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As Brinkmann's Hardware expands, legal row over Mattituck site continues

From left, Mary Neimeth, Ben Brinkmann, and Hank

From left, Mary Neimeth, Ben Brinkmann, and Hank Brinkmann on Tuesday in Sayville in front of one of the family-owned Brinkmann's Hardware stores. Credit: Barry Sloan

A 45-year-old, Long Island-based hardware chain is expanding into Hauppauge, while its legal fight over two side-by-side stores planned for Mattituck continues.

A fifth Brinkmann's Hardware store is slated to open in July in part of a shopping center space previously occupied by a Staples office supply store.

"We’ve been interested in growth, looking at all of Long Island. We have been targeting areas that we feel we could do well in with good demographics," said Hank Brinkmann, who co-owns the business with his two siblings, Mary Neimeth and Ben Brinkmann.

Founded in 1976 by their parents, Tony and Pat Brinkmann, the hardware business is headquartered in Sayville and is part of the True Value buying group.

Brinkmann Hardware Corp. owns four Brinkmann's Hardware stores in Blue Point, Holbrook, Miller Place and Sayville and a stand-alone VanKemenade Paint store in Jamesport that sells Benjamin Moore paint.

The chain had planned to relocate its Jamesport store to Mattituck but has been stalled by an ongoing disagreement with the Town of Southold over a moratorium on new building applications.

Employing about 90 people, Brinkmann sells manual and power tools, gardening supplies, barbecue grills, patio furniture, snowblowers, paint and other products.

Business has been going strong over the past year, as consumers stuck at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic starting last March began to invest in sprucing up their houses inside and outside.

(In January, sales at building material and garden supply stores nationwide hit $40 million, up 19% from January 2020, said James Bohnaker, an economist in the Boston office of IHS Markit, a London-based market information service. The increase was a record for a one-year, January-to-January period.)

But the lease for the Hauppauge store actually was signed in February 2020, before the pandemic shutdowns, and the store was supposed to open last spring, Hank Brinkmann said. However, the opening was delayed because of the pandemic, he said.

Brinkmann Hardware Corp. owns the buildings for all its existing stores, but it will lease the Hauppauge property because the landlord was not willing to sell it, he said.

The Hauppauge store will take 12,500 square feet of the former Staples, at 526 NY-111, said Doug Weinstein, a real estate agent at Jericho-based Ripco Real Estate LLC who represents the owner of the Hauppauge shopping center, Phoenix Organization, in Boca Raton, Florida.

The rest of the former Staples space, 7,150 square feet, is occupied by an AutoZone auto parts store that opened about six months ago, Weinstein said.

The entire 35,000-square-foot Hauppauge shopping center will be renovated with a new facade, parking lot and other features, Hank Brinkmann said.

Brinkmann's Hardware wants to move the Jamesport paint store to Mattituck, where it bought a 1.77-acre site at 12500 Main Rd. for $700,000 in November 2018.

The chain had submitted building applications in January 2018 to the Town of Southold to construct a 12,000-square-foot hardware store and an 8,000-square-foot paint store on the Mattituck property, but the town passed a moratorium on building applications in the area in February 2019.

The Brinkmanns allege that the town is unfairly and illegally preventing the construction of their buildings, which some critics say will bring too much traffic to an area that is currently wooded.

Neither Southold Supervisor Scott A. Russell nor town attorney Bill Duffy responded to a request for comment.

Brinkmann Hardware Corp. sued the town over the moratorium in May 2019 in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead.

After a judge in June 2020 ruled against the town’s request that the lawsuit be dismissed, the town board voted in September to take the land via eminent domain to create a "passive" park.

The town offered the Brinkmann’s $775,000 to buy the land, which the family refused, Hank Brinkmann said.

The offer was insufficient, since the Brinkmann family has spent several hundred thousand dollars on architectural and engineering firms to draft plans and paid legal and town application fees, he said.

"We should be allowed to exercise our property rights there. That’s part of what’s fueling our fight here, he said. "We didn’t go out to Mattituck to flip a piece of property to the town. We went to Mattituck to expand our family business."

The town has until September 2023 to go to court to ask the judge for the property and have the court determine the value, said Thomas McKevitt, an attorney at Uniondale-based law firm Sahn Ward PLLC who is representing the Brinkmanns.

"So, in the meantime, my clients are stuck," McKevitt said. "They’re paying property taxes on a piece of property they essentially can’t use."

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