Former Rothman’s site in Southold seen as downtown hub

The original Rothman’s Department Store building in Southold, which was recently sold, is set to be restored as central location for locals and visitors to congregate.

After selling the building in December, Ron Rothman moved the store, which turns 100 this year, to an adjacent building. The original space was in disrepair, he said. The relocated department store is still in full swing, with “stuff for sale,” as a window sign notes.

“Having so much respect for its 100-year history and knowing how much of Southold’s past this building has been part of, we’ve made it our mission to ensure that it is ready to play a vital role in the next 100 years,” said Jonathan Tibett of Southold, who now co-owns the building with builder Glenn Heidtmann Jr. “We’re really re-purposing the building with an eye on the needs of the community as it stands today, while remaining rooted in its cultural past. We see this as a space for connecting and gathering, anchored by a square just outside.”

The revitalized spot will be known as Einstein Square, honoring original owner David Rothman’s friendship with acclaimed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, who stopped by the store one summer for a pair of sandals.

The new owners will be seeking tenants for both the commercial space and the residential space attached to the building.

“What we’re trying to achieve is [that] someone walking by doesn’t keep walking, someone driving by doesn’t keep driving. They stop and they look and they enter,” Mr. Heidtmann said Monday. People would be able to walk by, stop in a store, then relax and enjoy the square, he said.

Mr. Heidtmann acknowledged a need for more central places in town for people to gather and to generate foot traffic for businesses in Southold.

“We don’t want anyone to be intimidated,” he continued, noting that the plan is to create a space for both locals and visitors. “It needs to be for everyone, both people who have been here a long time and the new people.”

Mr. Heidtmann said he hopes it will be the first of other similar projects around town.

The plan also has the blessing of Mr. Rothman, who earlier this month said the selling point is that it could “re-establish” and “bring continuity” to downtown Southold.

“It is going to be a gem of Southold,” said Mr. Rothman, adding that the sale of the old department store building came with a “whirlwind of emotion.”

Photo caption: The new owners of the former Rothman’s retail space in Southold shared a rendering of ‘Eistein Square,’ which would be complete with a bust of the famed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

[email protected]