I have had the pleasure of being a town resident for the past 33 years. I attended and graduated from the Riverhead school system and have owned a business for the past 12 years. There are a few experiences I would like my son to enjoy that I was able to have growing up. Among those is walking down Main Street and having breakfast at “Poppa Nick’s.”
Actually being able to do Christmas shopping — all of it — downtown and not at a 65,000-square-foot super store that has Christmas trees on display in October! Enjoying the Polish Fair with classmates and not worrying about crackheads, gang members or sex offenders at each corner. Quality of life is very important. In my business, and many others, bigger is not always better; it’s the quality of what you offer not the quantity that separates you from the rest.
There is no need for three sporting goods stores, four grocery stores, countless “big box” stores, two home improvement warehouses, three super sized wholesale clubs and seven pharmacies within a three-mile stretch of road. Oh yeah, and lets not forget Tanger Outlets. (Everything but a cinema, which would be great.)
My point is that growing up here was possible and very enjoyable without every major brand chain store breaking ground and taking up what little space we have left. Our elected officials should have a long-term view of quality additions to our town, not short-term, low wage, non-community-based or -supported projects.
If even a quarter of the amount of effort that is being spent on finding the magic plan for EPCAL was focused on Main Street and the surrounding area, Riverhead would be a true destination for people to live in, start and grow businesses — and not just visit for its “retail” stores. When I tell friends from upstate that I live on Long Island, they think it is going to look like Nassau County when they visit. Let’s make sure that we don’t let that happen.