Southold Town business owners discussed ways to extend the tourism season at a forum hosted Monday evening by the Southold Economic Development Committee and North Fork Promotion Council.
“It’s the first time since we’ve been in the business of agritourism that I’ve seen so much effort taken to bring people to the East End,” said Joan Bischoff of the North Fork Promotion Council, who led the discussion. “It is time now, I think, that people come to the North Fork, especially in its offseason.”
The forum, which took place at the Peconic Lane Community Center, is part of a major public relations effort and significant advertising campaign for Taste North Fork, a new pilot shuttle bus service to connect wineries, hamlets and local businesses this Veteran’s Day weekend.
The pilot program has been made possible through a portion of a $335,000 “I Love NY” grant that aims to help promote agritourism on the East End, according to the East End Tourism Alliance.
Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, said during the meeting that he hopes to have shuttle buses run at 45-minute intervals during Veteran’s Day weekend. Plans are still being finalized, he said, but the bus loop is scheduled to run from Riverhead to Greenport. The buses will stop in each hamlet with most of the stops being at local wineries, Mr. Bate said.
“We’re hoping to have buses come by at 45-minute intervals so that people will have time to taste some wine or do an activity, then hop back on the bus,” Mr. Bate said. “We want to promote the fact that there’s a lot going on the North Fork that weekend.”
During the roughly two-hour long discussion, local business owners were asked to weigh in on the planning process for the event and brainstorm activities to make the implementation of the “I Love NY” grant a huge success.
Mr. Bischoff urged the roomful of business owners to band together and coordinate events with one another that help promote business on the North Fork this Veteran’s Day weekend and beyond. He also encouraged them to actively promote their businesses through social media.
“It’s been difficult to get the restaurants to talk to the vineyards, to get Southold business owners to talk to Greenport business owners,” he said. “We have to put that aside a little bit for this event and start thinking as North Forkers,” he said.
Rosemary Batcheller, owner of the Village Cheese Shop on Love Lane in Mattituck, said during the meeting that she and other Love Lane merchants are planning an event called “Taste Love Lane” during Veteran’s Day weekend. They have invited some local farmers to attend, she said, and each individual merchant will run a special promotion.
“If this goes well, and if the money comes back again, I can really envision a beautiful welcoming,” Ms. Batcheller said.
Donielle Cardinale, of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s in Mattituck, addressed the crowd and told them that if the region can attract visitors to come to the North Fork during the fall and winter, every local business will benefit. Ms. Cardinale sits on the boards of three local organizations: the Economic Development Committee, the North Fork Promotion Council and the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce.
“The North Fork is on stage and we need to perform so that we keep the audience coming back,” she said.