heard in 1988 from friends who owned a similar market in Quogue that The Village Market was for sale. When he first visited and saw the regulars hanging out in the deli, trading stories in the early morning or having a quick bite on their lunch breaks, he knew it was a place he wanted.
“This was always the place to be,” he said, as he stood surrounded Saturday night by a group of regular customers who were gently chiding him and reminiscing about their visits to the market.
“What am I going to miss? It’s obvious. All these knuckleheads,” he said.
Ms. Thilberg and the butcher, Mario Zulli, had both been on the staff when Mr. Bourguignon bought the market from Vicki McDowell and Marilyn Gatz.
Both Ms. Thilberg and Mr. Bourguignon said that they would take advantage of their new free time to travel. Ms. Thilberg plans to continue working at her brother’s auto body shop, Sap Enterprises, in Riverhead.
“The best part of the job was meeting all the interesting people over the years,” she said. “We’ll miss everybody.”
Ms. Thilberg’s sister, Carol Underwood, was already missing the market as she sampled her sister’s cooking at the party.
“I’m going to miss the chicken salad,” she said. “Judy is like a pillar.”
Ms. Underwood’s husband, Jim Underwood, was also feeling nostalgic. Just retired from his job as a health teacher at Mattituck High School a few blocks away, he came to The Village Market for lunch nearly every day during school.
“I’m going to miss their sausage and the news updates from people you’d see,” he said. “This place was like Mattituck online, but you didn’t need the Internet. This has been community home base. There’s going to be a big gap.”
Mr. Underwood said that when he returned to school with food to go the plates would be heaping. The crab cakes and lemon chicken were his favorites.
“I tried to make the lemon chicken. Judy told me how, but I couldn’t duplicate it,” he said.
Lisa Davis, who said she works not far from The Village Market, has been a regular for 22 years. “I wouldn’t miss their egg special on Saturday mornings,” she said. “It has a down-home, friendly feeling. They knew everybody. It’s going to be a big hole.”
Danielle Grathwohl’s first job was at The Village Market, when she was 14. That was before Mr. Bourguignon owned the market, and “he made it better,” she said. She worked as a cashier and, when it was slow, she made chopped meat.
“My mom said, ‘Work some place you can walk to,'” she said.
“My husband’s here every day with my children. Judy would give them cookies, so she became the cookie lady. My daughter was Little Miss Mattituck and she had her picture taken with Mike on the counter,” Ms. Grathwohl added.
Ms. Grathwohl said that she doesn’t know where she and her family will go for cookies and home cooking now that The Village Market is closing.
“It’s really the end of an era,” she said.