By Kelly Alvarado
The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce hosted a Legislative Breakfast at Stonewalls Restaurant on Oct. 19 to address town and state issues affecting Riverhead area businesses. Included in the discuss was aid programs available to small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the shutdown of the Stony Brook incubator.
Featured speakers included New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo, New York State Assemblywoman Jodie Giglio, and Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, among others.
The guest speakers opened up the meeting with the topic of urban planning. Aguiar mentioned the new Downtown Riverhead Historic Trail, which is said to open on Oct. 20 and articulated on the plans she has for developing downtown Riverhead.
“We’re hoping to have an amphitheater on our riverfront,” Aguiar said. “We’re hoping to maybe someday open up the Long Island Music Museum that we’re going to develop.”
The speakers answered questions on the allocation of money to small businesses suffering from the impact of COVID-19. They mentioned a number of programs that provide financial assistance, including the NYS Seed Funding Grant Program that gives $5,000 to $25,000 to those in food-based businesses.
Some audience members also raised concerns about the remaining COVID-19 relief money that could be given to businesses. “There is some of that money that is still available,” Giglio responded. “I think they are still taking applications, but most of the money is accounted for.”
Another impact on small businesses was the closing of the Stony Brook incubator in August after an oven inside the building exploded, causing significant damage. Seventy businesses that used that oven were forced to close down.
About 75 percent of the businesses that were displaced from the explosion were minority- and women-owned businesses. Maria Camassa, founder of Lucky Lou’s Gourmet Rice Pudding, has used the incubator for several years. Camassa said, among the 70-plus businesses, they have lost over $1 million in revenue. However, they have been given a partial reopening date.
“We are planning to have a fully reopened facility in mid-November,” Camassa said.
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