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

07/22/13 5:10pm
07/22/2013 5:10 PM
Pickersgill in Riverhead

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

Robert James Salon owner Ray Pickersgill was re-elected to a fourth term as president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association last Wednesday, but it didn’t come without a challenge.

Architect Martin Sendlewski, who had been BIDMA vice president, threw his hat in the ring for president at the annual meeting last Wednesday at Town Hall, but he said he thinks Mr. Pickersgill has done a “fantastic job” as president for the past four years and has no complaints about him.

“We’ve all been pretty much in the same spots for three years,” Mr. Sendlewski said last Wednesday. “Maybe it’s about time to change things around, to keep things fresh.”
He said other organizations he’s involved with do this.

But Mr. Pickersgill said he still wants to be president.

“I think we’ve done a good job for the past three years,” he said, citing a number of grants he’s gotten for downtown Riverhead projects as well as the events the BID has sponsored to bring thousands of people downtown.

Mr. Sendlewski said he’d have gotten the BID involved with a number of projects had he become president, such as setting up information kiosks and getting an office and secretary for the organization.

Mr. Pickersgill said he opposes having an office and a secretary, which the BID used to have, because of the cost. But he feels Mr. Sendlewski can still work on the kiosks, even though he wasn’t voted president.

Voting was done by paper ballot among BIDMA members, with ballots containing each board member’s vote for president, vice president, secretary and treasurer all on one sheet of paper.

For president, Mr. Pickersgill received eight votes and Mr. Sendlewski four, according to BIDMA secretary Carolyn London. Bill Allan of Minuteman Press defeated Mr. Sendlewski for vice president, 6 to 3, and Ms. London and Ed Densieski were re-elected as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

Mr. Densieski said Mr. Sendlewski is his first cousin, but he still voted for Mr. Pickersgill.

“His effort is unbelievable,” Mr. Densieski said.

The BID also decided to investigate the way it elects board members, after this year’s vote had to be held over a week. Initially, fewer than the required 10 property owners showed up to vote and results could not be finalized until the minimum number of votes had been procured.

Elected unopposed this year to two-year terms on the BIDMA were Ms. London, of J. Sauer Opticians, Ray Dickhoff of Summerwind Square, builder Phil Hancock, Larry Oxman of East End Commercial Real Estate, Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos and Steve Shauger, general manager of the Hyatt Place hotel.

“We should address this so we don’t have a problem every year,” Mr. Pickersgill said. Officials say the bylaws allow them to do away with balloting if an election is unopposed.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/11/13 8:00am
07/11/2013 8:00 AM
Pickersgill in Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Current BID management association president Ray Pickersgill conducts business on his phone in downtown Riverhead in 2011.

The winners of the Riverhead Business Improvement District management association’s elections Tuesday night are, well, we don’t know yet.

The BID’s annual meeting Tuesday, at which the vote for board members is taken, lacked a quorum of downtown voting property owners, and thus, could not be closed, according to Larry Oxman, who heads the BID management  association’s election committee.

In order for the vote to be official, he said, there needed to be 10 voters representing property owners in the business district and 10 representing tenants. The vote is a paper ballot done at the meeting, and voters must fill out a form indicating if they are property owners within the BID, or tenants.

The BID is a taxing jurisdiction comprising the downtown area that aims to foster downtown revitalization and economic development through events, promotions and even capital projects.

Tuesday’s elections saw 11 tenants vote, but only 8 property owners.

As a result, the annual meeting, and the vote, was adjourned to next Wednesday night, Mr. Oxman said.

The BID’s bylaws allow the management association members to adjourn the meeting and pick up where they left off at a future meeting, which would be the regularly scheduled BID meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall on Wednesday, July 17.

At what point the annual meeting stops and the regular meeting begins still needs to be researched, Mr. Oxman said.

“This is the first time this has happened, so we’re kind of in unchartered territory,” he said. “Do we just vote until there’s a quorum? Or do we go to a certain time? I don’t know. But it’s important that procedure is followed and people are given an opportunity to vote.”

