As cars whizzed by on Route 25 in Southold on Sunday morning, Daryl Malter carried chairs, vintage signs and tables outside her antiques store and artfully arranged them on the sidewalk.
As visitors celebrated the Labor Day weekend on the North Fork, she hoped the outdoor display would lure in the end-of-summer crowds.
“I really have done much better than I ever expected for my first season,” said Malter, who opened her store, Unique Antique Designs, in May.
After devoting 20 years to being a stay-at-home mom, Malter followed her passion and began selling antiques three years ago.
“I was raised in a home with antiques,” said Malter, who’s also an interior designer who splits her time between the North Fork and Brooklyn. “I feel more comfortable around old things.”
As her business grew, she began looking for a more permanent place to settle and found what she was looking for in Southold.
“Southold is more of a bustling town,” she said. “I love just being in the village. I like having neighbors. I like having people stop in to say hi on their way to the drugstore.”
Nearby shop owners such as Michael Braverman are glad to see Malter and others moving their businesses into the area. They hope having more stores on the strip will make the area a destination and not just a town to pass by on the way to Greenport.
Braverman, an interior designer from Manhattan who opened his home store, b.Home, six years ago, said while he is devoted to the area, it has not been immune to the struggling economy.
“It’s been a tough few years,” Braverman said. “But I love keeping [the store] here for the town.”
While the number of summer travelers may be dwindling, Braverman said, now the shop owners are eagerly awaiting the crowds who visit the wineries and pumpkin farms each fall.
“It will be bumper-to-bumper traffic,” he said.
Kevin Shannon, who co-owns the store Complement the Chef with his two sisters, agreed that winter is no longer a desolate time on the North Fork.
“When we came out on weekends back then in 1997 in wintertime it would be tough to find a restaurant open,” he said. “Now there are very few places that close.”
Despite the change, the first three months of the year are still rough for business, he said. But even still, there is no other place he would rather be.
“Southold is just a very different type of place. People hold doors for you. People say good morning and good afternoon. They let you make left-hand turns down side streets. They stop for you when you are crossing the street,” he said. “It’s just a real neighborly area.”