Patchogue’s business leaders are looking to seize on the momentum of several retailers opening in village in the last couple of years.
The Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce has formed a retailers committee for local shop owners to meet, collaborate, and ultimately, draw more business to the area.
And maybe draw more retailers.
David Kennedy, the chamber’s executive director, described the current retail situation in Patchogue as “growing.”
“This year we actually opened more retail shops than restaurants,” Kennedy said. “It has to be five or six years since we’ve seen something like that, so it’s very encouraging.
“We would like to see that growth continue.”
Related: Five great retail shops that have opened recently in Patchogue
The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. at Brickhouse Brewery. It will operate much like the chamber’s restaurant committee. That is, only retailers can join but all chamber members are invited to address the group.
The owner of Kilwins Chocolates on East Main Street, John Murray, is spearheading the effort.
He was inspired by the work of the chamber’s restaurant committee, he said, which serves as a planning, networking and support group.
“The word is out on food and drink here,” Murray said. “There’s a good enough story to be told about the growing retail sector. And to be a thriving downtown community you really need a mix of things: food, drink and retail that appeals to young and old.”
His and Kennedy’s hope is the new group will encourage local retailers to communicate with one another, and be more engaged overall.
They also hope any positive outcomes will attract more potential shops to the area.
The chamber already has a business promotions committee, which runs popular annual events such as Family Fun Night and Chili and Chowder Festival, but, as Kennedy explained, that group is open to all members and seeks to help and serve all types of businesses, not just retail.
“I’m hoping this new forum [the retailers committee] will help the retailers, because these people have similar business models, which means they have similar issues they are dealing with and similar concerns, and maybe similar ideas,” he said.
For the owner of David’s Shoe Emporium, David Zegel, he said holding regular meetings among the retailers is all about networking.
“A big thing is cross-promotion and trading ideas,” he said.
Zegel, who took over his father’s 70-year-old shoe store on East Main Street in 1993, has witnessed the highs and lows in Patchogue, from when it was a shopping mecca, to when it was largely avoided.
His ability to muscle through the downturn in the 1980s through the 1990s and beyond had to do with family tradition — and most of all, loyal and satisfied customers, he said.
“It’s all about helping people, providing the best service, and there’s nothing like word of mouth,” Zegel said.
He noted also that during the busier years, Patchogue had a Merchants Association.
“Because it was all merchants,” he said, though, he noted, there were a few luncheonettes. “There weren’t any actual restaurants.”
That group turned into the Business Promotions Committee specifically to include the growing restaurants, he explained, though the restaurants didn’t really coalesce until their own committee formed about four years ago.
His hope for the new retailers committee, he said, is that it brings these businesspeople together “in the same way that a lot of the restaurateurs have been brought together.”
Murray hopes the unified message to the public will be that it’s all about the experience.
The committe’s logo depicts the words: Unique. Friendly. Knowledgeable.
Murray believes the unified message to the public will be that that shopping downtown is all about the experience.
“Everything nowadays needs to be experiential,” he said.
That human interaction is depicted in the words included in the group’s new logo: Unique. Friendly. Knowledgeable.
“I just hope that a year or two years out, when people have a shopping need they’ll think of Patchogue before running to a mall or an outlet or something like that,” he said. “And when they do come here we want them to have a memorable, hospitable and helpful experience.”
Photo: The window at Kilwins Chocolates decked out for the holidays. (file photo)