Business Owners Fret about Surprise Closure of Long Wharf in September

Rosaria Cardona of the Waterfront Beauty Salon on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Elizabeth Vespe photo

Shopkeepers in Sag Harbor this week say they learned only by word of mouth and from local newspaper reports that Long Wharf would be closed to vehicles for a massive restoration project from September until June 2020.

Linda Pazera, owner of Long Wharf Upholstery and Fabrics, said that she and a handful of other Long Wharf business owners found out through an article in The Sag Harbor Express— not directly from the new mayor of Sag Harbor Village, Kathleen Mulcahy.

Danny Ximo, a hairstylist at Waterfront Beauty Salon, said that he discovered the news from a man whose hair he was cutting last week.

“How can we work together to make sure the village doesn’t put all of these businesses out of business?” said Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theater’s executive director.

Tracy Mitchell of Bay Street Theatre. Elizabeth Vespe photo

Two weeks ago, Rosario Cardona, owner of the year-round Waterfront Beauty Salon, which has been in business for over 18 years, opened a second venture, Waterfront Seamstress, also on Long Wharf. Ms. Cardona said that if she had known the $4.32-million renovation of Long Wharf was going to close the entire wharf down for 10 months, she would have held off on opening her seamstress shop this summer.

“We had no idea until the Express put the story out,” Ms. Pazera said on Thursday morning, July 25, from behind the counter of her shop. Blocking the wharf off will be like “shutting down business for a year,” she said.

Although all of the business owners knew the renovation was approaching, they agreed the timing was definitely a surprise, given that they have only eight weeks to prepare and had been under the impression that space would at least be left open for handicapped parking and delivery trucks.

The renovation would block the wharf off completely to vehicles except the contractor’s after the Chamber of Commerce’s annual HarborFest event the weekend beginning September 7, leaving a 5-foot-wide walkway open for pedestrian access.

The contractor, Chesterfield Associates Inc. of Westhampton Beach, will be using the parking area between the storefronts and the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill as a supply and equipment staging zone.

Ms. Pazera explained that, two years ago, business owners were told that the renovation would affect only half of the wharf, leaving parking spaces and spots to load and unload deliveries. As an upholsterer, she said, she also needs customers to be able to park to drop off pieces of furniture.

Businesses such as Bay Street Theater, Open Minded Organics The Apothecary, Waterfront Salon, Waterfront Seamstress, and Simon Harrison Real Estate, to name a few, have since teamed up and plan to meet with Ms. Mulcahy this week at Village Hall to discuss the current plans and come up with a solution.

“All of us are so upset — it is like we are just chopped liver to the town,” Ms. Pazera said.

On Monday, Ms. Mulcahy did say that she had met with Malloy Enterprises, the landlord of the businesses on the wharf. She did not know what former Mayor Sandra Schroeder had told the business owners, but she said it was her understanding that the original plan from the contractor was to have a 5-foot-wide walkway for access to the businesses, which was still the plan.

She said she’d be meeting with the engineers and contractors to try and find a way to keep the lower end of the wharf open to vehicles to drop off visitors and deliveries until late October, and also to install gates that could make it possible for truck drivers to make deliveries throughout the winter.

“As the project progresses, we will also have a better sense of when the wharf will be able to open again in the spring,” she said. “My hope is we all can work together to keep businesses happy and open and have a beautiful and safe Long Wharf by the beginning of the season in 2020.”

However, Ms. Pazera, along with other merchants, said that if Sag Harbor is hit with a snowy and icy winter, the work could extend beyond 10 months, stretching into the lucrative summer months.

In addition, merchants feared that, at some point, construction workers will shut down power for the shops due to the renovation.

“If we knew all of this, we wouldn’t have poured our hearts into fall business knowing right after HarborFest it was going to shut down,” Ms. Pazera said. “It’s kind of a shocker.”

Ms. Mitchell said that Bay Street could have all 300 seats booked on any given night, with theatergoers as well as staff and performers needing parking spaces. She did note, however, that renovation plans were finalized before Ms. Mulcahy took office.

Because the businesses on the wharf don’t have back entrances, Ms. Mitchell said, the ideal compromise would be to leave a portion of the road and parking lot open for delivery trucks to loop around.

Customers may not even walk down the wharf if they see construction going on, and fences blocking off the majority of the area, said Chelsea Propati, an employee of Open Minded Organics The Apothecary, which is owned by David and Ashley Falkowski and just opened in March.

“It’s hard enough for people to find where we are now,” Ms. Propati said from behind the counter, adding that up until now, she and Mr. and Ms. Falkowski have spent thousands of dollars in advertising to notify the public of their locations.

“I don’t know what is going to happen to our businesses,” Simon Harrison, owner of Simon Harrison Real Estate, said as he was getting ready to leave his office on Thursday, expressing his concern that the exposure the Long Wharf businesses pay for is not going to be achieved.

“How are you going to renovate this super-premium spot and ignore the merchants that are making a living?” he said. “It’s challenging enough for the seasonal businesses.”

All of the businesses that rent space in the wharf, except Big Olaf’s Ice Cream, The Dock House, and Le Bilboquot, are open year-round.

“It’s going to be very difficult for us,” Ms. Cardona said. She added that the salon is one of only a few that are accessible to the handicapped and said that not having handicapped-accessible parking will create a problem for elderly clients in wheelchairs.

Mr. Ximo added that he is empathetic because the wharf has issues that need to be addressed, but that the village will have to come to a compromise for the small businesses.

“The mayor is forthcoming and wants to work with the businesses and understands our concerns,” Ms. Mitchell said. “At least we have good communication happening — even if it’s later than we would’ve wished for.”