After five years of serving iced coffees, flavored lattes and an assortment of homemade scones and pastries, Eastenders Coffee House, located at 40 East Main Street in Riverhead, will close its doors permanently at the end of February.
Owners Diane and Lindsay Reeve, who also offer live music at their downtown coffee shop, noted that their small business has played a significant role in the lives of many people over the years. Both added that they were grateful to be a part of community for so long.
“I would sum up the coffee house as being a resounding success in every way—except the money,” Mr. Reeve said on Monday.
The interior of the shop is decorated with holiday lights throughout the year, while knickknacks and works that are being sold by local artists line the walls. Inside, people of all ages come together to play board games, read, chat with their neighbors, or sit quietly and enjoy a cup of fresh-brewed coffee.
“It’s the coolest place I have ever worked in, let alone owned,” Ms. Reeve said.
Musical instruments also line the walls of the shop, waiting to be picked up by talented or daring patrons. Mr. Reeve noted that many local musicians, including himself, gave their first live performance at Eastenders Coffee House. “I’ve always played harmonica,” he said. “Once these people started showing me that they can do it, I was so inspired.”
Mr. Reeve met members of a local band, called Who Are Those Guys, at the coffee house and became the sixth member and only harmonica player in the group.
Eastenders Coffee House is also a hot spot for meeting someone special and, according to Ms. Reeve, seven couples who met at the shop have gotten married, including longtime employee Ashleigh Gardner. Ms. Gardner said she met her husband, Todd, while working at the establishment and after moving to Long Island from Oklahoma.
Ms. Gardner explained that she and her husband first noticed each other while stopping in the coffee house to grab their morning cups of java, though did not start dating until she began working behind the counter. They were married in September.
“I ended up meeting my entire social network here,” Ms. Gardner said. “Diane and Lindsay have become like family.”
Though the shop was a joint venture between he and his wife, Mr. Reeve credits his better half for the Eastenders Coffee House’s many successes. “Diane did most of the work and I had all the fun,” he said. “I admire Diane so much for having done this.”
The Reeves, who live in Flanders, said they would often visit Eastenders, originally owned by Christine and Peter Loew, on their way home from work. At that time, Ms. Reeve was employed as a nutritionist at Stony Brook University Medical Center, while Mr. Reeve still works for Riverhead Town. “We used to meet here and catch up on our day,” Ms. Reeve explained.
Shortly after the coffee shop opened in July 2002, Ms. Reeve quit her job and became a manager at the store. In 2003, the Reeves learned that the venue was for sale and decided to purchase the business themselves. They lease the Main Street building.
The Reeves kept the name but increased the number of nights that featured local bands playing live music. They also added other events, such as open microphone nights and Tarot card readings. “We took the original concept and expanded it,” Ms. Reeve said.
The coffee shop owners explained that shortly after they bought the business, Swezey’s Department Store, located on Main Street in Riverhead for decades, closed for good. Ms. Reeve explained that many businesses followed suit during the next few years, taking away with them much needed foot traffic from downtown Riverhead.
According to Ms. Reeve, there are now nearly 30 vacant buildings lining the streets of downtown Riverhead. She added that visitors to Atlantis Marine World, also located on Main Street, rarely walk past the deserted stores to reach Eastenders Coffee House. “People are discouraged by it,” she said, referring to the large number of vacant storefronts.
Business at Eastenders Coffee House began to decline nearly two years ago, according to Ms. Reeve. She decided to keep the store open last year though she had to cut expenses. “I used to have a lot more employees,” she said.
It soon became clear that the lagging economy and the state of downtown Riverhead had both taken a toll on the couple’s coffee shop. In December, the Reeves said they decided to close the business. Though they had originally planned on shuttering their doors at the end of January, the Reeves recently postponed the closing date until the end of February.
Mr. Reeve said his family, which includes sons Dylan, 24, Ethan, 21, and Isaac, 16, the latter of whom also works at Eastenders Coffee House part-time, are devastated by the shop’s pending closing.
“It’s like a death in the family—that’s how I feel,” Mr. Reeve said on Monday.
Meanwhile, Ms. Reeve said she does not know what the future holds for her and her husband. “I am waiting for a door to open,” she said, later adding that, six years ago, she never imagined she would be the owner of a coffee shop.
Though they are sad to be closing in a few weeks, the Reeves stressed that they are grateful for all of the friendships that they made and the experiences that they have enjoyed while running a unique business.
“I have no regrets about the people I have met here,” Ms. Reeve said.
In their final newsletter to their patrons, the coffee shop owners state: “We want to thank all of our customers, especially our regulars, for supporting us and allowing us to keep our doors open for this long. … We are so fortunate to have met so many wonderful people, many of which have become dear friends.”