02/19/14 4:00pm
Pickersgill in Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | BID management association president Ray Pickersgill in downtown Riverhead.

The Riverhead Town Board is planning to vote at its meeting tonight to petition the Business Improvement District Management Association to hire its current president, Robert James Salon co-owner Ray Pickersgill, as executive director, for a salary of no more than $6,000 for 2104.

Supervisor Sean Walter says he proposed the measure in light of how much time Mr. Pickersgill — currently serving as the BIDMA president — has put into revitalizing downtown during his four years as BID president, which is an unsalaried position.

Mr. Walter said the money would come from the BID’s $96,500 budget, which the Town Board is also voting to approve tonight. He believes there is enough money in that budget — up from last year’s $81,600 budget — to fund the position.

“Ray has done so much work for the BID at the expense of his own business, and there’s money in the BID that would allow this,” Mr. Walter said. ”I think it’s time for the Town Board to recognize his sacrifice with more than just a proclamation.”

The supervisor said Mr. Pickersgill’s efforts as BIDMA president have brought thousands of people to downtown Riverhead through events like the recent indoor Farmers Market, the weekly Cruise Night car shows in the summer, and the annual cardboard boat races.

The Town Board is officially the governing body of the BID, but the seven-member BID management association runs the day-to-day business of the BID.

Mr. Pickersgill, who would have to give up his BIDMA seat, was uncertain whether he wants to keep that seat or take the executive director post, which is not a voting position. The BIDMA would also have to vote to create the position.

“I have mixed emotions,” Mr. Pickersgill said in an interview. “If I’m not the president, will I still have the control I have now to get things done?”

He said he wanted to talk to the executive director of the BID in Patchogue to gauge his experiences.

The BID has had a paid executive director in the past, but currently has no paid staff. Mr. Pickersgill said the board saved about $30,000 a few years ago by eliminating its secretary and its office, but he said he took up some of those responsibilities himself.

The BID is a taxing district comprised of 322 properties in the downtown Riverhead area. Its functions include capital improvements, holding events and trying to bring people to the downtown area.

01/18/14 6:00pm
01/18/2014 6:00 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | An indoor farmers market will start Feb. 1 inside the former Swezey’s building in downtown Riverhead.

An indoor farmers market appears headed for downtown Riverhead next month.

Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, said a number of farmers have already committed to the market, which is slated to be in the former Swezey’s building on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 16 weeks.

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to formally give its approval Wednesday. The BID Management Association gave its approval last Wednesday.

Mr. Pickersgill suggested the farmers market is a better value that Trader Joe’s, the popular health food store that some residents have been trying to attract to Riverhead.

“We have such a diversity of farmers. If you go to Trader Joe’s, you’re not going to find some of the stuff we have,” Mr. Pickersgill said in an interview. “We have a meat guy, we have an oyster guy, we have yogurt people, we have a guy who makes empanadas. We have everything covered. We actually have more vendors than we have room for.”

He said he’s hoping that if the market takes off, it can be expanded to more days or possibly year-round, since some farmers don’t have farmstands.

The target date to open is Feb. 1.

The eastern half of the Swezey’s building is owned by Riverhead Enterprises, which owns several buildings downtown, and the BID will lease the building from them for $3,000 for the 16 days. (The western, and main, half of the former Swezey’s store is owned by someone else.)

Many of the markets committed to joining in Riverhead used to participate in a farmers market in Sag Harbor, which isn’t taking place this year.

“Generally, there is an indoor winter farmers market somewhere on the End End, that ends before Memorial Day, when all of the outdoor markets open,” said Chris Kempner, who heads the town’s Community Development office.

Ms. Kempner said she spoke with Holly Browder of Browder’s Birds, a poultry farmer from Mattituck who had participated in the Sag Harbor market, and the idea came up to have one in downtown Riverhead.

“There’s considerable interest from all the vendors that participate,” Ms. Kempner said at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

She said Mr. Pickersgill suggested it be in one of the downtown buildings, and he began speaking with Riverhead Enterpise about 117 East Main, she said.

“I think it fits in with the whole East End tourism goal of promoting tourism past November,” Ms. Browder told the Town Board Thursday. “A lot of us small farmers need to make money year-round.”

She said many small farmers on the East End are committed to working year-round.

Vendors will pay a fee of either $150 for the full 16 weeks, $100 for 10 weeks or $25 per week to participate.

The Riverhead Farmers Market, as it’s being called, already has a Facebook site up, and that site had more than 440 “likes” in two days.

“We had the first meeting about this last Wednesday (Jan. 8) and it kind of took off like a freight train,” Ms. Kempner told the Town Board Thursday.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/15/14 8:42pm
01/15/2014 8:42 PM
Andrea storm Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Heidi Behr Way in downtown Riverhead’s riverfront park.

A proposal to have a barbecue cooking contest and blues festival along the Peconic River on Labor Day weekend got a chilly reception from the president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association Wednesday.

John Barci, who identified himself as being from Absolute Webb Advertising, is pitching a plan for a Blues, Brew Barbecue and Bacon Festival to be held in downtown Riverhead along the waterfront on Aug. 30-31.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Salon owner Ray Pickersgill (left) hears a pitch for a barbecue contest and music festival from John Barci at Wednesday night's BID management association meeting.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Salon owner Ray Pickersgill (left) hears a pitch for a barbecue contest from John Barci.

The local event would be part of the annual Empire State Barbecue Championship circuit and Mr. Barci hopes it can join with existing barbecue contests in Manorville and Brentwood to form a “triple crown” of Suffolk County barbecue contests.

The idea didn’t sit well with BID president Ray Pickersgill, who said that downtown events like the Blues Festival previously held in Riverhead don’t help businesses there.

