When he heard that a staple pharmacy in Hampton Bays would be shutting its doors after more than 30 years, Lou Cassara wanted to be the one to fill the void.Mr. Cassara, who owns two nearby drugstores, wanted to purchase Center Island Pharmacy before it closed for good. He met with the store’s owner, Frank Silecchia, to discuss the proposition. Although both parties wanted a deal to go through, the increased rent for the property halted the talks, Mr. Cassara said.
Now, three months after Center Island vacated the spot in Tiana Plaza, Mr. Cassara still wants to fill the void left by Mr. Silecchia—whom he described as a “perfect gentleman”—by opening a pharmacy on Montauk Highway in East Quogue, which doesn’t have one.
“Bottom line is, I couldn’t buy Center Island—the landlord there wasn’t willing to work with me or Frank,” he said. “But I still want to try to fill Frank’s shoes going forward, because I’ve got this thing down.”
While he does not have a lease yet, Mr. Cassara said he has an agreement with the property owner and has already hired an architect to design the new store—a gamble, as he still needs a variance from the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals for a nonconforming use, ZBA Vice Chairman Adam Grossman said.
Between East End Avenue and Road D next to East Quogue Pizza and Deli, the building is in a residential area. It was previously granted a variance for a nonconforming use, Mr. Grossman said, which generally makes it easier to attain a second variance. “We have a much simpler test that basically has to do with whether or not it’s going to have a negative impact on a community,” he said.
Mr. Cassara is scheduled to go before the ZBA on Thursday night. He said he has gotten nothing but positive feedback from the community thus far. If the town gives him the OK, he said, everything will be a go.
The druggist said he opened his first store, Village East Pharmacy, in Southampton in 1991 and sold it to Rite Aid in 1997. After working for a corporate pharmacy for several years, he realized that he preferred being his own boss. In 2003, he purchased Barth’s Pharmacy on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach, and, in 2009, he opened another Barth’s Pharmacy in East Moriches.
Along with filling a need for a pharmacy in East Quogue, Mr. Cassara said another incentive for wanting to expand is that his son Conor, a senior at Westhampton Beach High School, is considering going to pharmacy school. Mr. Cassara said it would be nice to have a store for his son to take over if he so chooses, adding that expanding in a year or two once his son is in college might be more difficult financially.
“What I would want him to do is experience the responsibility of working every day,” he said.
Donna Lanzetta, president of the East Quogue Chamber of Commerce, said a pharmacy would be a great addition to East Quogue’s Main Street. “I hope they get it,” Ms. Lanzetta said of the variance. “It sounds like something that would be great for East Quogue. And I hope they join the chamber.”
Although he said there is always a risk when opening a new business, Mr. Cassara said he is up for the challenge, adding that when he opens a pharmacy he doesn’t do it with the intention of selling it to a corporation for profit. Above all else, Mr. Cassara said he takes pride an enjoyment in the work he does.
“I still get a kick out of going to work,” he said. “I’m still gung-ho—I still get a charge out of it.”