The hum of live entertainment could be heard through the trees last Sunday morning as visitors searched frantically for parking spaces. The gray-white sky and the humid air did not deter the crowds from coming to Mini Mart, Sea Cliff’s annual street fair. Luckily, after lunchtime, the sun broke through the clouds.
“We’re a small village, but we have big heart,” said Mayor Edward Lieberman, admiring the changing sky. “This is the day that everyone comes to Sea Cliff and enjoys our people, our businesses, our artists, and we love to have people come and explore and realize what a gem we are.”
For the past 49 years, the village has shut down four blocks of Sea Cliff Avenue for Mini Mart, which has become the village’s most anticipated community event. Starting early in the morning on the first Sunday in October, volunteers from North Shore Kiwanis, which organizes the event, mark the streets for more than 200 vendors that take part each year.
“It was a little misty [this morning] but there was still a lot of energy, and some vendors were starting to come at 6 a.m. in the dark,” said Kiwanian Roger Hill. “A lot of people have been here for years, and they know their spots even though they’re not marked.”
Mini Mart started as an art fair, but has since evolved into a marketing opportunity for jewelers, crafters, restaurants and businesses. Local nonprofits like the Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus and Rotary publicize their work and attract new supporters. The money raised from booth rentals helps support Kiwanis’s community programming.
Club President Julia Salat — who also advises North Shore High School’s Key Club — has been involved in Mini Mart for the past 30 years. Her favorite part of the daylong event, she said, is seeing old students with whom she has worked with in years past.
“One of the things that’s very near and dear to my heart is the kids always know where I am,” Salat said. “They always come back to see me and remember how this was so much fun.”
In addition to longtime vendor, Hill said that more than 20 new ones took part this year. Barry Simon, of Merrick, was one of them. He sells custom-made decoupage boxes at crafts fairs across the county, but he said, “This is actually the best one for us, and certainly the most successful so far.”
Simon, a native of Port Washington, remembers attending Mini Mart for many years, so it made sense for him to get his business involved. “Everyone’s very friendly,” he said. “There are great people here, and they’re all very complimentary about our work.”
Simon wasn’t the only former North Shore resident at the event. Former Greenvale resident Jill Kantor, a member of the North Shore High class of 1974, enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells, and reconnected with some former classmates. “My mom and I used to do street fairs and things like that,” she said, “and we attended the first few Mini Marts that there were.”
It had been a long time since she visited the North Shore, and while she said that urban sprawl had changed the community, she noted that Sea Cliff has maintained its small-town appeal with Mini Mart.
“I’ve recalled a lot of fond memories even just driving here,” she said. “Going past the Swan Club, Engineers Country Club, Tappen Beach. [Those places] elicit all kinds of memories.”
Lieberman said that the welcoming atmosphere of Mini Mart — the aroma of barbecue, the warming taste of cinnamon sugar rimming pumpkin beers, the clamor of live music — is due in part to the people. “All the people that participate make it such a glorious day,” he said. “What we have here is a culmination of everyone trying to have a good time, and for one day, the village is more alive than ever.”
The 50th annual Mini Mart will be held next Oct. 6.