04/21/13 8:00am
04/21/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Contractor Matthew Forrest bought this home in Polsih Town last December.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Matthew Forrest bought this home in Polish Town last December.

Veteran homebuilder Matthew Forrest has been constructing new houses for investors for nearly a decade but recently decided to try his hand at buying a two-story fixer-upper in Polish Town.

Months into the job, he’s torn the interior walls apart, rooted out an unpleasant surprise and is still several weeks away from completion. The 30-year-old Hampton Bays native agreed to share his thoughts on the process with others looking to fix up an old house, whether they plan to flip it or live in it.

Q: How did you find this house on Marcy Avenue?

A: My real estate agent originally [showed it to me]. I saw the potential. I kind of knew in the long run it would be worth it to me. The good thing about it was that it fit my budget [$135,000]. The house is a decent layout. You get a husband and wife with a couple of children and they can make this a cozy home. And it’s in a nice neighborhood. The staircase in the middle of the house — it is what it is. It’s strange but you work with it.

Q: You knew this house needed work when you purchased it last December. Have you encountered any unsavory surprises?

A: These floors were just stained with [dog] urine marks. It was so bad that right here, in the ceiling, there was like a watermark in the sheetrock. It wasn’t water. So when that happened it leaked down and came inside this wall and when I took the sheetrock off it was stained, with streaks coming down the side of it. I had no idea when I bought the house. The urine was under the sills of the walls. There was no getting it without going to the root.

Q: None of the reports you got about the house showed the problem?

A: You can prepare to an extent, but there’s an extent to which you really can’t prepare. With the engineer’s report, we were unable to see that there was a urine infestation.

Q: That sounds like a pretty big hassle.

A: [It’s] one of the risks you assume, but you also have to keep your eyes on the long term and the opportunities that owning a house gives you as to borrowing power, building equity, rental income. You need to be able to see the big picture and not just the front line but the back line. That’s really where I’m keeping my focus.

Q: What are some things homebuyers should be looking out for if they’re searching for a good fixer-upper?

A: For me the biggest thing has definitely been the neighborhood. The two factors that came into play were the neighborhood and the layout of the house … That’s a really special factor for me, having a neighborhood that’s homey.

Q: Fixing up a house is a big undertaking. Would you recommend this as something people should look into?

A: I would suggest anybody, especially now, especially younger people, get into owning their first home at a young age. Just go out and make offers. I have a couple of friends, investors that we build for, they’re just always making offers. They consistently have five offers on the table … Start the process. Speak to a mortgage broker, speak to a bank and see what you’re going to need. You’re not paying the rent, you’re not paying someone else’s mortgage, you’re paying your mortgage. And especially now with the [mortgage] rates, it’s crazy.

psquire@timesreview.com

03/23/13 12:00pm
03/23/2013 12:00 PM
Doc's Taven plans scuttled

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The person leasing Doc’s Tavern (La Isla Bar & Grill) is in arrears on both the rent and taxes, according to a sign papered on the building.

The group trying to reopen the former Doc’s Tavern in Polish Town as a Mexican restaurant is more than $100,000 in arrears on various payments, according to a notice on the door of the building.

A Brentwood company headed by Delmis and Fausto Reyes had received an extension last year on a commercial alteration permit for the building. They also received a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority that runs through Oct. 31, 2013, and had erected a new sign, calling the business La Isla Bar and Grill.

But a notice posted on the door Jan. 23 says their company owes $119,000 — comprising unpaid rent, property taxes and insurance — to Roy Schoenhaar of Cutchogue, who owns the building under the corporate name Mile High, Inc.

Neither Mr. Schoenhaar nor his attorneys, Goggins and Palumbo of Mattituck, returned calls seeking comment.

“I gave up the business, that’s all I can say,” Delmis Reyes told a reporter Monday. “I saw the comments of the people there. I am truly unhappy about that kind of thing,” she said, referring to online comments posted on riverheadnewsreview.com and Facebook last year, when the News-Review wrote about the proposed Mexican restaurant.

Many of the comments were anti-immigrant.

Doc’s Tavern had been a staple in Polish Town for more than 50 years, but has been closed for the past seven years or so.

It had been renovated following a fire about eight years ago and briefly reopened, but then closed again for good.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/30/13 8:00am
01/30/2013 8:00 AM

Moustache

The Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which plans to open soon next to West Main Street’s Digger O’Dell’s pub, may not be the new kid on the block for very long.

Moustache Brewing Company, the brainchild of Central Islip couple Matt and Lauri Spitz, went from a pipe — or rather, barrel — dream to a dream all but realized after a successful kick-starter campaign brought in more than $30,000 in startup capital this past spring, the owners said.

