10/01/17 5:58am
10/01/2017 5:58 AM

When I first spent summers on Shelter Island, in the 1970s, a favorite rainy-day excursion was a trip to Greenport to shop at the Arcade. If we needed beach toys, 100 percent cotton socks or sheets for the extra guest, we knew where to go. European visitors delighted in the novelty of finding measuring cups in ounces rather than grams. The store’s aura — its creaky wooden floors and leathery smell — was as welcoming as its inventory.


07/15/12 1:00pm
07/15/2012 1:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Greenport High School graduate David Akcay is the new owner of the Arcade department store.

A Greenport High School graduate has made it his mission to bring the Arcade, Greenport’s iconic department store, back to its former glory.

David Akcay, 26, has taken over the old-timey shop — which moved to its current location on Front Street in 1928 after opening on Main Street in 1898 — and said he’s up to the challenge of battling Riverhead’s mega-discount shopping centers.

Mr. Akcay said he first thought about purchasing the Arcade a few years ago when he attempted to visit the store, but found it closed.

“As a kid, I loved coming here,” Mr. Akcay said of the store. “I decided I should try to keep it going.”

East Marion resident Bob Paquette, who had owned Arcade for about 15 years, said he decided to sell the business because he felt he could no longer go up against Walmart, Target and other large corporate stores.

Mr. Paquette closed the Arcade in 2010 and reopened a year later as One-Eyed Bob’s Clearance Center & Discount Emporium, but ultimately put the store up for sale.

Mr. Akcay said he knew Mr. Paquette because they both worked as downtown Greenport bartenders. Mr. Akcay worked at the former Farmhouse restaurant and Mr. Paquette is still bartending at the Rhumbline, which is in the process of reopening.

“I personally think it hasn’t worked since 2008 when the market changed,” Mr. Paquette said. “I want him to succeed … He’ll have to do something different that I wasn’t doing, but I don’t know what that is.”

What’s different, Mr. Akcay said, is that he believes the community has become more supportive of small businesses and is tired of having to drive 40 minutes each way to do their shopping.

They have also become more conservative when driving due to rising fuel costs, he said.

“If you need a pillow, you won’t have to go to Riverhead anymore,” Mr. Akcay said.

While Arcade currently features summer essentials — such as sunblock, towels, beach chairs and water toys — Mr. Akcay said his stationery section has been popular with local business owners looking for copy paper, pens and staplers.

He said he has no plans to change the store’s name or sign. Its wide-plank floors and “old-school, five-and-dime variety store” feel are also keepers, he said.

“We both talked about how we can make this work,” Mr. Akcay said, describing his business discussions with Mr. Paquette as casual with a handshake.

Mr. Akcay, whose mother has owned the JB Liquor Store on South Street in Greenport since the ’90s, said he’s slowly but surely stocking the nearly 10,000-square foot store, aisle by aisle.

He hadn’t planned to open until the shop was fully stocked, but decided to hold a soft opening so he wouldn’t miss the summer season.

After rumor spread throughout the village that Arcade was back in business, Mr. Akcay said hundreds of people have thanked him.

“It almost brought me to tears,” he said. “I plan to keep it going as long as I can.”

[email protected]

10/27/10 6:50pm
10/27/2010 6:50 PM

JUDY AHRENS FILE PHOTO Two years ago, Bob Paquette put the Arcade Department Store in Greenport up for sale, but there were no takers. Now he’s closing the doors in January for a renovation and says he plans to reopen in April, but it won’t be the same Arcade as it has been for decades.

Say goodbye to the Arcade Department Store as you know it.
Owner Bob Paquette isn’t leaving Greenport, but he’ll be selling out his inventory between now and the end of the year and closing as of Jan. 1. He plans to reopen in April, but the store will be more arcade and less department store in its new incarnation.
“I can’t compete with Riverhead,” Mr. Paquette said, referring to the big-box stores he acknowledged can sell goods for less than he can. Mr. Paquette has owned the business, which opened in its current location in 1928, for 14 years. The Arcade originally opened on Main Street in 1898.
According to Mr. Paquette, one of his suppliers described himself as “a dinosaur serving a dinosaur,” and other suppliers don’t see enough business from him to keep Mr. Paquette as a customer when they can walk away from Riverhead box stores with large orders.
What’s missing in Greenport is a place for parents to hold kids’ birthday parties, he said. So he’s looking at adding arcade games and activities for young children in much of the space and devoting only a small part of the store to retail.
Fodor’s travel guide described the Arcade as “an old-time emporium with wide-plank floors” and said it “carries a little bit of everything, including boots, buttons and North Fork necessities like lobster crackers.” An online review said, “The Arcade Department Store has everything,” describing the array of goods from clothing, shoes, underwear and household goods to light bulbs, hardware, handicrafts and toys.
Mr. Paquette has struggled for years to make a go of the business, reinventing the store to try to meet changing needs. When there was an increase in second-home owners, he tried to provide their household needs.
Last year, he tried renting space to various retailers, but that proved more bother than it was worth, he said. Going forward, he sees his retail business concentrating mostly on summer seasonal needs such as beachwear, he said.
As late as 2008, the Arcade got the designation from Dan’s Papers as the East End’s Best General Store. But making it work financially has been a challenge, Mr. Paquette said. The staff that once numbered 22 is down to eight and he expects to have jobs for those eight in the spring.
“But it’s been a tourist town” in recent years and that’s the niche he’ll try to fill with his new business.
Instead of continuing as one of the few businesses operating in downtown Greenport during the winter, he’ll close in January and begin clearing out the store and converting it for an April opening, he said.
“It’s an empty town during the winter,” he said. Several of the businesses that once operated during the winter are now gone, he said.
“I have too big a barn to keep it as it is,” he said. “I’m more of a museum. I’ll try to do something with it while I still can,” he said.
[email protected]