“As a business owner, when you have a two-day event, I have to shut my business for two days,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

He said businesses that sell beer or food will be particularly angered by this proposal because it will compete with their businesses.

“I can tell you right now, they are going to scream and yell and carry on,” he said with the restaurateurs.

Mr. Pickersgill said the Riverhead Blue Festival that had been held downtown for many years was not popular with merchants there.

He suggested Mr. Barci consider a different location, like Polish Town, land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton or a large farm property like Martha Clara.

Mr. Barci said he didn’t consider other spots because he wanted to bring the festival to downtown Riverhead. He said he thought it would help businesses there.

“I think it’s a good event for Riverhead,” said BID board member Isabelle Gonzalez.

“I’ve always thought downtown events were positive,” said BID member Martin Sendlewski, who is an architect, though said he doesn’t own a restaurant or the type of business that would be effected by a big festival.

“Would you want to shut your business down and lose $3,000 a day?” Mr. Pickersgill, who owns Robert James Salon, asked.

“I’d figure out something to sell and make money off it,” Mr. Sendlewski responded.

“I tried that. It didn’t work,” Mr. Pickersgill said. He said one year he stayed open during the Country Fair and two older ladies had to walk all the way from the Suffolk County National Bank parking lot on Second Street to get their hair done at his Robert James Salon & Spa on East Main Street.

BID members advised Mr. Barci to speak with some downtown restaurant owners to get feedback from them.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/14/13 7:38pm
12/14/2013 7:38 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTOS | The Riverhead BID's 14th annual holiday bonfire was held Saturday.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTOS | The Riverhead BID’s 14th annual holiday bonfire was held Saturday.

There were two new additions to this year’s 14th annual Holiday bonfire held in downtown Riverhead Saturday night: floating fire pits and snow.

Riverhead BID president Ray Pickersgill said he believes Saturday night’s bonfire was the first time in the annual event’s history that it snowed. The BID also tested floating firepits in the Peconic River and is considering purchasing dozens more for future events, he said.

Santa arrived by boat shortly after nightfall and later settled into a gingerbread house where kids waited on line eager to tell him how good they’ve been this year.

The bonfire — sponsored by the downtown Business Improvement District’s management association, Suffolk County National Bank and Blue Duck Bakery — featured free hot chocolate with whipped cream and cookies. The event was the brainchild of former councilman Ed Densieski.

Mr. Pickergill said Saturday bonfire was dedicated to the memory of Loretta Trojanowski, who died in August.

jennifer@timesreview.com

09/21/13 7:58am
09/21/2013 7:58 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Pieceful Quilting owner Angie Veeck behind the counter of her new shop at Calverton Commons.

Just days after flooding from superstorm Sandy left her downtown Riverhead shop in ruins, Pieceful Quilting owner Angela Veeck had made up her mind.

She would head north, away from the Peconic River.

Specifically, Ms. Veeck looked to move her store to a then-empty 2,400-square-foot space in Calverton Commons on Sound Avenue.

“I am a very happy camper because every cloud has a silver lining,” Ms. Veeck said last week, when asked to describe her rebuilt life and livelihood a year after Sandy. “My new store is much nicer and, most important, it is dry.”

Special Report: Remembering the L.I. Express hurricane of 1938

That’s a significant change from last November, when Ms. Veeck’s ordeal was featured on the front page of the Riverhead News-Review.

It was about 11 months ago that Pieceful Quilting, which had been located at the southern corner of downtown Riverhead’s McDermott Avenue for 30 years, was effectively destroyed when floodwaters from Sandy reached heights of two feet and hung around the shop for 36 hours, causing black mold to grow throughout the rented space. A few employees salvaged what they could from the store.

Pieceful Quilting wasn’t the only downtown shop affected by the storm. Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District said his East Main Street store, Robert James Salon, was closed for a month after Sandy. And the Serpentine Museum, which was slated to debut this year at the site of the former Dinosaur Walk Museum, still hasn’t opened thanks to storm damage.

The museunm’s owners “had to put on a new roof,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

Ms. Veeck said last year that her flood and business insurance would not cover her damage-related expenses. Last week, she said her insurance company eventually did compensate her for about 60 percent of losses, but only for the store’s contents.

“Insurance companies are not in the business of giving out money,” she said. “They’re in the business of collecting money.”

Ms. Veeck said she was able to use some of the insurance money to purchase inventory for her new shop, which sells quilting supplies and material, but said her insurer didn’t cover the cost of moving Pieceful Quilting to Calverton.

“It was a very big expense to move into a new space and have to totally put together a new store,” she said.

“We were sad that [Pieceful Quilting] had to leave,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “Unfortunately, she didn’t have an alternative at the time, but I hope she’s doing well in her location. She contributed a lot to Main Street. Her store was very popular.”

It took Ms. Veeck just six weeks to get fully moved into the new storefront, which is located in the same plaza as Mema’s Pizza, just west of Bean & Bagel Cafe — a feat she attributes to her husband, Ken — “He’s a keeper,” she said — and her employees.

“I couldn’t have done it without my staff,” she said.

Ms. Veeck’s neighbor, Stella Johnson, also helped move contents salvaged from the Riverhead store to a trailer last November so they could be moved to the new shop.

And although it’s smaller than her old Riverhead shop, Ms. Veeck said her new Calverton location features a bright, open layout that gives the illusion of size. Business is good, she said, but she won’t know the full extent of Pieceful Quilting’s losses until sometime in November, when she can better tally year-to-year numbers.

“It will be two months before I know exactly what the implications were in terms of losses and customers,” she said. “It’s too early to tell, but I would say that we’re doing okay.”

ryoung@timesreview.com