“We’re excited and of course a bit nervous because this is all brand-new territory for us” said Matt Spitz, whose moustache matches the company’s handle-barred logo. “We plan to start small with a one-barrel brew system and build things up over the next few years, as far as the volume of our production goes.”

This is the couple’s first business venture. Mr. Spitz is a musician who plays bass guitar in a reggae band. Ms. Spitz is a health information manager for a medical practice.

Moustache Brewing has leased a commercial building on Hallett Street in Polish Town, which they plan to use mostly for production. Mr. Spitz isn’t expecting a lot of walk-in traffic.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO  |  Co-owner Mike Spitz stands in front of the future site of Moustache Brewery in Riverhead's Polish Town on Tuesday afternoon.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Co-owner Matt Spitz stands in front of the future site of Moustache Brewery in Riverhead’s Polish Town on Tuesday afternoon.

“There won’t be a bar or a fancy tasting room,” he said. “We’ll just have some taps on the wall where people can get samples or growlers and go.”

Lauri Spitz said signing the lease on Saturday brought an exhausting search to an end.

“We’ve been looking for a place since June of last year,” she said. “So it’s really exciting to have found a home.”

The Spitzes, who have been married for over five years and home-brewing for eight, originally wanted to build their brewery in Nassau County, which Mr. Spitz said currently has only one brewery. He cited Riverhead Town’s enthusiasm for their proposed venture as a reason for landing on the North Fork.

“They were one of the only towns to welcome us with open arms,” said Mr. Spitz. “A lot of the towns we talked to weren’t sure what to do with a brewery, but the town of Riverhead has been great.”

Riverhead’s first brewery, the Long Ireland Beer Company, not only welcomes the new business but has also helped the first-time entrepreneurs.

“When we heard they were considering coming to Riverhead we directed them to a few possible locations,” said Greg Martin, Long Ireland co-owner. “We don’t see them as competition. We want Riverhead to become a destination for craft beer. Look at the wineries. People will come out here and hit multiple wineries during their visits.”

The addition of Moustache Brewery will bring the number of breweries in a half-mile radius to three.

“There’s us and Long Ireland, and then Digger’s and Crooked Ladder are on their way to building a brew pub,” said Mr. Spitz. “It’s going to be fantastic.”

The owners hope the new brewery will open by the end of this summer.

“That would be optimal,” he said.

gvolpe@timesreview.com

12/15/12 10:24am
12/15/2012 10:24 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Carolers make their way through Polish Town Friday evening.

The tradition of Caroling in Polish Town, which was first started in the the 1970s and continued for a decade, took on a new life Friday evening with some of the founding members and new blood aboard a flatbed pulled by a tractor, with Thomas Najdzion of Riverhead at the wheel.

They traveled around the streets of Polish Town for about an hour bringing holiday cheer to the neighborhood.

The Polish Town Civic Association stalwarts who led the charge to revive the event were Kay Davis, Claire LaTour, Barbara Szczepanik and chair Marianne Turbish.

The first runner-up in the Polish Town Queen contest of 2012, Nicole Mielnicki of Aquebogue, was the featured guest on the holiday float, which was decorated with Christmas lights and a tree and a boom box playing Christmas songs that they sang along with.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Carolers and Santa.

09/13/12 8:59pm
09/13/2012 8:59 PM

A brawl between two men in Polish Town ended with one man pulling out a .32 caliber handgun and firing at the other, with the alleged shooter getting arrested a short time later at his Flanders house, Riverhead Town police said.

Police were responding to a menacing call about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at 500 Lincoln Avenue when they came upon the aftermath of a “physical altercation” between William Kowalksi, 27, of Riverhead and 50-year-old Joseph Smith of Flanders, authorities said.

Mr. Smith had fled the scene by the time police arrived.

Mr. Kowalksi told the officers he and the other man were fighting when Mr. Smith pulled out the handgun and fired a shot off, police said.

No one was struck by the bullet.

Riverhead police then contacted Southampton Town police, who located and arrested Mr. Smith shortly thereafter at his Oak Avenue home in Flanders.

Mr. Smith was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal possession and was being held on $75,000 bail.


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08/19/12 1:52pm
08/19/2012 1:52 PM

The Polish Town Civic Association food stall was a buzz of activity Sunday afternoon as a crowd gathered along Pulaski Street.

“I need another two orders of pierogies and sour cream!” shouts Lisa Mielnicki from the front of the tent. A few feet away, the volunteers quickly toss the traditional dumplings into a paper container. Before they can catch their breath, another order.

“Another sandwich with kraut!” yells Ms. Mielnicki, and the half-dozen cooks get back to work.

