Promoting tourism and business around the North Fork

Donielle Cardinale, president of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce, welcomes Chris A. Theodorou, vice president of the new Chase Bank Branch in Mattituck.

This chilly winter isn’t putting the freeze on hot new ideas for promoting business across the North Fork. Local business improvement district officials, chamber of commerce members and business owners report that lots of plans are in the works.

Joe Corso, president of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce, and new Mattituck Chamber president Donielle Cardinale met with Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell recently to discuss strategies for bringing in new business.

“There are a lot of different ideas banging around. We’re at the beginning stages,” Mr. Corso said. “First, we’re trying get an inventory of how many buildings are available out there and to promote those to different kinds of industries. We don’t need new buildings. We’ve got a number of different locations that might work for someone looking to start a business or relocate a business here.”

Southold Town officials are also currently working on the “Southold 2020” plan, which focuses on balancing economic growth with the needs of the natural environment and quality of life. Tax incentives for new businesses moving to Mattituck hamlet center are also in the works.

Mattituck hamlet center covers 56 acres and includes roughly 100 parcels of land. Ms. Cardinale said Mattituck Chamber officials have a plan to keep visitors lingering: Turn the one-way section of Old Sound Avenue, which intersects with Love Lane at Main Road, into a park.

“It would be wonderful, because they could have concerts in the park and create more of an atmosphere where people could come and linger and visit the restaurants and the shops and spend some time,” Ms. Cardinale said. “But, that’s all in the planning process; we’re trying to get approvals and get everybody behind it, and make them realize that it’s a good idea.”

Mattituck saw the opening of a new Chase Bank on Main Road. Although the bank opened quite recently, branch manager Chris Theodorou said business is booming. To further promote the new bank, Chase officials plans to participate in the American Heart Association’s 5K Run/Walk at Martha Clara Vineyards on May 22. Chase bought a promotional table for $500 and some employees plan to enter the race. Mr. Theodorou said that participating in the run is part of Chase’s commitment to remembering that customers are also neighbors.

“At this branch there’s a real hometown feel,” Mr. Theodorou said. “When you come in, everybody knows who you are. Even before we opened, we went around to meet local business owners and we’ve really become kind of like family now.”

The new Love Lane Market is another big draw for Mattituck. Love Lane Kitchen owners Michael and Patti Avella plan to have the new market open by early March. Mr. Avella said it will feature an on-site butcher; local produce, eggs and packaged foods; gluten-free and vegetarian offerings; micro-brewed beer; a pizza oven; and food court. A wide variety of specialty foods will be featured in the 3,000-square-foot retail space, he added, along with a coffee bar and gelato bar. “Obviously we’ll be employing local people and all of this will be a positive for the community,” Mr. Avella added.

Ms. Avella said Love Lane Market already has a Facebook fan page where customers can log on and make suggestions about the types of products they’d like to see at the store. “We already have a lot of fans and we’re taking pictures of the construction as it goes along and creating like a story on Facebook, so anyone can follow along,” she said.

Greenport is also looking to cyberspace to help promote business in the seaside village, according to Business Improvement District president Mike Acebo, who manages Brewer Yacht Yard in Greenport. “Extra efforts are being made to update and improve the village’s website,,” Mr. Acebo said.

Village and BID officials have also teamed up with the North Fork Promotion Council to codify the calendar of events for Greenport and the North Fork. Acknowledging that Greenport is known as a destination, Mr. Acebo feels some effort should be given to help the hamlets’ motorists drive through to get to the picturesque waterfront village.

“We have people who are coming here to stop, but they’re driving through all the other hamlets to get here,” Mr. Acebo said. “Greenport is a driving force for getting people out on the North Fork, and we do have a responsibility in the North Fork Promotion Council to offer all of the amenities of the North Fork to visitors.”

Mr. Acebo said Greenport BID members are focusing on filling empty storefronts as well as helping current store tenants thrive.

The cold weather hasn’t stopped propane dealer John DiBiasi from opening a new propane dealership in Cutchogue called North Fork Energy. Mr. DiBiasi has owned Starlite Propane Gas Corp. of Bay Shore for nearly three decades. Pointing out that propane gas has always been a green product, the savvy businessman believes that even in this bad economy, more people are embracing propane. With that belief in mind, Mr. DiBiasi thinks the time is right to fire up a new business on the North Fork.

“Propane was green before green was in, and I think it’s better for the economy and the environment. I believe this is a great opportunity,” Mr. DiBiasi said. “It took us a few years to decide to go on this new venture and we looked at a lot of places, but we picked Cutchogue because we’ve always had a fondness for the North Fork,” he added.

Janine Nebons, general manager of Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead, said outlet officials are turning to technology for stepping up business at the popular shopping mall. iPhone and Android users can now download a Tanger app that will identify the store they’re visiting and provide relevant sales information and coupons.

“We’ll be able to shoot them an e-mail and say, ‘Here’s an extra $10 you can save.’ It’s amazing what it can do,” Ms. Nebons said, noting that customer traffic at Tanger is up 7 percent from last year. “So, we’re going to be using technology to increase sales for people here at the shopping center coupled with traditional Tanger campaigns, which are print ads, some direct-to-home and some television ads sprinkled in.”

Ms. Nebons, who is also president of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, said chamber officials are focusing on tourism to boost sales and new business for the downtown area. The new, $21 million Atlantis Marine World’s Hyatt Place hotel on Riverhead’s East Main Street plays a large part in the plan, according to Ms. Nebons, as out-of-towners will now have a place to stay in the historic downtown.

The 100-room hotel is slated to open in July; it’s already booked through the end of 2012. Mr. Nebons hopes the new traffic generated by the hotel will encourage potential business owners to fill some of the empty storefronts downtown.
“For years we focused publicity for Riverhead on just people from the area, but now we’re really pushing to get tourists in here,” Ms. Nebons said. “It’s a very exciting time, and we think we’ve got a strong plan.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the 2011 Times/Review Annual Report supplement.