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May 6, 2016 10:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Businesses Split Over Smorgasburg Food Expo Proposal

Beach Bakery owner Simon Jorna opposes a plan to bring Smorgasburg to Westhampton Beach Village this summer. BY ERIN MCKINLEY
May 10, 2016 12:10 PM

Members of the Westhampton Beach business community are split on whether they want a scaled-back version of the popular food expo Smorgasburg in the village on Fridays this summer.

At a Westhampton Beach Village Board meeting on Thursday night, May 5, several restaurant owners—including Simon Jorna of Beach Bakery, Erin Finley of Sydney’s “Taylor” Made, and Pizzetteria Brunetti and Brunetti Salon owner Michael Brunetti—all adamantly opposed including the food show in the village repertoire this summer.

At the same three-hour meeting, several locals, as well as some restaurant and business owners, spoke in favor of the expo, which is based in Brooklyn, saying it would bring more foot traffic to the village and help all local businesses in the summer.

But nearly everyone agreed that the event—which is currently proposing to run on Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., from June 24 through the first week of September—is a great option for September and possibly October to extend the busy season and lure customers to the municipality beyond Labor Day.

“We were intrigued by this possibility and are excited to possibly come here,” Rob Blackman, director of operations for Smorgasburg, said at last week’s meeting. “The idea of showing what we do there [in Brooklyn] out here sounds very fun to us, and we are excited about the possibility of taking on the challenge.”

Launched in 2011, Smorgasburg is held every Saturday and Sunday in Brooklyn from April through November, and features 100 vendors while attracting an estimated 10,000 visitors. The idea of a Westhampton Beach version of Smorgasburg was first presented by Buoy One seafood restaurant owner and Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce member Lorraine Girard to village officials at a work session in April. She proposed that 35 vendors could utilize the chamber’s Glovers Lane parking lot to hold a smaller version of the event.

Her pitch has since been scaled back, with Smorgasburg, citing the size of the parking lot, now hoping 20 vendors would travel to the village on Friday mornings and clean up at the end of the night. The chamber would provide public bathrooms, clean-up services and security for the event, and Smorgasburg would pay all advertising fees to bring patrons to the pop-up food expo.

“I have loved every minute of being here, but I believe we need to bring more people through here year-round,” said Karl MacDonald, owner of the Mill Roadhouse in Westhampton Beach, which opened its doors about a year ago. “I think making it a destination will make this a great place.”

Some concerns raised last Thursday night included having enough parking for patrons and vendors of the expo, especially with roughly 22 spaces in the chamber parking lot being eliminated to host the event, and possibly that a summer expo would take business away from local restaurants during the busiest time of the year.

“We all rely on the business that comes in the summertime to make a living to get through the wintertime,” Mr. Brunetti said. “I think, personally, looking at this, will it bring people to town? Probably. Are they going to spend money at Shock, or get their hair cut at my place? Probably not.

“The concept should be to put the money and creativity into helping those who are here all year-round and not take money from the people who are here year-round,” he continued.

At the meeting, Dwayne Kirchner, the owner of both the Margarita Grille and the Patio restaurants on Main Street, said the expo is something that could be good for the village, but that officials would need to put safeguards in place to protect local businesses. He added that it will be nice to have some of the Smorgasburg-approved vendors bring different foods to the village. Smorgasburg is known for having different Asian, Italian, seafood, Mexican, Colombian, barbecue and other ethnic cuisines at the expo in Brooklyn.

“You have to figure it out so it works for both the local merchants and Smorgasburg,” Mr. Kirchner said. “We have spent a lot of money on this village, and we all pay taxes. We want this village to succeed, but don’t just throw this out there.

“I am willing to give it a try,” he continued, “but you need to figure it out to make it work—not us competing with them.”

At the meeting, several Village Board and community members said it would be good if Smorgasburg would work with the village to pick which of its 100 vendors would frequent the Westhampton Beach location. Mr. Blackman stated repeatedly that the company cannot finalize a vendor list until the village authorizes the food expo.

Board members did not make a decision on the application last week. Their next meeting is a work session scheduled for Wednesday, May 18, at 7 p.m., at Village Hall.

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Our family owned our business which is celebrating it's 40th anniversary this year. Over the past 4 decades we've donated $37,000 in "in kind" and cash donations to the Peconic Bay Medical Center (and Hospice and The Family Counseling Service of the Hampons) Our family was awarded "person of the year" four years ago... Our owner was also president of the chamber of commerce for multiple years. I was married at St. Marks Church. My son was born at Southampton Hospital. I went to church school ...more
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on May 6, 16 2:59 PM
It's ok you got the job
By Hambone (510), New York on May 9, 16 7:20 PM
I think this is exactly what westhampton beach and the town as a whole needs. I understand the business owners concern but they are getting it all wrong. This would bring foot traffic to the village from visitors and residents of other towns and the rest of the town of Southampton that may not have ever come to the Village and will bring more attention to their businesses. We would all benefit from something like this and I hope the village board gives the ok because this would be an amazing asset ...more
By hamptons34 (30), Westhampton on May 6, 16 3:14 PM
^Hamptons.. For us. We are on Montauk Highway which is not part of the walking district so this event would not effect us either way... I will say this; historically things like the restrictive farmers market have showed little to no benefit for main street merchants.They seem to provide a destination event and provide little, to no ancillary sales to brick and mortar merchants. For my main street merchant friends ; you have better data if these events actually provide you with additional business ...more
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on May 6, 16 3:28 PM
Great idea for the Village especially to bring outside people in. On Friday nights its difficult to get a seat in any Restaurant in WHB without a reservation. This will add people who want a quick meal and then walk around the Village and spend time shopping. This Village needs something that creates a "buzz" and adds people to shop. The farmers market is different in that when I buy there I need to get the food home to put in the fridge or freezer.
As a note Starrs opened last evening. The ...more
By realistic (464), westhampton on May 6, 16 5:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Don't you think people will want some dessert after their meal? Pastry and ice cream shops will be rewarded.
By tenn tom (234), remsenburg on May 7, 16 7:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
The Village needs to remember to preserve and protect its brick and mortar businesses - otherwise they'll turn into real estate offices or abandoned buildings. Support the businesses you already have - "love the one you're with". Ask the local food and beverage stores to showcase their own food court and do it right on Main Street or in the new park on Main Street. We don't need Brooklyn do feed off our population in our "prime time".
By foodandshelter (4), on May 7, 16 10:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
Local food establishments should get discounted/free slots or right of first refusal for slots. If they utilize them, great. If not, they had their chance - and can no longer stand in the way of this idea without being, clearly, protectionist.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on May 7, 16 1:12 PM
Surprising that Jorna is not wearing glasses in the photo as someone so shortsighted must surely need them. Instead of him and the other whiners jumping on an opportunity for greater exposure for their businesses that can produce added commerce the other 51 weeks each year, they try to throw up roadblocks.

Take a look around Simon, Sydney and Michael - your businesses and your village need all the exposure they can get, even if you may have to sacrifice a piece for one weekend.
By VOS (1195), WHB on May 9, 16 7:03 PM
1 member liked this comment