When Peter Van Der Mije opened Osteria Leana in the hamlet of Oyster Bay, he was faced with the problem of how to bring people into a restaurant off the beaten track.
The restaurant opened May 23 in the former location of the Oyster Bay Brewing Company, which faces a parking lot behind South Street and Audrey Avenue.
“We’re not in the best area; we’re not on Main Street,” Van Der Mije said.
The red brick storefront with black awnings and gooseneck lighting used a $3,000 grant from the nonprofit Oyster Bay Main Street Association that requires recipients to adhere to aesthetic choices intended to maintain the historic character of the hamlet and promote visual cohesion.
“For our style restaurant the best thing was a simple, elegant design, but also it had to be functional,” Van Der Mije said. “First and foremost we wanted something to be classy, something timeless, but also portrayed a little bit of the sense of Oyster Bay.”
The grant program, which began in 2012, has expanded and with it the fundraising needs have grown, too. This year the sign and improvement program increased its award to up to $3,000 from $2,000. The business must cover at least 25 percent of the cost of the sign and facade improvements.
Meredith Maus, executive director of the association, said its fundraising campaign has increased its goal for next year to $15,000 from $10,000.
To receive a grant, businesses must submit plans to the association to be approved by the group’s design committee. The association awards four or five grants a year on a first-come, first-served basis.
A 12-page design guide calls for things like the restoration of architectural elements and use of natural materials and choices that are in keeping with buildings’ style and history.
“We want a cohesiveness throughout the downtown,” Maus said. “We like the general look and feel to be one of a historic hamlet.”
Ryan Schlotter, co-owner of the Oyster Bay Brewing Company on Audrey Avenue, said the grants make it easier for businesses to invest in better signage. The brewery was allotted a $3,000 grant for its signage and facade at its new location, where it opened in February.
“Signage might be the last place some places will spend money,” Schlotter said. For their new location, the brewery went “for that Nantucket kind of city-by-the-sea kind of look.”
Schlotter said he sees the cumulative impact of the program on the hamlet.
“You can see when you walk up and down the street the signs are a step above what most places do in other towns; it adds to it and makes the whole street look really nice,” Schlotter said.
Oyster Bay Councilman Chris Coschignano said discussions are ongoing within the planning and development department about creating an overlay district that would incorporate some of the aesthetic choices promoted by the association “to enhance what they’re doing now and maybe expand it and give them some help.”
“We like what they’re doing and the town definitely wants to do more,” Coschignano said.
Sign and facade grants
- Up to $2,000 for storefront signage, window lettering and signage lighting.
- Up to $2,000 for facade improvements, including alterations to doors, windows, awnings and lighting.
- Up to $3,000 for both signage and facade improvements.
Source: Oyster Bay Main Street Association