The newly-formed Northport Village Merchants Association met with Mayor George Doll and Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin at the beginning of this month to address parking issues stemming from the farmers market.
The farmers market takes up too many parking spots on Saturday afternoons that could otherwise be used by paying customers, said the group members, leading to a decrease in revenue for downtown businesses.
The group presented Doll and Tobin with a number of suggestions, including relocating the farmers market elsewhere downtown and directing customers to less noticeable parking spots. Tobin started a Village Parking Task Force as a result of the meeting and input from the Northport Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a board member.
"We're trying to figure out a way that we can work together with the events to accommodate everyone and keep everyone happy to the best of our ability," said Lisa Harris, association member and owner of Cafe Portofino.
Harris said that the conflict between some events and the interests of village merchants was a common point of concern when the association was in its formative stages. The founding members--Lisa Harris from Cafe Portofino, Lynne Usher from Einstein's Attic, Kathie Kitts from Artisan House, Carlene Afetian from Veronica Rayne, Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island, Melissa Wawrzonek from Clipper Ship Tea Company, and Artie Berke of Nina's Pizza and Kasper's Hot Dogs--agreed that the merchants in Northport needed a stronger, more cohesive voice to address such concerns.
"There was a consensus that our needs weren't really being met...it seemed like the general idea that none of these issues could really be solved by any one group in particular, it wasn't necessarily a chamber issue or village issue," said Harris, who added that the group will serve as a kind of "think tank."
Founding member Artie Berke said the group will not only be a reservoir of ideas, it will be a source of concerted action. "One battle at a time," he said. "Let's focus on one thing and get our thoughts across and make it happen."
Now 40 paying members and growing since its first meeting Aug. 30, the Merchants Association is also involved in the effort to save the Northport Post Office, continuing the discussion on putting an ice skating rink downtown, and promoting commerce. One such event is "Holiday Thursdays" planned for the four Thursdays leading up to Christmas. Participating businesses will stay open until 9 p.m. and carolers and holiday characters will greet residents throughout the village.
The group currently has no offices and no appointed leader. "It's a true democracy," said Berke.
Lisa Harris said the group wants to be clear that it is not in opposition to or in competition with the Northport Chamber of Commerce. Though the two are similar, but they have different scopes, she said. Whereas the chamber serves to attract people to Northport, the merchants association is focused exclusively on the needs of retailers in the downtown area.
"We are being constructive, and not criticizing," said Harris. "We are making suggestions for improvements and we're not looking to take anything away from any particular group or committee that's worked really hard to bring these events to the village. Everyone has an appreciation for everything that goes on, we just need it to be crafted so that it doesn't hurt the businesses on Main Street."
The Northport Chamber continues to put on events in the village and work to promote businesses and Northport attractions. President Flemming Hansen did not wish to comment on the Merchants Association.