07/03/13 12:00pm
07/03/2013 12:00 PM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Vine & Hops Café is expected to open on East Main Street in downtown Riverhead later this summer.

A Jamesport couple plans to open a new wine, beer and coffee shop called Vines & Hops Café in downtown Riverhead next month.

Jeff McKay, a strength and conditioning coach who will be operating the 2,200 square-foot café with his wife, physical therapist Christine McKay, told the News-Review the East Main Street café will offer wine from the North Fork and California along with gourmet coffee and a variety of local craft beers.

“I’ve always wanted to get into the hospitality business and it just formulated in my head because there was nothing out here on the East End like this,” Mr. McKay said.

Artisan food prepared by the North Fork Chocolate Company including cheese platters, flatbread, chocolates and truffles will also be on the menu, which Mr. McKay said will change slightly according to season.

The space will also include couches, televisions in the “beer section,” and a gift shop area where customers can purchase gift baskets.The business will only serve wine that has a 90-point or higher distinction of greatness from Wine Spectator magazine.

“We want to bring quality products,” Mr. McKay said of the café, which he describes as having a “European feel, right down to the lighting.”

“The prices will be extremely affordable, though,” he said.

Vines & Hops Café will be located next to TheWarStore.com, a game shop that opened last month. Both rental properties, along with Twin Forks Bicycles, are owned by Riverhead Enterprises.

“This is the sixth new lease in an 18-month period that we’ve signed,” said Sheldon Gordon, the managing general partner of Riverhead Enterprises. “It’s been remarkable what the interest coming to downtown has been. It’s quite gratifying.”

In Mr. McKay’s estimation, downtown Riverhead is close to being an ideal location for Vines & Hops Café.

“We looked at [opening the shop] in Greenport but it didn’t appeal to us because the winters are so slow there,” Mr. McKay said. “With the theater open and businesses are starting to pop up, we thought, ‘Let’s take advantage of the opportunity and settle into downtown Riverhead.’”

Once the shop opens, Mr. McKay and his wife plan to encourage customers to kick back and relax with their favorite drink.

“We consider ourselves the ‘before’ and ‘after’ place – you can come here before a show or a movie,” Mr. McKay said. “People will be able to come and recognize their favorite beverage and have it in a comfortable atmosphere. It’s not a bar and it’s not a restaurant.

“It’ll be as if you’re home in your living room.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

05/06/13 3:40pm
05/06/2013 3:40 PM
Sears in Riverhead

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Sears closed its downtown Riverhead store in 2006.

The former Sears building in downtown Riverhead, which has been vacant since the national company left town in 2006, could soon have new life.

Representatives for the building’s owner, Riverhead Enterprises, have presented Supervisor Sean Walter with a “pre-submission” plan for the property that shows the building being replaced by a mixed-use development of retail stores and apartments.

The plan shows a five-story building with about 130 apartments, both one- and two-bedroom, and smaller storefronts on the first two floors.

But in an interview with the News-Review Monday, Riverhead Enterprises partner Sheldon Gordon downplayed the preliminary plan’s significance.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions and we’re studying the project, but there’s nothing definitive yet,” he said.

Riverhead Enterprises had submitted site plan applications to redevelop the Sears building, and two other downtown buildings it owns, in the mid-2000s, when Riverhead Town’s newly adopted zoning and master plan called for 500 apartments in the downtown area. Nothing came of those applications.

Those earlier plans, which also called for stores and apartments, were filed around the time the Town Board was contemplating condemnation of those and other downtown buildings to advance Apollo Real Estate Advisors’ vision for downtown.

Neither the condemnation nor Apollo’s plans ever came to fruition.

Mr. Walter has stated frequently in recent months that 500 downtown apartments are too many and the Town Board will need to cut that number in half because there isn’t enough parking to accommodate that many apartments in the area. With the changes in mind, Mr. Gordon acknowledged time may be running out to submit an apartment plan for downtown.

Several apartment proposals have already been submitted or are moving forward, including the Summerwind Square project on Peconic Avenue, which is close to opening. Apartment projects are also proposed for the current site of the Long Island Science Center building on West Main Street and the former Woolworth building on East Main Street.

Mr. Sheldon said interest has been shown in the Sears building for uses other than apartments, although he didn’t want to discuss specifics.

“I think something will be done with it in the next few months,” he said.

Sears had occupied the downtown store for more than 40 years before closing in 2006, at about the time Sears merged with Kmart.

Sears products continue to be sold at the Riverhead Kmart store.

tgannon@timesreview.com