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Patchogue retailers want visitors to eat, drink, but mostly shop

A newly formed retailers committee is offering promotions for holiday season shoppers, keeping stores open later and giving away hundreds of stuffed bears.

John Murray III, president of the Patchogue Retailers

John Murray III, president of the Patchogue Retailers Committee, in front of Kilwins, his village chocolate company, on Dec. 6, 2017. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Eat. Drink. But also shop.

Patchogue’s new retailers committee is taking steps to include shopping among the attractions for visitors.

A “Ladies Night Out” was held Thursday, keeping stores open later than they normally would be in the hopes of attracting holiday shoppers. The effort was the first from the Patchogue Retailers Committee, which formed in October with the goal of promoting members’ businesses and supporting village endeavors downtown.

“There’s great retail in Patchogue, but sometimes it gets overshadowed because of all of the new restaurants,” Kennedy said. “Restaurants are becoming such an important aspect of downtown.”

The overall goal is not just to highlight local businesses, but to draw more retail to the area, said David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce.

Patchogue boomed through redevelopment in recent years, with more than 700 apartments constructed downtown that have brought in new residents and artists, and spurred the opening of restaurants and pubs that have attracted visitors from around the region. And the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts recently underwent a $1 million renovation to become a central attraction in the village.

But lost in the successful transformation has been retail.

“The word is out on Patchogue about eating and drinking, but we want to make people aware of the great retailers we have to offer and improve the experience of shopping in Patchogue,” said John Murray III, president of the Patchogue Retailers Committee.

Murray, owner of the chocolate company Kilwins, said he created the group after noticing the success of the village’s restaurant committee.

Decades ago, downtown Patchogue was well-known for its retail district such as Swezey’s Department Store and others that had been operating for at least 70 years. Those “legacy” stores included Blum’s, The Colony Shop and the Richard York shoe store.

But in the 1980s, consumer spending shifted toward big-box stores, outlets and malls, leaving downtown Patchogue with empty storefronts, officials said.

“The mall really owned the day when it came to retail shopping and led to Patchogue’s decline,” Kennedy said. “Many downtown shopping districts in Long Island were having the same problem. The vacancy rate was well over 50” percent in Patchogue.

The retail committee wants to bring back that desire to shop downtown.

It has discussed special shopping nights such as “Ladies Night Out,” later operating hours and possible solutions to parking congestion. The committee attempts to meet once a month and created a Facebook page.

“My goal is to put shoppers on the street. Shop small, shop local, shop Patchogue,” committee member Lori Belmonte said.

Participating retailers are taking part in the “I Love Patchogue” bear campaign, in which the stuffed animals will be given away to shoppers.

“We’re just looking to inject some hospitality and gratitude to those who have supported us,” Murray said.

The Patchogue Retailers Committee

  • Organized in October as a group within the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce.
  • Made up of about a dozen business owners.
  • Tries to meet monthly and has set up a Facebook page for input and information.
  • Giving away more than 500 stuffed bears to shoppers during the holiday season.

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