The six candidates on the ballot for the six two-year terms Tuesday were Caroline London of J. Sauer Opticians; Ray Dickhoff of Summerwind Square; and builder Phil Hancock, all running to represent property owners, and Mr. Oxman of East End Commercial Real Estate; Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos; and Steve Shauger, general manager of the Hyatt Place hotel, representing tenants.

Mr. Oxman said Michael Mann of 73MAIN, a boutique store in downtown, had expressed interest in running as a tenant as a write-in candidate.

Once the voting is completed, and the composition of the board is determined, the full board will then vote on a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary.

Those positions are currently held by Ray Pickersgill, Martin Sendlewski, Ed Densieski and Ms. London, respectively.

Mr. Pickersgill said he plans to run for a fourth year as BID management association president.

The other members of the BID management committee’s 13-person board are Mr. Pickersgill of Robert James Salon, Bill Allan of Minutemen Press, Liz Strebel of Riverhead Grill and Diner, and Bob Barauskas of Suffolk County Historical Society, all of whom were elected last year.

Three other members, Mr Densieski, Mr. Sendlewski and Isabelle Gonzalez, were appointed by the Riverhead Town Board.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/08/13 6:00am
07/08/2013 6:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos (left) with fundraiser organizer and owner of the Riverhead Project restaurant, Dennis McDermott, on Sunday.

On a weekend typically reserved for fireworks and family gatherings, restaurant owners are usually hunkered down at their businesses, trying to make the most of the busy summer holiday.

But this particular holiday weekend, Riverhead proprietors put their own livelihoods, and competition, aside for an afternoon to support one of their own.

Friends and fellow downtown restaurant owners banded together Sunday for the first of many fundraisers to help Athens Grill rebuild after it was destroyed in a fire a little more than a week ago.

The barbecue lunch, called “Rebuild Athens,” at The Riverhead Project restaurant saw dozens show up in support for Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos and his family. Trays of food were donated from neighboring eateries, including Blue Duck Bakery, Digger O’Dell’s, Meeting House Creek Inn, Crooked Ladder, Cody’s BBQ and Grill and many more.

“It’s like the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when everybody comes together,” event organizer and Riverhead Project owner, Dennis McDermott, said of the event. Guests were not asked to pay for a meal, however nearly all donated for Athens Grill’s reconstruction efforts.

“It’s not even about the money; it’s to show John that we are here for him,” Mr. McDermott said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The interior of the Athens Grill days after the fire.

“I was actually surprised so many came together,” Mr. Mantzopoulos said. “Riverhead has really shown me good faith.”

In 2004, Mr. Mantzopoulos took ownership of Athens Grill, expanding and upgrading the former gyro joint into an elegant, Greek restaurant. For almost 10 years he has been a part of Riverhead’s downtown revitalization efforts and currently serves on downtown Riverhead’s Business Improvement District’s board of the directors.

“John would always help anybody and now it’s his turn,” said Ray Pickersgill, the BID president, adding the outpouring of compassion is characteristic of the downtown business community. “They are all in competition, but they are all members of the business district.

“People here like to help others when they’re down.”

Mr. Mantzopoulos said he was relieved no one was injured by the fire, and that he is looking forward to re-opening.

“It’s too early to say what color the walls will be, but we will rebuild,” he told the crowd Sunday. “Hopefully in six months from now I’ll see you back at my tables.”

cmurray@timesreview.com

07/05/13 11:59am
Riverfront Riverhead

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Children and families alike took to the riverfront Thursday.

Hundreds packed downtown Riverhead’s riverfront parking lot along the Peconic River July 4 for a concert and fireworks show.

The annual event, hosted by the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District, featured Grammy award-nominated family musician Brady Rymer.

The firework show later lit up the night.

Before the riverfront festivities, The Suffolk Theater hosted a free show with food and live music downtown.

“FREEdom Fest” featured the band GI Jivester and ran from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.