Things are changing in the hamlet of Oyster Bay, and it is due in large part to the efforts of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce. New ideas and the upgrading of what have traditionally been successful events was the chamber’s goal in 2017. This year it will continue its efforts to make the hamlet a destination location for tourists and a hometown that provides everything its residents need and want.
The first step in 2017 was to improve the marketing of the hamlet. Jim Perna, owner of Long Island Picture Frame and vice president of the chamber, took on the challenge.
“We took our biggest asset, Theodore Roosevelt, and implemented his face as the new logo,” Perna said. The old logo had been an oyster with a pearl. “No one knew what it was,” he said. “There are other waterfronts that are beautiful and historical, but none can say there was a president who lived in their home. People come from all over the world to see Sagamore Hill, so why not use that?”
Then the website was revamped. It now includes an interactive calendar, to which residents can submit events. It has a great deal of information available, more than before, Perna said. “It’s more geared toward tourism, broken down between retailers, restaurants, five-star service,” he said. “We have it right here in Oyster Bay.”
Like all chambers, Oyster Bay’s is committed to promoting business in its area. “If I bring people in for an art show, the hope is they’ll go to a local restaurant,” Perna said. “Working together is important.”
People who live in the hamlet want to shop there, he continued. “But our parking is tough. We’re going to try to fix this with the civic groups. [Town of Oyster Bay] Supervisor [Joseph] Saladino is open to listening to all of our challenges as businesses.”
The chamber is hoping Saladino will make changes to improve the hamlet.
Additional parking is needed, for example, which would be under the town’s purview. Chamber President Alex Gallego said he has met with Saladino, who is enthusiastic, but no timetable has been set for when any changes will be made.
Minor changes were made to Cruise Night in 2017. The popular summer event is held on Tuesday evenings from Memorial Day to Labor Day. “The reason why we improved it was because there are really a lot of car shows on Long Island and we want to compete,” Gallego explained.
The chamber’s goal was to improve safety and improve the logistics of the classic car show. Last summer the cars were lined up so as to make it impossible to double-park. And the car entrance changed too. “They entered from Larrabee Avenue instead of going down Audrey or Spring,” Gallego said. “Then they were staged down by Firemen’s Field before the show.”
Business owners were happy, he said, because many are on Audrey and Spring streets. “They realized that the chamber is trying to help everyone,” Gallego said. “Having cars double-parked on Spring and Audrey, limited parking for visitors and residents — not beneficial for our businesses.”
The chamber’s presence at the Oyster Festival was also a success. Partnering with Big Daddy’s BBQ, which sold “gators” on a stick, was a benefit. “They were the vendor of choice, and having that name recognition brought people to the chamber’s table,” Gallego said. Having people stop by gave chamber members the chance to share information about the hamlet to promote tourism. Thousands of people attend the Oyster Festival each year, and the majority are from out of town. The chamber’s objective was to encourage them to come back.
The Holiday Market, which the chamber hosted with the Oyster Bay Main Street Association, was a success in 2017. “We had more visitors than ever,” Gallego said. “It provides for an opportunity to take a look at our community, buy from our vendors and then stay and go to the coffee shop or a restaurant.”
The event includes the lighting of a Christmas tree and a portable skating rink. “It was a great example of how to draw in [tourists] and benefit small-town retailers,” Gallego said. “I can buy something on Amazon, but I can’t ice skate there.”
New town maps were created by the chamber. Now available at hotels within a two-mile radius of Oyster Bay, they provide information on things to do in the hamlet.
The chamber has partnered with the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is right off of the Long Island Expressway in Hauppauge. “We brought donated artifacts from the Theodore Roosevelt Association from Sagamore Hill there to highlight the hamlet,” Gallego said. Town maps are also available at the center.
Gallego described 2017 as the “year of the rebirth of the community.” Attention was also directed to marketing its fine restaurants. “We wanted our town to be recognized as a place where you can find the best dining on the North Shore,” Gallego said. “Over the last year, the town has seen a renaissance in store-front businesses and a surge in restaurants such as Autentico, Osteria Leana, Nikkei of Peru and 2 Spring, and we couldn’t be prouder to be home to such fine restaurants.”
Plans for 2018
This year, part of the focus will be on marketing the hamlet’s merchants, retail businesses and doctors. “Everyone knows we have some of the best businesses on Long Island,” Gallego said. “We want to be sure that their messages are heard.”
The chamber will encourage changes in infrastructure as well. “We need a modern new hamlet,” he said. “I’ve been reminding the supervisor that this is his White House.”
New streets and sidewalks are needed, Gallego said. “The time for talk is over. It’s time for action.”
He has met with town leaders to share the chamber’s vision — new tree-scapes, angled parking, a repaving of Firemen’s Field and additional lighting. “People should walk away from Oyster Bay and say, ‘I wish my town looked like this,’” Gallego said. “The supervisor said he wants to work with us.”
With the new website, social media and maps, Gallego said, he is encouraged that tourists will come, and find a friendly community that is vibrant and growing.