A new paper for northside thug ballers and rebels

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Jerry Steiner reading his newspaper, the Riverhead Rebel, a spoof on The Riverhead News-Review, while sitting in his favorite reading spot at his Allied Optical store downtown.

While some journalists are jumping ship and leaving print publications to write for the web, one Riverhead businessman is hoping to make a go of it in newspapers the old-fashioned way.

Jerry Steiner, owner and proprietor of the West Main Street business Allied Optical, is offering readers his own take on life in downtown Riverhead in a new publication called Riverhead Rebel.

“It’s a spoof on you guys,” Mr. Steiner, of Shoreham, told a News-Review reporter. He explained that if Times/Review Newspapers are “goat cheese and fine wine” his new venture will be “bum wine and brats.”

The cover of the first issue features two stories, one by Mr. Steiner on the art of cooking bratwurst and another written by Anthony Coates, adviser to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Coates’ article details a recent tasting flight at Tweed’s restaurant on East Main Street. But instead of Martha Clara or Diliberto merlots, the tasting featured low-end fortified wines such as Cisco Peach and Thunderbird.

“It’s total off-the-wall stuff,” Mr. Steiner said.

The paper’s inaugural issue hit newsstands last month, and Mr. Steiner and co-publisher Darren Johnson say they are planning to run additional installments. About 5,000 copies were distributed at locations between Jamesport and Wading River, Mr. Steiner said.

How often the Riverhead Rebel is published will be determined by demand, said Mr. Johnson, a former spokesperson for Stony Brook/Southampton and owner of the website

Mr. Johnson has been publishing the free newspaper Campus News on downstate college campuses for several months. He said it was difficult to find writers to fill the first issue of the Riverhead Rebel ­— only himself, Mr. Steiner and Mr. Coates submitted articles — so he had to pad the paper with Campus News stories. He thinks the first issue will inspire other writers to turn in more submissions and that the Rebel will grow.

“I think there is a market for a fun publication,” he said.

In the paper, Mr. Johnson gives a first-person account of leaving his rental home in downtown Riverhead and purchasing a three-bedroom house in upstate New York. However, he said he hopes to write more “tongue-in-cheek” entries in the same vein as the satirical newspaper The Onion.

Mr. Steiner claims he is one of the few downtown business owners who have stayed loyal to Riverhead over the years. A self-professed “northside thug baller” ­— he aligns himself with other northern Main Street business owners — Mr. Steiner hopes to offer his readers “a little flavor of the old Riverhead.”

He started working in Allied Optical, then owned by his father, when he was about 8 years old in the 1960s. He said that although many of the other people his age left for college and decided to settle elsewhere, he returned to his hometown. “Idiots like me came back,” he said.

Still, a visit to Allied Optical, which has sat in the same location since the 1970s, is never boring. Along with eyeglasses, Mr. Steiner will often serve up a few laughs and a refreshment or two to patrons, even a complimentary do-rag to a lucky few.

With the Riverhead Rebel, the longtime downtown business owner hopes to offer a little commentary on Riverhead politics and a place to showcase his controversial ads, one of which features him with a large pair of scissors while holding a severed mannequin head.

But most of all, Mr. Steiner hopes to have a little fun.

“I’m about comedy and insanity,” he said.

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