Riverhead Dodge buys mini-golf site next to Costco

11/07/2014 6:00 AM |
Riverhead Dodge president Tony Strollo (left) with his son T.J. Strollo, vice president, and daughter Jane Millman, secretary and treasurer, at the former Out East Family Fun site on Route 58, which they recently purchased to relocate their dealership. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Dodge president Tony Strollo (left) with his son T.J. Strollo, vice president, and daughter Jane Millman, secretary and treasurer, at the former Out East Family Fun site on Route 58, which they recently purchased to relocate their dealership. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Dodge, which once billed itself as the only Riverhead car dealership not on Route 58, appears to be headed there.

Last month, the company purchased the former Out East Family Fun mini-golf and batting cage site on the western end of the busy thoroughfare, with the goal of building a new dealership there and eventually moving from West Main Street, said owner Tony Strollo.

“We’re just out of space down there,” Mr. Strollo said of his current location. “We’ve been there for 38 years.”

The building was a Dodge dealership for 20 years before he bought it, Mr. Strollo said, and had been the site of Vail Motors for 20 years before that.

Being surrounded by all the big shopping centers on Route 58 should be a draw, Mr. Strollo said, but it’s also a big change from when he started.

“When I first came to Riverhead in 1976, most of this was open fields,” he said, recalling the section of Route 58 where he plans to build.

The West Main Street site is about 1.4 acres and the current dealership is about 10,000 square feet, he said, while the Route 58 property is three acres and zoning there will allow for a 26,000 square foot dealership.

The Route 58 site also is located within the town water and sewer districts and can be connected to natural gas.

“The plan is to go full fold, build a full dealership here and, when it’s all complete, we’ll move the complete operation up here,” Mr. Strollo said. “We’ll see what we’re going to do with the old property once that happens. We may need it for storage or something like that.”

This is not the first time Mr. Strollo has contemplated relocating to Route 58. In 1999, he purchased the 5.5-acre property that now houses P.C. Richard & Son and had considered building two dealerships there.

But when he got a $6 million offer from P.C. Richard, he said, he sold the property to them and stayed put on West Main Street.

The Out East site was purchased for $3.25 million, according to county records.

Riverhead Dodge has about 21 employees, many of whom have been with the company for several years, Mr. Strollo said.

His son, T.J. Strollo, is the sales manager and his daughter, Jane Millman, oversees the service department and the office, he said.

“My father has two children in the business and we both have a love for the business,” Ms. Millman said. “It’s the progression of one generation to the next. And that’s the whole purpose of moving to Route 58.”

“This is for the kids, not me,” Mr. Strollo said. “I’m 78.”

Riverhead Dodge will first seek a use permit from the town to allow the company to store some inventory at the Route 58 site before construction, Mr. Strollo said. He anticipates filing a formal site plan application in late December, with the approval process taking six to nine months.

The site is zoned Business Center, which permits auto dealerships.

Out East Family Fun owner Ed Meier took the pitching machines when he sold the property, but the batting cages remain on the property.

“We will donate the batting cages to anyone that wants them,” Mr. Strollo said. “I would just turn them into scrap iron.”

He said the giant inflatable hippo water slide is also still on the property and he’s willing to donate that as well.

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