Q&A: Meet Greenport BID’s next president

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Peter Clarke, owner of Clarke's Garden on Main Street, will become president of the Greenport BID in January.

Although Peter Clarke is a fresh face in Greenport Village, the garden and home store owner says he’s ready to tackle local business concerns as the Greenport Business Improvement District’s new president.

Mr. Clarke, who moved to Greenport and opened Clarke’s Garden on Main Street in 2010, was recently tapped to succeed BID president Mike Acebo. Mr. Acebo has led the BID since its inception in 1994. The official vote confirming his succession will take place in January.

Mr. Clarke, a lifelong retailer originally from New York City, said BID members first asked him last year to become their next president because Mr. Acebo planned to step down after serving nearly two decades.

“I didn’t feel I was ready for it,” Mr. Clarke said. “I wanted a better understanding of the community and of running my own business here before leading a career group.”

It was then that Mr. Clarke decided to shadow Mr. Acebo as the BID’s vice president in order to prepare for a new leadership role.

We sat down with Mr. Clarke Tuesday at Aldo’s Cafe on Front Street to discuss his vision for the BID. The following is excerpted from that conversation.

Q: What do you think will help local businesses during the offseason?

A: I believe the January and February months are so weather-dependent that I would not focus a lot of money and effort there. I think we need to develop what I call the “shoulder seasons” for Greenport — a phrase that means not prime, but not dead.  Our focus is going to be to develop the period from Labor Day to Christmas and the spring period from March to May. There is a lot of potential to animate and to further develop activities in Greenport to drive business activity and to engage and entertain our residents and visitors.

Q: What are some events going on during the shoulder season that the BID plans to help with?

A: I think people start to breathe again here sometime between Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day because we have a very important, established, traditional Presidents Day parade here that’s been a fixture in Greenport where people from all over come and participate. That kind of breaks our winter hiatus. We have a unique opportunity this year because we’re participating in Tall Ships of America, which is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. We have a lot to do to get ready for that. The last time we had them here was in 2004 and we had over 50,000 unique visitors.

Q: What are the top concerns local business owners have?

A: The seasonality of the village, vacant stores and community support. Big box stores and the Tanger Outlets have pulled a lot of local dollars into Riverhead. It is very important to our businesses that [the BID] focus on ideas to improve service for our local clientele, as well as our visitors.

Q: What do you think the BID should concentrate on next year?

A: Creating a new level of participation. It’s important for us to create an open, welcoming environment for all members to come forward with their ideas and to make sure we encourage and foster this existing spirit of volunteerism in Greenport. One of the things that I would say is evidence of this new level of participation is that we had about 40 people attend our annual meeting [on Nov. 18]. That was probably the largest attendance many of the long-term members remembered having in many years.

Q: How can the BID help local businesses thrive?

A: The biggest achievement we had this year is the relaunching of our website. Since it was launched in August, we have already surpassed the number of visitors the prior website would receive in a year. The website has been the primary tool to help our local businesses. It includes a business listing directory where BID members can create a micro-website for their business. It’s really about showcasing the members. It’s about them. It’s not about us.

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