Northport Merchants Find Way Into Huntington

Arielle Dollinger

 Carlene Afetian stands outside of her Northport store. Afetian’s Huntington location is located at 4 Elm Street. (Long Islander News photo/Arielle Dollinger)

Carlene Afetian stands outside of her Northport store. Afetian’s Huntington location is located at 4 Elm Street. (Long Islander News photo/Arielle Dollinger)

Having made “a very spontaneous decision,” Northport Village retail storeowner Carlene Afetian has opened a second boutique in Huntington village – a move that she said could bring exposure for her Northport store and an outlet for edgier, more specialized merchandise.

As Afetian describes it, the Huntington store is “new in town, a work in progress.”

The Elm Street store, to be called VR, is an offshoot of Northport’s Veronica Rayne Boutique – a store that Afetian once described to Long Islander News as “basically a big closet” – and has joined a “very familiar block.”

Among her neighbors are Swallow Restaurant, whose owners were once partners at Northport Village’s Bistro 44, and Cilantro, a quick, Mexican food joint whose first location opened in Northport about two years ago.

Artie Berke, who owns both Nina’s Pizzeria and Cilantro in Northport, opened a second Cilantro location about a year ago in Huntington village on New York Avenue.

Though the recipes are the same, the hours in Huntington are different for the purpose of catering to late-night foot traffic from neighboring music venue The Paramount. He said traffic in general is variable.

“I have noticed that Northport kills it in the summertime,” Berke said. “But Huntington seems to be more stable; it has a steady clientele all year long.”

Having grown up in Huntington, Berke knew of the “lively” atmosphere.

“I wanted to get back into Huntington,” he said. “And The Paramount does bring a lot to the table, too.”

Much of the time, he said, The Paramount brings people asking to use the restaurant’s bathroom while waiting in line to see concerts. But there is increased traffic at 3 and 4 a.m., he said.

“I was very surprised how many drunks eat healthy,” he said, noting that customers will order brown rice, whole wheat tortillas and chicken in the late-night/early-morning hours.

For Afetian, a three-year member of The Paramount’s Founder’s Room – she actually noticed the Elm Street space for sale when leaving a Founder’s event one night – he Paramount foot traffic “can’t hurt” and the move to Huntington means reaching “a wider audience.”

“You don’t know who floats around the street,” she said, noting that she often sees celebrity faces.

Her Huntington store is smaller than its Northport counterpart, and will therefore specialize, she said. Part of the contrast between the Northport and Huntington locations will lie in the availability of men’s clothing and men’s shoes at the Huntington shop.

But the hope, she said, is that the Huntington location will bring people back to Northport, as well.

“That’s where most of the merchandise is,” she said.

The Northport and Huntington Cilantro locations differ in the number of seats – 26 vs. 15, respectively – and in the fact that the Northport store serves beer, while the bar-adjacent Huntington store does not.

“You have to be able to adjust [to] what your clientele is and what you’re able to do and what your landlord will allow you to do, so every business is going to have its own little sort of life,” Burke said, comparing the experience to having kids. “Each kid is different, you know? They may look alike, but they have different personalities.”

Opening in Huntington as opposed to other locations he considered, like Bay Shore or Babylon, he said, also allowed for easier management.

“I figured Huntington would be a great location to start at because it’s close by,” he said. “Being that it’s nice and close, it helps out a lot because it could be taxing on me just driving all over the place checking on all the stores.”

While Afetian’s decision was more one of happenstance, Berke’s decision was strategic – Huntington has a larger population, he noted, and The Paramount brings crowds.

Afetian spoke with Berke, who is a friend of hers, before opening her Huntington store.

“Key is location, location, location, at the end of the day,” he said. “I think her brand will work very well in Huntington; it’s a little more edgy over in Huntington.”