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Long Island's oldest stores 

It's a family affair at at Looney Tunes in West Babylon; from left, Karl Groeger Jr., Karl Groeger Sr., and Jamie Groeger inside their shop on May 29. Credit: Randee Daddona

Nearly half  of all new businesses fail within five years of opening, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, yet several businesses on Long Island have not just defied the odds, but are going strong some 50, 75 years and longer. Surviving recessions, owners’ deaths and many other stumbling blocks, these shops and salons have become mainstays of Main Street and shopping centers throughout the Island. Here’s a look at some of these businesses and the secrets to their longevity:

nuBest Salon & Spa, Manhasset (1973)

When Michael Mazzei moved to Manhasset in 1969, he owned a chain of salons in Queens and Long Island and had his eye on the building that housed Best & Co. department store on the Miracle Mile.

“He felt that having all these multiple salons, he was running from place to place and he wanted to try something in one large location and that this would be the best one,” says Jamie Mazzei, his son and the current owner.

Back in the early '80s, it was all about volume and texture when it came to hair as evidence by this archival photo of nuBest. Credit: nuBest Salon and Spa

When Best & Co. closed its doors, Michael  moved in and christened the space nuBest in 1973, derived from the department store’s moniker.

“My father taught me how to cut hair,” says Jamie, who started working there after school in 1976 and took over the salon with his cousin Vincent Cascio around 2010. The third generation of Mazzeis now works there: Marco Mazzei, Jamie's older son, is a full-time employee and Jamie Mazzei II, 14, Jamie's younger son, helps out on weekends.

NuBest has always hired people early on in their careers, instilling in them the “nuBest philosophy,” of creating modern hair with classic lines.

The secret to their success: “We have a very highly trained staff that are super creative and truly understand their trade,” Jamie  says.

Jamie Mazzei, 57, his cousin Vincent Cascio, 55, his father and...

Jamie Mazzei, 57, his cousin Vincent Cascio, 55, his father and founder of nuBest Salon and Spa, Michael Mazzei, 83, and Jamie’s cousin, Christian Fleres, 47.  Credit: nuBest Salon and Spa

East Meadow Upholsterers, East Meadow (1951)

Newsday TV's Elisa DiStefano visits East Meadow Upholsterers in East Meadow with owner Michael P. Shannon. Credit: Randee Daddona

Michael Shannon took over the store from his in-laws, Lou (who did the upholstery) and Ruth Ferrari (who did the sewing) in 1988.

“My wife wanted nothing to do with the business, so I winded up learning it myself and hiring other people to do half the work,” says Shannon, who upholsters household furniture and restaurant and boat seating.

For the past four years, the bulk of his business has been dining room seats. 

“Because of COVID, people now are sitting on their dining room sets,” Shannon says, referring to the fact that more people have stayed in since the pandemic, wearing out their dining seats.

Ziya Sinik repairs a chair at East Meadow Upholsterers, which has been in business in East Meadow since the 1950s. Sinik has worked there for 24 years.  Credit: Linda Rosier

Shannon prides himself in his integrity: He truthfully advises people when their pieces aren’t worth fixing rather than taking their money.

The secret to their success: being honest with customers.

“And I go above and beyond,” he says. “If there’s something that can be done that doesn’t cost me much time or money, I’ll wind up doing it for free.”

Looney Tunes Record Store, West Babylon (1971)

Looney Tunes Record Store was founded as a record store by his father, notes Karl Groeger Jr.

“I started working at the store when I was about 6 years old bagging records at Christmastime,” says Groeger, adding, “I never wanted to do anything else in my whole life.”

In about 1989, Groeger and his brother Jamie took over the record store, which has a stage in the middle of the space where they host autograph signings and concerts.

Vinyl enthusiast Geroge Fletcher, of Bay Shore, thumbs through racks of...

Vinyl enthusiast Geroge Fletcher, of Bay Shore, thumbs through racks of new and used vinyl records at Looney Tunes in West Babylon. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Inventory has changed with the times: going from records to reel-to-reel to 8-tracks to CDs.

“And now it’s back to records and CDs,” says Groeger, adding that they also sell hundreds of different concert T-shirts and posters, incense, candles, games, music books and turntables.

Since its inception, the store has been in the same building and undergone four expansions. In August 2007, a fire burned the store down to the ground.

“We decided to rebuild and we were open that year by December with a brand new store,” he says.

The secret to their success, he says: selection, service and good prices.

Blum’s Swimwear & Intimate Apparel, Patchogue (1927)

Originally a menswear store when they purchased it, Molly and Arthur Blum turned their new namesake store into a women’s lingerie, bras and blouse store in 1927.

“They were open from 9 in the morning until 9 at night,” says Marc Siegel, 70, grandson of the Blums’, who co-owns the store with Cherie Alleyne. “That’s how many hours they worked: seven days a week.”

Blum's Swimwear and Intimate Apparel is located in Patchogue. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

About 1999, under the stewardship of Alleyne, Blum’s began additionally selling swimwear year-round. “That’s when we started hopping all the time,” Siegel says of business. Siegel came to work at the store in 1976.  But before then, he and the Blums’ six other grandkids used to help out at during the holidays.

