A two-year-old program in Mineola that provides funding for business owners to renovate their storefronts is finally gaining momentum, village officials said.
Village leaders said they envision downtown Mineola as a place where small businesses have customers coming and going throughout the day, boosting sales and creating a more active area. To make that happen, they said the storefronts need a uniform and harmonious look.
"With cohesiveness, there comes attractiveness," said Tom Savino, a consultant hired in 2015 by Mineola to run the Facade Improvement Program. "Not only does harmony give customers and travelers a calmer and more comfortable feeling, it makes them feel safer and say 'Wow, there's something different about this place.' "
The village has poured $405,000 into the program, using grant dollars from the Nassau County Community Block Grant. Village officials anticipate funding 75 more storefronts in coming years. Under the program, businesses sign a contract and the village pays 75 percent of the update costs and the business pays the rest. The new facade must be chosen from a limited list of designs.
Only businesses along Second Avenue, Willis Avenue, Old Country Road, Station Plaza, Front Street, Mineola Boulevard and Jericho Turnpike east of Mineola Boulevard are eligible for the program.
The goal of the program is to create a vibrant downtown. Savino, who has completed similar storefront work in Westbury, said governments' help with sprucing up storefronts will coax businesses to reinvest in their properties, attract new businesses and ultimately fill vacant stores. In Mineola, the program was slow to catch on, Savino said.
"Everyone was suspicious and they said 'the government is giving me money? Well, that doesn't sound right,' " he said, adding that now business owners are saying "I don't want to pass this up."
Billy Liakonis, who co-owns Station Plaza Coffee Shop and Diner, is a recent participant who said he joined at an opportune time.
Liakonis said his family-owned diner had a burgundy awning that "was starting to tear and wear a bit and fade." He said he first considered purchasing a new sign.
"Tom came around and told me about the program, and it was kind of a no-brainer," Liakonis said, adding that he signed his contract in July and that a month later the renovations were finished. "He showed me the design and worked with me, and it turned out great. It was nicer than I thought it would come out."
Savino said having one or two businesses show off their new storefront has created a snowball effect, resulting in other businesses expressing interest in the program.
Since 2016, Mineola has completed 13 storefronts. Four others are underway and 14 store owners are finalizing their contracts. Village officials said eight to 16 other store owners haveinquired about facade improvements.
Franwin Pharmacy on Mineola Boulevard was the first store to complete the program, in May 2016.
Co-owner Anthony Martincic said renovating his storefront and subsequent others is a first step in attracting more foot traffic. Adding more parking for potential customers would kickstart a downtown shopping revitalization, Martincic said.
“I think Mineola is on the right track for updating the downtown and making it more appealing,” he said.
13 and counting
The Village of Mineola has helped these local businesses restore their storefronts as part of the Facade Improvement Program:
Franwin Pharmacy (3 storefronts)
Double H Pub
Station Plaza Coffee House & Diner (2 storefronts)
Recovery Room Bar & Grill (2 storefronts)