For Lisa, Tom, Gianna, Ariana and Nicole Mielnicki, and Mike Frare and Scott Szczepanik, this has been their Polish Town Fair for years. And these kings and queens of kielbasa would have it no other way.

“It’s the one thing you look forward to each summer,” Ariana Mielnicki said. “You count down the days until the Polish Town Fair.”

See the team in action below as they prepare sandwiches from the 2,300 pounds of kielbasa ordered for the fair.

Read more about the making of kielbasa and pierogies in this week’s News-Review.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTOS | Mike Frare of Center Moriches, who has been volunteering at the Polish Town Fair for the past seven years, serves up the fair’s signature dish — a kielbasa sandwich.

Polish Town Queen First Runnerup Nicole Mielnicki and her sister Ariana prepare some pierogies at the tent on Griffing Avenue and Pulaski Street.

Scott Szczepanik puts the pierogies on the grill at Sunday’s Polish Town Fair. The traditional Polish dumplings are first boiled in water before being thrown on the griddle to give them a little extra crispiness.

Tom Mielnicki (back left) coordinates the food for the Polish Town Fair, and has had family and friends help sell pierogies and kielbasa at the stand for the past three years.

Tom Mielnicki, a Riverhead resident, says he volunteers at the fair each year because of the community. “It’s one of the last things that is actually ‘hometown,’” he said of the fair.

Preperations for the food tents begins the Monday before the fair; volunteers sometimes spend 8-to-12-hour days prepping for the annual event.

Mr. Mielnicki says the fair’s organizers bought 2,300 pounds of kielbasa, all special ordered, for the two-day festival.

08/16/12 6:00am
08/16/2012 6:00 AM

SUFFOLK TIMES ARCHIVES | Revelers sing and dance at the first-ever Polish Town Fair in 1975.

“There was dancing in the streets, in the rain and in the puddles.”

That was the lead sentence in our August 1975 story on the very first Polish Town Fair. It was estimated that “thousands” flocked to Pulaski Street that rainy day, downing plate after plate of kielbasa, pierogies and golabki. Many purchased T-shirts that read “Poland” and “Polish Power.”

“Even the Italians and the Englishmen were swaying about and tapping their feet to the polka music which came vibrating through loudspeakers,” we wrote.

The fair, which has for 38 years held its claim as one of the most fun-filled events of summer in Riverhead, returns again this weekend. Tens of thousands more people will come out to celebrate.

So how did the Polish Town Fair come about?

The fair was born in 1975 as a way for the Polish Town Civic Association to raise funds, according to the organization’s website. Some folks suggested a parade. Others called for a polka ball. One idea shone brighter than the rest: “We’ll have a street fair,” the website quotes one unidentified member as suggesting. “Like the ones they have in Poland. It will be a true Polish event.”

That year’s one-day festival, held on Aug. 16, was directed by Al Barbanel, who served as chairman of the fair committee. The date was chosen to coincide with the feast day of the Assumption of Mary — a holiday celebrated by Catholics in Poland and other countries to honor the day the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven following her death.

Only 50 booths were set up for the inaugural Polish Town Fair. We estimated in our coverage that had organizers set up seven more booths serving Polish pastries that year, those would have sold out, too.

But fair organizers weren’t caught by surprise in 1975.

Former Riverhead tax receiver Irene Pendzick, who helped organize the first event, warned the Town Board a few weeks before the fair that it was growing into something bigger than they’d imagined.

“At first we didn’t plan a major event,” she told the board. “But it’s turning out to look like quite a fair.”

It was. It still is.

Our very first Polish Town Fair story ended with a hopeful wish from the author. It’s something many local folks have repeated in the years since.

“Here’s hoping for a sunny Polish Festival next year,” she wrote. “And more great eats.”

07/17/12 11:00am
07/17/2012 11:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Firefighters made quick work of a car fire south of Pulaski Street in Polish Town early Tuesday morning.

Riverhead firefighters quickly put out a small blaze that engulfed a sedan behind a Polish Town home early Tuesday morning.

No one was was hurt during the fire, officials said.

The fire department received the call for a vehicle fire on Hamilton Avenue at 3:32 a.m. The first fire chiefs arrived on the scene two minutes later.

A fire department volunteer at the scene said the car, which was parked behind a residence south of Pulaski Street was “flaming up pretty good” when firefighters first got to the scene. Firefighters had the fire under control by 4 a.m. while Riverhead police officers blocked off the road between Pulaski and Lincoln Streets.

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Riverhead Fire Department chief Anthony White said the car was unoccupied when the fire started, adding that the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

psquire@timesreview.com