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Long IslandTowns

One woman's dream: A downtown Riverhead revival

As Nancy Swett walks through downtown Riverhead, she passes by large, empty storefronts, traffic-filled intersections that are hard to cross and a scenic river that she says few people take advantage of.

What she sees is much different: potential.

Swett, of Jamesport, remembers Riverhead in better times, she said, before Route 58 was full of big-box stores and online shopping took the community experience out of buying.

“It’s depressing,” she said. “And it made me a little mad, but there’s really no reason that we can’t reclaim Riverhead.”

In 2009, Swett started the group iloveriverhead -- part marketing campaign and part civic organization, she said. The group meets regularly to discuss an action plan for revitalizing the downtown and Swett said she tries to be a voice for the business owners and community members.

“I think it’s just important that they feel listened to,” she said. “So we're doing a lot of listening, a lot of saying, ‘OK, what’s next?’ ”

The group is still getting its feet wet, but Swett said she hopes to find ways to encourage more people to come to the downtown and give more business owners a reason to stay, complementing other efforts that have been under way for some time.

“We need to find out what people want and what they value,” she said. “And then we want to provide that for them.”

For more on iloveriverhead, visit the group’s website.



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