Oceanside residents aren’t just grabbing a doughnut at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Lawson Boulevard — they’re sticking around for some karaoke on doo-wop nights.
They have been showing up in droves for the monthly Monday night karaoke sessions, which have become a hit in the community.
At the urging of some Dunkin’ Donuts’ regulars, storeowner Rocky Sheik began the trend over the summer and has continued it every month since then. During the most recent doo-wop night on Jan. 8, Nassau County Legislator Patrick Mullaney and Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Laura Ryder joined the fun.
“The karaoke nights at Oceanside Dunkin’ are an unforgettable experience, and it’s an exciting way to bring a little bit of music and fun to the community,” Ryder said. “I look forward to joining Rocky and all of the exceptional singers as they continue this tradition for many nights to come.”
The karaoke nights have continued to grow, drawing as many as 50 people to the store to enjoy some singing and possibly grab the mic to perform as well.
“We’ve always done things for the community, and this is another way we can bring people together through music,” Faiz Alana, re-gional general manager of Dun-kin’ Donuts, said. “When we decided to do karaoke, we did a small one that was pretty good, and now we have 40-plus people, which a lot of people in the community were talking about. It didn’t matter who you were, what you did — everybody was unified.”
Local Dunkin’ regular Jimmy LaMarca, and others who wanted to create another space in Oceanside for residents to feel welcome spearheaded the karaoke nights.
“We don’t think anybody hears customers,” Alana said. “We think of them as our guests. Jimmy and the guys are perfect examples of guests that bring energy to everyone, including the crew.”
LaMarca, 82, has been coming into the Dunkin’ Donuts, at 3151 Lawson Blvd., since he retired at age 68. After talking with several incoming patrons, a men’s chat group began to form, and Oceanside seniors would arrive each morning over the years to join LaMarca and several friends to chat about various topics. This garnered recognition among local patrons, and the group gained several new members over time.
“When I retired, I started coming to Dunkin’ Donuts and having a coffee sitting in the corner by myself,” LaMarca said. “But before you know it, one guy stopped to come over and before you know it, we had 11 guys.”
One of the group’s members, Joe Karp, 77, brainstormed bringing karaoke doo-wop to the store after seeing it being done in a Dunkin’ in Florida. Karp pitched the idea to the men’s group and the storeowner, and those nights have been a big success.
Karp, who retired 17 years ago, is the lead of his own doo-wop group, “Joey and the Paradons.” The group has been performing since 1959, singing hits from the 1950s and ‘60s. Karp moved to Oceanside in 1985, and for the last 18 years, has travelled to Florida during the winters to perform with the Paradons. The group also performs in Nassau County parks and other venues during the rest of the year.
“We have a passion to have people enjoy doo-wop,” Karp said. “We’re getting people to participate. People are feeling more relaxed and starting to get up and sing. When you see people when you’re singing, and people are singing along with you and dancing, that’s the best thing in the world.”
Since the summer, the group has themed karaoke nights and held a tribute night during the week of 9/11.
Karaoke nights at the Lawson Boulevard Dunkin’ will be on hiatus until the weather warms up and Karp returns from Florida in the spring. But LaMarca said he still has big plans and would like to create a larger set-up outside the store so that more people could attend. In addition, he said he wants to install a food donation box for visitors to donate to the Long Beach Soup Kitchen, Food Distribution Center.
“One guy came up to me and said he paid $100 to go to a concert two months ago, ‘and I didn’t have as good a time as I did here,’” LaMarca said. “We have some great professional groups stop by and sing, and we have people in the audience who will knock your socks off. It’s a good time, and everybody leaves smiling and happy.”