Year in Business 2013: A recession in the rearview

FILE PHOTO | Many business owners and managers in Riverhead Town said sales were solid in 2013.

After the prolonged recession that began in 2008, companies large and small, in Riverhead and the rest of the North Fork, have experienced a bounce-back year, with professionals in major industries saying 2013 was, overall, a good year for business.

A resurgence in downtown Riverhead, for one, has helped in other areas as well, such as the Indigo East End on West Main Street, near the Long Island Expressway.

“We see continued growth and visitation to Wine Country and Riverhead,” said the hotel’s general manager, Rob Salvatico.

Below, Mr. Salvatico and other key figures in the region’s retail, auto, wine and hospitality industries give their thoughts on the last 12 months.

Rob Salvatico, general manager
Indigo East End Hotel, Riverhead

A surge in regional tourism and the continued revitalization of downtown Riverhead were all factors in the success of area hotels and inns this year, according to Mr. Salvatico.

“We see continued growth and most of our business is people coming out here to Wine Country, to second homes and to see Riverhead,” he said. “It’s really very positive and incredibly encouraging.”

R1226_BIZ_Williams_RY_C.jpgAUTO SALES
Tom Williams, general manager
Riverhead Ford Lincoln

The numbers don’t lie: Sales of new and pre-owned vehicles were up 8.4 percent from last year at Riverhead Ford Lincoln on Route 58, according to general manager Tom Williams.

“The attitude has been positive,” he said. “People are coming out and they’re shopping. They don’t see the doom and gloom the world forecasts. We’re everyday people on the North Fork. We need cars. We can’t depend on mass transit.”

In terms of trends, SUVS and trucks are still in but there’s been a surge of interest in cars like the Ford Focus and the Ford Fusion. “Ford got into the car game a couple years ago and they did a great job at it,” Mr. Williams said.

R1226_BIZ_Goerler_C.jpgWINE COUNTRY
Ron Goerler, owner
Jamesport Vineyards

This summer’s dry, hot weather was a boon for the North Fork’s brimming wine industry, both attracting tourists and providing ideal conditions for a healthy grape harvest.

“In the vineyard, we had above-average growth and a long growing season,” said Mr. Goerler, who is also president of the Long Island Wine Council. “It was one of those harvests you hope you can have every year. From a retail standpoint, tourism was up. We definitely saw an increase in sales because of that. We had beautiful weekends, which kept the people [coming] out. I wish all years could be as good as this one was.”

TR1226_BIZ_Gildersleeve_C.jpgSMALL RETAIL
Debbie Gildersleeve, co-owner
Renee’s & Chaps Corner, Mattituck

Debbie and Bill Gildersleeve have owned Renee’s, Chaps, Renee’s Furniture and Kid’s Corner in Mattituck for three decades but 2013, Ms. Gildersleeve said, has been their best year yet.

“People are buying,” she said. “We really believe in the North Fork and the viability of it. We feel it’s a great way to invest our time and money.”

One area in which their business has seen exponential growth this year, she said, is in furniture sales.

“Furniture was something we had gotten away from, but it has become the biggest part of our business,” she said. “I think that’s an indication of the amount of people who are moving out here and finding interest on the North Fork.”

TR1226_BIZ_Callahan_C.jpgBIG RETAIL
John Callahan, president
Riverhead Building Supply

Business at Riverhead Building Supply “got off to a slow start” due to bad weather in the first quarter of 2013, president John Callahan said, but the company was “able to rebound.”

“We’re currently getting ready to begin construction on a 120,000-square-foot distribution facility at our Calverton property,” Mr. Callahan said. “That’s an investment in our business and the area and we see continued growth for 2014, so we’re comfortable making that investment.”