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New owners take helm at Quogue Country Market

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Vera Chinese   Nov 23, 2009 4:43 PM

Amy and Fred Schoenfeld, the new owners of the Quogue Country Market, say they are enchanted with the quaint village where they now spend most of their time.

While standing outside their Jessup Avenue shop one recent afternoon, the couple waved to an older man who they know only as Joe and who visits their shop nearly every day. “He brings us candy,” Ms. Schoenfeld said.

The Schoenfelds took over the market, which has served Quogue Village for more than 90 years, on July 29 and have been thriving ever since.

For many years, Mr. Schoenfeld, who lives in Sayville, owned Terrace Dairy and delivered dairy products to stores and markets like the one he now owns. He sold the business in 2003, but continued to work for the company until earlier this year when his position was downsized.

“I decided I needed to find myself a new venture,” Mr. Schoenfeld said.

He said that he looked at purchasing a few delis on Long Island and had a tentative deal to buy a store in Patchogue. Three days after that deal fell through, Mr. Schoenfeld got a call from the owners of the Quogue Country Market, Bob and Gary Curran, and they asked him if he was interested in taking over their business.

Mr. Schoenfeld explained that he worked at the Quogue Country Market, undercover, for about a week before deciding to buy the business. He scrubbed pots and pans as he worked alongside his future employees.

“I wanted to see what it is all about,” he said.

He must have been impressed with the customers and the small ocean-side village because he bought the business a few days later.

Still, Mr. Schoenfeld had a few reservations. He said he knew that a large chunk of the population had lived in the village for many years and was not sure how residents would receive newcomers.

“We were a little nervous coming in,” he said, adding that he and his wife have received a warm welcome since opening.

The Schoenfelds have been hard at work putting their own personal touches on the store, which is a full-service deli, caterer and market, and say they are enjoying every minute of it. Mr. Schoenfeld said he shows up for work seven days a week, usually before 6:30 a.m.

“I have been off once since I bought the place,” he said.

One thing patrons would be hard-pressed not to notice is that many of the store’s prices have been lowered.

“Seventy-five percent of the store has been reduced,” Ms. Schoenfeld said.

For instance, she noted that a quart of milk used to run about $2.50 and now her market sells that same quart for about $1.15. The store also now offers weekly specials on deli meats and milk.

“There’s no reason you should have to drive five or six miles for a half gallon of milk,” Ms. Schoenfeld said, explaining that their lower prices allow patrons to avoid going to supermarkets in Westhampton Beach and Hampton Bays.

Barbecue food is also now available from behind the deli counter. Smoking meats is Mr. Schoenfeld’s hobby and he said he is glad to share his creations with customers.

The couple has also done some rearranging inside the store. The checkout counter, which was once shaped like a horseshoe in the middle of the store, is now against the front wall. Mr. Schoenfeld said that new design is aimed to be more convenient for customers, allowing them to move in and out quicker.

“I think more of the locals are coming back into the store,” said deli manager Gerard Gangi.

Mr. Gangi, who has worked at the market for the past nine years, said he thinks the new owners are now focusing on the year-round residents, more so than the summer visitors.

Frank Lupinacci, who is from Westhampton and runs Artful Gardens, also located on Jessup Avenue in Quogue, said he has been coming to the market for lunch for years and is impressed with the new owners and their prices.

“Their prices are better,” he said. “They really treat you nice.”

Theresa Fontana, the owner of The Lily Pad, a consignment shop that opened in May two months before the Schoenfelds took over the market, said she just adores the new owners.

A longtime Quogue resident, Ms. Fontana noted that on a recent afternoon, she walked into the Quogue Country Market and told Mr. Schoenfeld that she was having a bad day. To make her feel better, Mr. Schoenfeld gave her a roast beef sandwich for free.

“He said, ‘Theresa, I want to change your day,’ and he did,” she said.

Like her store, Ms. Fontana said the new Quogue Country Market has been embraced by village residents.

“His heart is in it,” she said of Mr. Schoenfeld. “He’s got passion for what he does.”

The Schoenfelds credit much of their success to their employees. They said they retained the entire staff of 14 who worked for the previous owners, and those workers were the ones who gave the Schoenfelds a crash course on the ins and outs of running a market.

“We wouldn’t have gotten through it without the employees,” Ms. Schoenfeld said.

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