Historic downtown Wading River is making a comeback

Mesquite opened in October, and has had a "very good" first few weeks, said owner Craig Scali. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Mesquite opened in October, and has had a “very good” first few weeks, said owner Craig Scali. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Robert and Yasemin Nasta of Rocky Point see potential in downtown Wading River.

And they aren’t the only ones.

The third new business to come to the area by the Duck Ponds in less than a year, their new creperie — aptly dubbed My Creperie — is slated to open early next spring. Promising to bring a taste of Europe to Wading River, My Creperie will soon join meat-lovers’ paradise North Fork Bacon & Smokehouse and the popular Tex-Mex restaurant Mesquite in offering specialty eats.

The emergence of new business is a stark change from last year, when Wading River’s declining business district was the subject of a September Riverhead-News Review cover story.

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With two existing specialty food joints and a few smaller retail boutiques already in place on the short stretch of North Country Road along the Duck Ponds, Ms. Nasta said she wanted to open a shop that reminded her of the cafés she frequented in Germany before moving to her husband’s Long Island hometown seven years ago. Her husband welcomed the idea.

“Take a look around. It is tranquil and beautiful,” Mr. Nasta said. “It highlights what we’re trying to bring to the area. We want people to take the time to slow down, get a glass of wine and a crepe and look out at the duck pond. It takes you to another place.”

The Decline

Once a vibrant commercial destination, downtown Wading River suffered a series of knocks that caused many businesses to close over the last two decades.

In 1992, according to a previous Riverhead News-Review special report, then-Riverhead Town Supervisor Joe Janoski said the arrival of King Kullen supermarket, built on Route 25A in the 1970s, had been discouraging people from shopping downtown. A noticeable drop in foot traffic occurred in 1990 after the local post office, previously just across from the Duck Ponds, was relocated to Route 25A.

Ever since, the downtown area has struggled to retain its businesses.

R1211_WR_biz2_BE_C.jpgThe former General Store, which had once been a gathering spot for private parties and civic functions, closed in 2011 after flooding from tropical storm Irene caused its floor to collapse.

Over the next couple of years, the high-scale Amarelle restaurant was shuttered (and remains vacant), two businesses opened and closed where the post office once stood and the Pizza Pie closed its doors.

Earlier this year, TJ Realty Investment — which also owns the area’s iconic Red Barn — bought the building where the Pizza Pie and General Store had operated. CEO Tim Martin said he also hopes to purchase the adjoining building, former home of the Wading River Garage. That building has essentially sat vacant since 2000, when longtime garage owner Robert Boenig retired.

Mr. Martin said he prefers to take a back seat to the people who lease commercial space from him.

“It’s all about the tenants,” he said. “I’m just trying to make it look nice.”