In May 2015, Juanita Devlin closed Fisherman’s Deli, a West Main Street staple since 1981. But in just a few weeks, the store will reopen under new ownership with a renewed focus on serving the East End’s fishermen and hunters.
Owners Tom Newman and John Looney said their shop, Baits & Barrels, won’t contain a deli. Instead, Mr. Newman said, “It’s really to fulfill the needs of the fisherman, the hunter, the sportsman out here.”
He added that the store’s smaller dimensions are a draw compared to other local options.
“Eastern Long Island has access to the fishing and hunting that the other towns kind of lack,” Mr. Looney agreed. “The town has a lot of big-box stores, so we’re excited about going the extra mile with the customers.”
The store, which is undergoing interior and exterior renovations, will contain remnants of Fisherman’s Deli, like pieces of its outdoor sign, its cash register and the handwritten signs listing different types of bait. Mr. Newman said they plan to offer the same bait and tackles as the former shop.
“Everyone’s been asking; they’ve been saying they hope the new owners do a similar thing,” he said. “So that’s what we’re doing.”
One addition is the sale of firearms and ammunition. The men are also in the process of restoring the boating docks behind the building so that people can rent boats, Mr. Newman said. Department of Environmental Conservation approval is needed before the docks can open, so they won’t be ready in time for the store’s opening, which has no official date.
In an effort to be more accessible to their customers, who often hit the water before the store even opens, a small room located off the rear of the building contains pre-ordered bait. Anyone who places an order will receive a code to the locked door to pick up their purchase, which they can pay for by dropping money through a slot in the wall.
The owners also plan to use the building’s basement to expand their firearms offerings, creating a workspace for an in-house gunsmith and gun-cleaning machine.
“It’s some things other people don’t have,” Mr. Newman said.
The owners are both certified safety trainers, Mr. Newman said. So is their friend Tony Vecchio, who will be a store employee. He added that Mr. Vecchio is a Southampton police officer and that Mr. Looney served in the U.S. Marines.
The owners’ goal is to help instruct customers on the correct uses of their products by offering training and safety classes.
“We’re trying to provide some training for what people are looking to get, whether it’s firearm training or fly fishing type courses, and we want to educate people,” Mr. Looney said. “Hunting and fishing is not a dying breed on Long Island, but it’s definitely a smaller market than when we were growing up. When we were younger, it was always a good thing. Now some people try and spin it like it’s not so much a good thing, and we want to try getting the young guys back into it.”
Mr. Newman, a real estate agent, said he was originally looking for a larger, more generic “brick and mortar” space, but once he and Mr. Looney toured the West Main Street building they knew it was the perfect location.
“It’s an up-and-coming area but still has got that hometown feel,” Mr. Looney said of Riverhead. “I was born and raised in Setauket and it was always nice get in the car and drive east. There’s a nice little hometown feel on Main Street.”
Photo caption: Parts of the sign for the former Fisherman’s Deli will remain when the shop opens as Baits & Barrels. (Credit: Nicole Smith)