Year in Business 2013: A recession in the rearview

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Harvest East End was hosted on the North Fork for the first time Saturday at McCall Wines in Cutchogue.
CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Harvest East End was hosted on this year at McCall Wines in Cutchogue.

After a prolonged recession beginning in 2008, it was a bounce-back year for North Fork companies large and small, with professionals in the major industries saying 2013 was, overall, a good year for business.

“I think a big part of it is that the North Fork is becoming a more premier destination,” said Noah Schwartz, owner and chef of Noah’s in Greenport.

Below, Mr. Schwartz and other key figures in the region’s retail, auto, wine and hospitality industries give their thoughts on the last 12 months.

Noah Schwartz, owner
Noah’s, Greenport

“It was our most successful year to date,” said Mr. Schwartz, who opened his eponymous restaurant on Front Street in 2010.

He attributed the success to the public’s increased awareness of the North Fork as a first-class destination.

“The wineries and the village of Greenport have had a really great draw,” he said.

The success of the past 12 months has led Mr. Schwartz to begin brainstorming about a possible second venture on the North Fork.

“Now that our season’s really wrapping up we’re starting to look into what we might want to do or where we might want to do something else,” he said.

TR1226_BIZ_Gildersleeve_C.jpgSMALL RETAIL
Debbie Gildersleeve, co-owner
Renee’s and Chaps Corner

Debbie and Bill Gildersleeve have owned Chaps, Renee’s Home Furnishings and Kid’s Corner in Mattituck for the past three decades, but 2013, Ms. Gildersleeve said, has been their best year yet.

“People are buying,” she said. “We really believe in the North Fork and the viability of it. We feel it’s a great way to invest our time and money.”

One area in which their business has seen exponential growth this year, Ms. Gildersleeve said, is furniture sales.

“Furniture was something we had gotten away from, but it has become the biggest part of our business,” she said. “I think that’s an indication of the amount of people who are moving out here and finding interest on the North Fork.”

TR1226_BIZ_Callahan_C.jpgBIG RETAIL
John Callahan, president
Riverhead Building Supply

Business at Riverhead Building Supply “got off to a slow start” due to bad weather in the first quarter of 2013, president John Callahan said, but the company was “able to rebound.”

“We’re currently getting ready to begin construction on a 120,000-square-foot distribution facility at our Calverton property,” Mr. Callahan said. “That’s an investment in our business and the area and we see continued growth for 2014, so we’re comfortable making that investment.”

T1226_BIZ_Mullen_tk_C.jpgAUTO SALES
Rich Mullen, co-owner
Mullen Motors in Southold

“It was definitely a better year than last year,” said Rich Mullen, co-owner of Mullen Motors in Southold.

“I don’t know if it’s pent-up demand over the past few years with credit issues, but we’re definitely seeing more customers, and people are buying,” he said.

One particular brand is as popular as ever at Mullen Motors, he said.

“Our bread and butter here is Jeep,” he said. “Jeep is a four-letter word that’s like gold. Everybody loves them. And we have a new mid-size Jeep Liberty that is getting great reviews, and people really like it.”

R1226_BIZ_Goerler_C.jpgWINE COUNTRY
Ron Goerler, owner
Jamesport Vineyards

This summer’s dry, hot weather was a boon for the North Fork’s brimming wine industry, both in attracting tourists and in providing ideal conditions for a healthy grape harvest.

“In the vineyard, we had above-average growth and a long growing season,” said Mr. Goerler, who is also president of the Long Island Wine Council. “It was one of those harvests you hope you can have every year. From a retail standpoint, tourism was up. We definitely saw an increase in sales because of that. We had beautiful weekends, which kept the people [coming] out. I wish all years could be as good as this one was.”