The Kitchen Loft owner Steve Wangel was sworn in as the Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce president on Jan. 25 at the annual installation of officers dinner at the Elks Lodge. He previously served as vice president under outgoing President Carol Burak, who took office in 2016, and will serve a two-year term.
Wangel has been a member of the chamber since 2002. During a question and answer session with the Herald, Wangel shared his ideas on how to help downtown businesses, ways to bring new businesses to the village and his goals for the term.
Wangel said the chamber is open to suggestions and ideas from residents and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Herald: As chamber president, what are your top priorities and goals for this term?
Steve Wangel: My top priorities for the chamber will be to grow the membership and create meaningful programs that will help our members differentiate themselves from online and big-box retailers and make Lynbrook a destination for shopping. Not only in our downtown, but in all corners of the village.
Herald: As you took the post, did you receive any advice from outgoing President Carol Burak or anyone else?
SW: Carol has been offering advice throughout my term as vice president. We have been planning this transition for some time so that it would be seamless. All of the past presidents, including William Gaylor, Harold Reese, Polly Talbot and Harry Levitt have been offering the benefit of their experience.
Herald: What upcoming chamber or village events are you most excited about for the coming year?
SW: Most importantly, the chamber is coordinating a “meet the candidates” evening for the upcoming village election, which is scheduled for March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Lynbrook Public Library. This is an important upcoming election, and we want to be sure that voters in Lynbrook have an opportunity to understand the issues and where each of the candidates stand. We have coordinated with the League of Women Voters and want to insure the dissemination of impartial information. We will continue with our “Lunch and Learn” program that was instituted under Burak. Our members have found the presentations invaluable. We are also exploring ways to make Lynbrook a destination for residents and people from other towns and villages to shop.
Herald: What goals and strategies do you think could be implemented to help generate new businesses in the village and to continue filling vacancies?
SW: We need to attract unique businesses that will act as an anchor for our shopping areas. My intention is to communicate with the mayor and coordinate with village officials so that we may reach outside the borders and attract retailers and service providers that build upon the already diverse offering of goods and services available. The chamber has a great relationship with the village and I am looking to expand on that. Destination retailers will develop additional traffic to the village and that traffic will translate into better visibility of our already established businesses.
Herald: What has the impact of the Regal movie theater had on the downtown businesses?
SW: When I talk about anchors, the movie theater is the dictionary definition of that! The opening of the theater was a long-awaited event. It appears to have had minimal impact on traffic and parking, while bringing a lot of eyes to Lynbrook from outside our zip code. Naturally, I expected that our restaurants would see an increase in business as folks go out for dinner and a movie, but I am also hearing from other businesses that they have picked up customers who discovered the other offerings that Lynbrook has.
Herald: Are there any new businesses that have opened in the village that you are excited about?
SW: There are few new business that open in Lynbrook that wouldn’t excite me. Specialty and niche retailers pique my interest most of all. The opening of the Starbucks freestanding store is doing a great business. It was replaced in Phillip’s Plaza by Ground Central Coffee, offering people a choice. On Atlantic Avenue, we just had the ribbon cutting ceremony for Needle and Groove Records, a vintage record shop. We also have a furniture store that uses reclaimed timbers and a salvage building materials store.
Herald: What type of new businesses do you hope to attract, and which types of businesses do you think would be good for Lynbrook that the village currently lacks?
SW: The internet and big-box stores have created a challenging environment for smaller businesses. Retailers who offer goods that can’t be purchased on the internet and customer service that can’t be matched in large retail stores is what I love to see.
Herald: The proposed Cornerstone development was controversial, but many business owners have encouraged development to help boost the downtown economy. What is your stance on development, and how do you think future projects could avoid resident backlash and help bring more people into the village’s business district?
SW: Long Island, hands-down is paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation. We pay the highest share of taxes to the state and receive a disproportionate share of that money back. Our businesses and residents would welcome any relief from their property taxes. In that way, everyone could benefit from a residential development. New residential development would add to our tax base and bring more shoppers to our downtown. The increase in demand would naturally domino into more sales for our existing businesses and help to bring new businesses to Lynbrook and help to drop the vacancy rate.
This needs to be balanced with neighborhood-appropriate construction and minimal impact on our infrastructure, including things like parking, our schools and village services. I think that there is a sweet-spot that we can find. I see in villages throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties where residential developments are a key factor in revitalization.We need to embrace some sort of development that is appropriate for our village. If we wantonly reject any sort of development, we will stagnate. That will increase vacancy rates for our retail stores.