By Jessica Dinapoli
After a nearly six-year absence, the hamlet of Eastport once again boasts its own chamber of commerce.
Andrea Milano, the president of the Greater Eastport Chamber of Commerce, explained Monday that the new organization, which was formed this fall, was created in response to the recent resurgence of business on Montauk Highway, the hamlet’s Main Street. She added that she has been working to reestablish a chamber in the hamlet, which spans both Southampton and Brookhaven towns, since the last chamber dissolved some six years ago.
“The new chamber is going along with the rebirth of Main Street in Eastport,” Ms. Milano said. “The last two or three shops are being filled up right now.
“Almost all of the buildings in Eastport are either scheduled to be rented or are currently rented,” she continued.
Some shops that have recently opened their doors to the public include Island Bead and Jewelry, and Long Island Homefinders, both located on Main Street. Ms. Milano said a wine cafe is scheduled to open in the hamlet soon as well.
In 2002, the original Greater Eastport Chamber of Commerce dissolved following internal conflict among chamber members, according to Ms. Milano. She also noted that several officers serving on the chamber’s Board of Directors at the time declined to run for reelection, and no one stepped up to succeed them.
Additionally, the closure of a number of businesses lining Eastport’s main artery—such as Orchard Estates Realty, Eastport Antiques and Seatuck Decoy—also contributed to the collapse of the original chamber.
At the time, Ms. Milano, who owns Andrea Milano Tax and Account Services on Main Street, also served as the president of the chamber. She explained that she took it upon herself to relaunch the organization and will retain the title until elections can be held, most likely in 2009.
She explained that in addition to promoting local businesses, another goal of the chamber office will be the beautification of Eastport’s Main Street. To date, she said she has reached out to officials in Suffolk County, and both Southampton and Brookhaven towns, seeking their financial assistance.
“I’ve already spoken to town and county officials about getting new garbage pails and sidewalks, and putting in antique lighting,” Ms. Milano said. “We want to improve the look of Main Street.”
Linda Stucchio, who owns K.C. Kollections on Main Street, has already paid the $100 annual fee to join the chamber. On Monday, she explained that the new group will encourage local residents to shop locally.
“We want people to patronize local businesses and re-awaken Main Street,” Ms. Stucchio said. “We want to make it inviting for businesses to come here as well.”
As of earlier this week, the new chamber boasted 17 members, and Ms. Milano expects more businesses to join. To become a member, Ms. Milano said business owners should either call her at 325-5911, or Ms. Stucchio at 325-1845.
Some businesses that are now chamber members include the antique shop Beyond the Beaten Path, the Eastport Luncheonette, a fine arts, crafts and framing shop called Art and Soul Gallery, and Gianfranco Hair Studio. All of those shops are located on Main Street in the hamlet.
“We need the chamber in this town,” said Gino Gianfranco, the owner of Gianfranco Hair Studio. “It will bring the town back and revive it. It’s a beautiful old town.”
Bridgette Kennedy, the owner of Eastport Books and Brew on Main Street, noted that because her shop is less than three years old, she was not a member of the previous Greater Eastport Chamber of Commerce. She said she decided to join the new group because she is “definitely interested in getting Eastport alive again.
“It’s a sleepy town, but there are a lot of people who moved into the area and Eastport should be appealing to them,” Ms. Kennedy said. “A lot of people have forgotten about Eastport, but the chamber can help it out tremendously.”
One of the first major events that the chamber is planning is an “Olde Tyme Holiday,” a weekend full of festive events, including a book reading by Ms. Claus at Books and Brew, and a Christmas tree and Menorah lighting on property located just east of Gianfranco Hair Studio. The lighting is set for Friday, December 12, at 6 p.m., and all are invited. Additionally, some shop owners will be selling their wares at the American Legion Hall on Main Street that Saturday, December 13, between noon and 3 p.m.
Regarding the upcoming tree lighting, Ms. Milano explained that the tree will stand as a symbol of the group’s rebirth and its enduring future for years to come. “We’re getting a balled tree … ” she noted.
Ms. Milano added that the balled tree, which still has its roots attached and will be wrapped in a burlap bag, will be planted near the intersection of Montauk Highway and Eastport Manor Road after the holidays. The site will also be the location for future tree lightings.
“It’s a symbol for the new chamber,” Ms. Milano said. “We’ll have a tree lighting at that corner in future years. It will be a chamber event for the coming years.”