Sag Harbor Cheese Empire Expands


The week of their wedding, Michael and Tracey Cavaniola took the plunge not once, but twice, walking down the aisle and deciding to pursue a dream of opening a gourmet cheese shop after happening upon a Division Street, Sag Harbor location by chance.

Fate has seemingly served the Cavaniola family well. Just years later the couple is looking to open their third business, Cavaniola’s Kitchen, located adjacent to their cheese shop at 89C Division Street and two doors down from their boutique wine store, Cavaniola’s Cellar.

On Tuesday, April 28 the Cavaniolas were granted exemption from the village-wide commercial moratorium and given site plan approval to occupy the 450 square foot vacant retail space next to the cheese shop and open the equivalent of a gourmet delicatessen.

The Cavaniolas asked the board for permission to open a small commercial kitchen in the retail space, where they will be able to expand the food service side of their cheese business, offering frittatas and muffins in the morning, and dishes like paella and roast beef at night. Cavaniola’s Kitchen, explain Cavaniola, will not have seating, but will pursue a take-out business.

While most recently operating as a retail space, selling clothing and money wiring service, according to village planner Rich Warren, a delicatessen is a permitted use at the location. Normally, parking would have been an issue for the Cavaniolas — they either would have had to provide on-site parking or pay into the village parking fund, but Warren and village attorney Anthony Tohill discovered the space operated as both a delicatessen and gourmet food store prior to 1984, when Sag Harbor adopted its zoning code, and after, giving the property owners pre-existing, non-conforming rights to allow Cavaniola’s Kitchen without having to comply with parking regulations as long as they do not expand the building.

“Nothing is happening from a regulatory perspective as long as we can have [the building’s manager] David Lee stand and testify he is the same young, spry David Lee he was in 1985,” joked Tohill.

Lee confirmed the existence of several leases defining the space as a delicatessen and the board quickly approved the project both for exemption from the moratorium and site plan approval.

An 80 Main Street business was also granted exemption from the moratorium and site plan approval by the village planning board. Tisha Collette’s women’s retail store was granted approval to operate in a former home furnishings store.

“This would be similar and actually less complicated than the last application,” explained Tohill, noting the use is consistent and permitted and there is no expansion to the space.

“This was really easy,” said Collette walking out the door.

In other planning board news, East End Ventures LLC, the developers seeking to turn the former Diner property on Sag Harbor’s waterfront into luxury condominiums, asked to adjourn its application until the May 26 planning board meeting.