Stephanie Pontillo, 26, co-owns Sip This, a popular coffeehouse on Rockaway Avenue in Valley Stream, with her longtime friend David Sabatino, 26.
How did you two pair up?
We've been friends since seventh grade at Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School.
What do you remember doing growing up in Valley Stream?
We went to the pool and played sports. My parents still walk to Hendrickson Park every day. Everyone knows each other on our block and we walked everywhere as kids. I graduated from [Valley Stream] Central High School in 2004, but I remember walking to the business district for lunch. Unfortunately, they stopped that at the junior high school, but we were allowed to walk to get lunch in 10th through 12th grade at Central.
How did you tackle the challenge of owning a business at such a young age?
I never felt scared. My dad [Joseph, 56, of Valley Stream] opened a bakery supply business [in College Point, Queens] at age 24, so I always thought it was in our reach, just like it was in his. [Her father opened the business 32 years ago, but sold it five years ago.] I was excited for this. The scariest thing was that we’d close, wouldn’t have enough employees, or they wouldn’t be trained right. Now, we have five employees, including me and David. I work 10-hour days, but I feel weird not being here, so I don’t mind.
How has business been since you opened in August 2011?
We’ve seen a larger following on our Facebook page and we have tons of regulars. People who live in Valley Stream still come in and say they didn’t know we were here, so we’re still reaching people. On average, I have to say between 150 to 200 customers walk in daily. On a Friday night, we’ll have up to 400, especially during events.
What do you think is so attractive about Valley Stream?
The train is close and the parks are wonderful. Even if I left Valley Stream someday, I wouldn’t go far because this is home. Nobody in my family really moves that far away.
Tell me something not many people know about you.
I do trivia night here because I’m obsessed with trivia. Part of the fun for me is to get to learn new things every time we hold the event. In the past, you could win a gift certificate to Sip This, but now the Paramount in Huntington is donating concert tickets.
Above: David Sabatino, 26, co-owns Sip This, a popular coffeehouse in Valley Stream, with his longtime friend Stephanie Pontillo, 26, who also grew up in the village. (Oct. 24, 2012)