By Andrew Wroblewski
(Long Islander News photos / Andrew Wroblewski)
‘Tis the season – the season of spending.
Businesses around Huntington are well within the holiday push – which started with Black Friday last week – and while the big name stores may have a foothold in most customers’ minds, small businesses are finding ways to keep their doors open.
Around town, the name of the game has become service, and that starts with shops like Einstein's Attic at 79 Main St. in Northport village.
“You’re really not self-guided through the store. We usually help you and help you pick out what you need – if you need us,” owner Lori Badanes said. “We’re very well supported [by the community]… We’re excited for the holiday season and we’re lucky because we live in the Village of Northport where people really care; and if you care about the village, you shop locally.”
At Einstein’s Attic, which Badanes has owned since May, toys are everywhere. Any age, boy or girl, is catered to by Badanes and her staff. They even host birthday parties with themes ranging from baseball to princesses.
In Huntington village, Cow Over The Moon Toys & Sports Memorabilia supplies toys to the masses, but the 282 Main St. store has even more to offer than that. Autographed sports memorabilia, baseball cards, sporting equipment and more make Cow Over The Moon an ideal stop for Christmas shoppers looking for the perfect gift to give any athlete in their lives.
“When [a customer] buys something from here, it’s a real piece of autographed memorabilia,” said Joel Dennett, owner of the shop for the last four years. “We have to [be a trustworthy retailer]. We’re in the community. We live here and work here. We can’t fool people; that’s not our intent.”
Like Einstein’s Attic, Cow Over The Moon, in business for 21 years, offers giftwrapping, Dennett said, and has a wide array of educational products for children.
Continuing west, Pashley Children’s Boutique has entered the toy scene in Cold Spring Harbor with its 169 Main St. location. Pashley now sells toys to go along with its department store-like selection of clothing and accessories for boys and girls.
But not everyone is buying for the younger members of their family. While some of Huntington’s small toy stores may have their consumer appeal a bit limited in terms of target-age, their idea of good service remains consistent with some of the town’s other small businesses.
“For the most part, a lot of our customers, we know them so well that we can actually help them choose the gift,” Diane Frassanito, one of the three family owners of Frassanito Jewelers at 346 New York Ave. in Huntington village, said. “Generally speaking, our customers know that. They prefer to shop in town because they know they’re going to get better service; they know that we’re going to be here after Christmas and year after year… they also feel more of a sense of trust because we’re committed to the community.”
Entering its 80th year in 2015, Frassanito offers high-quality jewelry for any occasion with prices aimed at every budget – from $30-$100,000, she said – and topped off with free gift wrapping and shipping, just in case there are any out-of-town relatives who need some sparkle on Christmas morning.
“We [small businesses] are what make Huntington a vibrant downtown shopping area. I really think there isn’t another town on Long Island that can compare to Huntington,” Frassanito said.
Staying in that “vibrant downtown,” one could venture over to another small business like Escape Pod Comics at 302 Main St. for even more of that great service and diverse holiday selection for the “nerds or geeks,” in their life, owner Menachem Luchins said.
“We want people to have stuff within the comics medium to read, not just make money off of people and never have them come back again,” Luchins, whose shop recently entered its third year, said. “We’re really open to showing people the potential of the medium and the different stories it can tell – it’s not just about a customer relationship, it’s a relationship between the reader and the books.”
Some of those stories can be seen in Escape Pod Comics’ “holiday table,” which offers books covering a “wide-range of interests” and that also serve as perfect material for customers to browse before asking any questions.
One owner who’s not unused to questions is Rob Conte, of Huntington Play N Trade, who sits right across the street from Luchins at 303 Main St.
“Down here in Huntington, customers are looking for service,” Conte, who serves plenty of parents and grandparents looking to purchase the gift of video games this holiday season, said. “There are a lot of things that I can offer that [big-name stores] can’t. We need to do things that are different than the malls; the reality is we’re getting beaten by the malls, by the internet, by big-box stores – it’s a challenge.”
The answer to that challenge, as Conte said, is to appeal to his customers’ want and need for precise, hand-holding service that can guide them to make the right purchases for their family – and even try to save some money in the process.
Thankfully for Conte, and the rest of Huntington’s small business owners, he believes the community is more aware of the “buy local” attitude – as indicated by Nov. 29’s “Small Business Saturday” – and that people are coming out to the village in support.
“[I am], and I’m sure all the other small businesses are, very appreciative of [the “buy local” push] because we understand – we understand because we live it day to day,” he said. “For some, including this store, I think it’s the difference between making it and breaking it [when people do or don’t buy locally].”