Comings and goings in Riverhead as OfficeMax closes its doors

A store that’s been at Tanger Outlets for more than 17 years has closed, a downtown café has gone out of business and a bunch of new outlet stores is being planned near Tanger.

Those are among the recent changes in the Riverhead business landscape.

The OfficeMax store at Tanger, which was approved in 1999, closed Saturday.

The company had merged with Office Depot in 2013, which led to the closing, according to a company representative.

“As part of the three-year strategic plan announced in August 2016, Office Depot, Inc. continues to optimize its store footprint in North America, including approximately 300 store closures of Office Depot and OfficeMax stores by 2018,” Office Depot spokesperson Julianne Embry said in an email Monday.

That led to the closure of the Riverhead location, she said.

The merged Office Depot/OfficeMax company had attempted to merge with rival Staples, which also has a store in Riverhead, but the Federal Trade Commission blocked the move.

OfficeMax joins a number of large buildings on Route 58 that are vacant, including the former Walmart, the Sports Authority site adjacent to Target and the former Waldbaum’s at Riverhead Centre. The former Joe’s Crab Shack building is slated to become an IHOP, officials from that company said.

The former site of Vines & Hops, which first opened in 2013, in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The writing on the window at Vines & Hops says it all: “Everything must go,” “Closing Our Doors,” “Make an Offer.”

Vines & Hops on East Main Street recently closed down.

Business owners Jeff and Christine McKay of Jamesport started the venture in 2013. At the time, Mr. McKay was working as a strength and conditioning coach and his wife as a physical therapist.

The past year was a bad one for them, as the family’s home burned down in a Sept. 9 fire during which most of their possessions were lost.

A GoFundMe page established to help the family, under the title “McKay Relief Fund,” raised $16,550, according to the website.

Vines & Hops also faced a total 13 State Liquor Authority violations over the period from 2015 to 2017.

The violations included numerous charges of permitting the premises to become disorderly, selling alcohol to an underage person and allowing “noise, disturbance, misconduct or disorder,” among other violations, according to the SLA, which had scheduled a Dec. 6 public hearing to potentially suspend or revoke the license. That hearing is set for 1 p.m. at the Nassau County Consumer Affairs office in Mineola.

An SLA spokesperson said Vines & Hops’ liquor license is still active, but that businesses are supposed to notify the SLA if they close.

The McKays could not immediately be reached for comment.

There are about 14 vacant businesses or commercial properties in downtown Riverhead, although some are slated for development, including the former McCabe’s site, where a 116-unit mixed use apartment project is planned, and the former Sears site, which was demolished to make way for a 177-unit mixed use apartment project that as yet has no approvals.

In 1998, developer William Dries proposed to build two restaurants on four acres in between Tanger I and Tanger II. Mr. Dries subsequently changed the plan to call for additional outlet stores, although his property is not part of Tanger Outlets, which first brought outlets to Riverhead in 1995.

Mr. Dries’ plan, which called for a building of approximately 33,000 square feet on the parcel, had previously received both site plan and special permit approval, as well as building permits, from Riverhead Town in 2008. But the recession that followed slowed the project, and the town would give only so many extensions of the approvals, according to architect Martin Sendlewski, who said Mr. Dries is reviving the project now that the economy has improved.

“We had everything,” he said. “Now we just have to renew it.”

The number of outlet stores proposed would depend on how much space prospective tenants are looking for, he said.

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Top photo: OfficeMax in Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)