My first day in Bayville is coming to an end, but as I cross over the Bayville Bridge tonight to head home I’m leaving with a new understanding of the history of this village and an appreciation for its residents’ hospitality.
Bayville Mayor Doug Watson braved today’s brutal heat to take me on a tour of downtown Bayville. Our journey began in Bayville Commons, a park located at the corner of Bayville and Ludlam avenues that had been a vacant Texaco gas station before the village purchased the land. In May 1999, the space was transformed into a passive park with benches, landscaping and a parking lot.
“We wanted a real center of town,” Watson said.
Watson also pointed out the new crosswalks, streetscaping, facade work and recent upgrades to the roadways and sidewalks in downtown Bayville, which had not been upgraded since the 1980s.
“It just looked tired,” he added.
As we stopped at The Bridge Cafe, formerly The Bayville Luncheonette, located at the intersection of Ludlam and Bayville avenues, Watson asked owner Brigitte Barteau how business has been lately.
“Business has definitely picked up,” said Barteau, 48, who also lives in Bayville.
Although Barteau usually notices an increase in customers during the summer season, the change was even more dramatic this June, because of the re-opening of West Shore Road. The 1.9-mile main road, which runs through Mill Neck to the Bayville Bridge, had been closed since superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc to it.
“I’ve had people who come in from Oyster Bay who have said to me, ‘We haven’t been here, because the road has been closed,’” Barteau said. “Now, all of a sudden it seemed like they came running out.”
Bartling said Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, a comedian and longtime Bayville resident who I interviewed Saturday night, is one of her regular customers. Billy Joel, who lives in neighboring Centre Island, also patronizes many of the shops in downtown Bayville including Barteau’s and the butcher shop across the street, Bayville Meat Center.
Edward Vassallo, whose family has owned the business for the past 36 years, said Joel is a fan of the skirt steaks. To show his appreciation for the local merchants, Joel gifts each of them a poinsettia plant around the holidays every year, Vassallo added.
The tour of downtown Bayville concluded with Jean Mansueto, owner of Coach Realty, which is housed in the former home of the Inter-Media Art Center, which later moved to Huntington before eventually closing.
In her 43 years of handling real estate in Bayville, Mansueto has coined the term the “Bayville shuffle” to describe how many residents sell their homes only to move into another house within Bayville.
While giving me tour of the Bayville Historical Museum Monday evening, Dave Rapelje, the museum’s director, said his wife Catherine Meringolo, and three of her siblings, all grew up in Bayville and still live there today.
“We’re not that unique to the village,” he said. “There’s quite a few generations of families who live here.”
To view all my photos from my tours of downtown Bayville and the Bayville Historical Museum, check out the “Week in Bayville” photo gallery. You can also follow me throughout the next five days on Twitter and Instagram (@TaraKConry) and send me suggestions of places to visit and people to speak by emailing Tara.Conry@newsday.com.