“We’d all be in line making bows. We had a bow machine. Each one had a different job making bows for Christmas,” Siegel says.

The secret to their success: advertising, personalized service and the iconic Blum name.

St. James General Store, St. James (1857)

The St. James General Store is now operating as a destination...

The St. James General Store is now operating as a destination gift shop. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin/Debbie Egan-Chin

Back in the 1850s when Ebenezer Smith opened a general store in St. James, people shopped for hardware, yard goods, medicine, shoes, kitchenware, groceries and even horse medicine, while also picking up their mail since the post office was located within the store.

“It was like the Kmart or Target of its day where you can get anything you needed,” says general manager Karen Sheedy, who’s worked there since 1999.

These days, the store is more of a destination and gift shop, selling old timey candy, jams and jellies, women’s accessories, old fashioned toys, books and more.

The St. James General Store is reputed to be the oldest continuously functioning general store. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin/Debbie Egan-Chin

“We do have the artifacts up of what we used to sell,” says Sheedy. “You feel like you’re stepping back in time.”

The secret to their success, she says: loyal customers and tourists.

The Colony Shop, Patchogue (1946)

Owner Lori Belmonte, 67, and her aunt, Lorice Fiala, 88, holds an original Colony Store business ledger in Patchogue. Lorice has worked at the shop since 1953, when she was 18 years old. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Lori Belmonte and her aunt Lorice Fiala are the current owners of The Colony Shop, which was opened in 1946 by Eloise Staudinger, Belmonte’s grandmother and Fiala’s mom, selling newborn, Communion and special occasion clothing.

“I’ve been shopping here for over 50 years,” says Jean Keillor, of Wading River, 70, who now shops there for her six grandchildren. “They have a little bit of everything … and the price is very reasonable.”

In 2006 they moved to their fourth location in Patchogue, but the one constant through the years is providing personalized service.

A newspaper clipping of owner Lori Belmonte, now 67, when she was 18 months old and modeled for a fashion show at The Colony Shop in Patchogue.  Credit: Rick Kopstein

The secret to their success: customer service.

“We do have people coming in, like men, who have a grandchild and they don’t know what to get so we guide them down the path,” Belmonte says, adding, “We do free gift wrapping.”

Bliss’ Department Store, Shelter Island (1973)

Originally an A&P dry goods store, Bliss’ Department Store was started by current owner Matt Johnson’s grandfather, Leonard Bliss. Johnson and his wife, Erika, took over in 2020 from Johnson’s parents, Walter and Peggy Johnson.

“We’re a department store, so we have a little bit of everything: clothing, footwear, a lot of souvenirs, gift items, housewares, beach supplies, toys, stationery,” Johnson says. “Everything someone could need when they come out for the weekend.”

The secret to their success, he says: listening to their customers and creating a personal experience.

“When they’re requesting something, we’ll bring it in,” he says. “If we see something’s not working, we’ll phase it out.”

Richard York Shoes, Patchogue (1927)

There was never a Richard York, notes Richard Siegel, grandson of David Siegel, the original owner of Richard York Shoes.

“I think my grandfather liked some of the department stores that had names of people and I think he picked something he liked the sound of,” says Siegel, who took over in 1975.

The store carries men’s, women’s and children’s shoes, sneakers, sandals, boots, slippers and socks, from casual to dressy, work and formal styles.

The secret of their success: quality merchandise, caring and personalized service, setting the independent shoe store apart from big box and department stores.

Gennaro Jewelers, Bellmore (1923)

It started with Erwin Von Der Heydt, a clockmaker who installed the clocks at the West Bathhouse of Jones Beach. Louis Gennaro, a watchmaker, joined the business, and renamed the store Gennaro Jewelers in 1968.

An ad for Gennaro Jewelers, published in Newsday on June 2, 1985. Credit: Newsday/Newsday file

In 1979, Gary Hudes, a bench jeweler, joined the shop, became a partner and eventually took over.

The secret to their success: Everything is done on the premises by jewelers, diamond setters, gemologists, and engravers.

“We have a slogan in our store: ‘Your diamonds are set while you wait and watch.’ Your diamonds never leave your sight,” Hudes says.

MORE INFO 

nuBest Salon & Spa -1482 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, 516-627-9444
Looney Tunes Records Store, 31 Brookvale Ave., W. Babylon, 631-587-7722
Blum’s Swimwear & Intimate Apparel, 27 E. Main St., Patchogue, 631-475-0136
St. James General Store, 516 Moriches Rd., St. James, 631-854-3740
The Colony Shop, 31 E. Main St., Patchogue, 631-475-0070
Bliss’ Department Store, 186 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-0041
East Meadow Upholsterers, 371 E. Meadow Ave., East Meadow, 516-794-2546
Richard York Shoes, 14 S. Ocean Ave., Patchogue, 631-475-1047
Gennaro Jewelers, 410 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, 516-785-0134

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