Following a nearly two and a half year run, the Community Enrichment Mini-Center (CEmC) on Broadway in Woodmere officially closed its doors on Jan. 7, due to financial constraints, according to Ann Schockett, the executive leader of the Woodmere Republican club and mastermind behind the CEmC.
“In our last few months we tried to fundraise and didn’t want to charge groups that were using the place,” Schockett said. “Times have gotten tough and it became harder. We sold ad space on our monitor, people made donations and we held some functions to raise money but it’s gotten to the point where it became too much and we have to take a break and figure things out.”
The idea for the CEmC arose in August 2010 after the Woodmere Republican Club storefront opened, Schockett said. “After the first few months, I found that people were calling me more about problems they were having like jobs, resume services and foreclosure,” she said. “I found that I was spending most of my time sending people to different resource centers and helping them with problems so I started offering seminars run by community leaders and business owners in different areas. This really wasn’t just the Woodmere Republican Club anymore, it became more of a community center.”
Clubs, seminars and community projects, including a chess club, Artist of the Month and the Clean Sweep events where community members picked up trash and swept neighborhood streets, took place or were initiated at the CEmc. “They were all offered in one space,” Schockett said. “A lot of people did extremely well.”
Woodmere resident Alli Berman was the CEmC’s art programs director. She coordinated art exhibits and chose the Long Island Artist of the Month who was featured at the center. “It was a lot of fun going through the art and choosing them for the exhibits,” she said. “It was a good program and it’s unfortunate that they had to close.”
Despite the CEmC shutting its doors, Berman said she would continue to seek alternate venues for art exhibitions. “We have a tremendous amount of resources here for culture and I’m just tapping into it and bringing it to the forefront,” she said of the Five Towns. “I’ve talked to some of the places that I have exhibited at in the past to figure out the next step. The local community deserves to be connected to the local arts.”
Berman has also been working with Jamie Wysocki, president of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association (HWBA), to possibly display artwork in the windows of empty stores in the community. “I want to see where that goes and I hope something comes out of it,” Berman said.
Wysocki, owner of Dance Express on Broadway in Woodmere, said a small office, not retail store, would occupy the CEmC’s space. She believes that to attract more businesses to the Hewlett-Woodmere community, landlords need to reduce rent prices. “The biggest rock that we keep running into is the owners of the property are unwilling to lower rents,” she said. “The CEmC was a tenant of mine and I gave them a very low rental rate, less than a third of what it was worth. Landlords don’t want to be bothered, they would rather see their places empty instead of filling the stores and making our community more valuable.”
The HWBA has been reaching out to franchises in hopes of attracting them to the community. An upscale restaurant, according to Wysocki, has expressed interest in the former Woodmere-Lawrence Methodist Church property on Broadway in Woodmere. “They would keep the church but renovate the inside for the restaurant,” she said. “We were able to get Red Mango to open in Hewlett and we’ve been in touch with Michael Kors. They’ve shown interest but are slow in communication so that seems to be the next shop that may be coming in; we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
Schockett hopes to continue helping community-based organizations and individuals, without the storefront location. “If we can figure out a better method of re-establishing this or aspects of this we will,” she said. “It was a community effort and I have a lot of really good memories there. A lot of good things happened.”
For more information about the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association or for tenant information, contact Wysocki at (516) 295-2800.
To contact Berman about venues or art programs on Long Island, email Alli@AlliBerman.com.