After seven years in service, Blue Duck Bakery café in Riverhead served its last customer Monday.
Nancy Kouris of Aquebogue and her husband, Keith, announced the closure last week, citing construction of nearby apartments as a reason for the closure.
“The obstacles became too great for us to continue,” a press release noted.
But Ms. Kouris said it’s more complex than that: a combination of issues forced them to close the Riverhead store. In addition to construction and a lack of parking in the downtown area, she said, Blue Duck has struggled to maintain staff and keep prices low.
“When you have different outlets, you have to depend on other people to help you,” she said. “If we only had one store … I’d have control over everything that’s going on. But when you hand that control over to other people, it’s difficult.”
The bakery was home to Poetry Street, an open mic event featuring local poets and artists that met monthly to perform original work. Co-founder Robert “Bubbie” Brown, 70, said when the group celebrated their fifth anniversary and last sessions at the bakery Sunday, he felt “overwhelmed.”
“There was diversity — with age, with sex, with everything,” he said. “It was a picture of what Riverhead needs to model.”
Mr. Brown said he and co-founder Susan Dingle chose the café as their meeting location because Ms. Kouris was always warm and welcoming. While the organization hasn’t determined where their future meetings will take place, it’s not the end of the road for the group.
“That’s one of the unique entities that we had at Blue Duck,” he said. “Nancy had that aura that just welcomed people. She was a very conscious people person.”
For Ms. Kouris, she wanted to be part of Riverhead’s revival. When the Riverhead location opened in 2012, she said business was booming.
“It’s very heart-wrenching,” she said. “We invested a lot of money and a lot of time … They say don’t become emotionally involved in your business, but we invested a lot of emotion.”
The most difficult part is leaving her regular customers. Some of them, she said, eagerly traveled to Riverhead after the Southampton location closed in 2018.
“I feel bad that I have to disappoint them again,” she said. “It’s hard, but you have to do what you have to do.”
Despite the closure, Ms. Kouris, a longtime business owner, views the situation as a positive for the company.
“The Blue Duck isn’t going away, we’re just closing the location that’s under-performing,” she said.
Blue Duck Bakery Café opened on Columbus Day weekend in 1999 in Southampton, the press release said. In 2008, the Southampton location closed and the team began producing bread in Southold, where it is made today.
The company will maintain its Southold and Greenport locations and continue to sell their baked goods at local restaurants, grocers and farmers markets, Ms. Kouris said.
Correction: The Southampton location closed in 2018.