Future in flux for Arcade Department Store

JUDY AHRENS FILE PHOTO Two years ago, Bob Paquette put the Arcade Department Store in Greenport up for sale, but there were no takers. Now he’s closing the doors in January for a renovation and says he plans to reopen in April, but it won’t be the same Arcade as it has been for decades.

Say goodbye to the Arcade Department Store as you know it.
Owner Bob Paquette isn’t leaving Greenport, but he’ll be selling out his inventory between now and the end of the year and closing as of Jan. 1. He plans to reopen in April, but the store will be more arcade and less department store in its new incarnation.
“I can’t compete with Riverhead,” Mr. Paquette said, referring to the big-box stores he acknowledged can sell goods for less than he can. Mr. Paquette has owned the business, which opened in its current location in 1928, for 14 years. The Arcade originally opened on Main Street in 1898.
According to Mr. Paquette, one of his suppliers described himself as “a dinosaur serving a dinosaur,” and other suppliers don’t see enough business from him to keep Mr. Paquette as a customer when they can walk away from Riverhead box stores with large orders.
What’s missing in Greenport is a place for parents to hold kids’ birthday parties, he said. So he’s looking at adding arcade games and activities for young children in much of the space and devoting only a small part of the store to retail.
Fodor’s travel guide described the Arcade as “an old-time emporium with wide-plank floors” and said it “carries a little bit of everything, including boots, buttons and North Fork necessities like lobster crackers.” An online review said, “The Arcade Department Store has everything,” describing the array of goods from clothing, shoes, underwear and household goods to light bulbs, hardware, handicrafts and toys.
Mr. Paquette has struggled for years to make a go of the business, reinventing the store to try to meet changing needs. When there was an increase in second-home owners, he tried to provide their household needs.
Last year, he tried renting space to various retailers, but that proved more bother than it was worth, he said. Going forward, he sees his retail business concentrating mostly on summer seasonal needs such as beachwear, he said.
As late as 2008, the Arcade got the designation from Dan’s Papers as the East End’s Best General Store. But making it work financially has been a challenge, Mr. Paquette said. The staff that once numbered 22 is down to eight and he expects to have jobs for those eight in the spring.
“But it’s been a tourist town” in recent years and that’s the niche he’ll try to fill with his new business.
Instead of continuing as one of the few businesses operating in downtown Greenport during the winter, he’ll close in January and begin clearing out the store and converting it for an April opening, he said.
“It’s an empty town during the winter,” he said. Several of the businesses that once operated during the winter are now gone, he said.
“I have too big a barn to keep it as it is,” he said. “I’m more of a museum. I’ll try to do something with it while I still can,” he said.
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