The Sea Cliff Mini Mart is one of the village’s largest events, bringing tens of thousands of people from Long Island and beyond to the North Shore every year. It features live music, more than 200 vendors selling everything from food to art to jewelry to toys, and opportunities to support local organizations. This year’s Mini Mart, last Saturday, had some extra significance, because it was celebrating 50 years in the village.
In 1964, then Mayor Edward Stiles wanted to draw more visitors to Sea Cliff, so, with residents’ help, he recruited local artists to put their work on display during a weeklong event. Five years later, residents Lois Eckland, Jim Aiello and Jay Powers turned the Mini Mart into a single day of festivities, and organized it for the following 10 years.
As local groups discussed ways to continue the event’s success in the early 1980s, Arthur Hubbs, then the president of the North Shore Kiwanis Club, volunteered to take it over, and the club has overseen it ever since. This was the first Mini Mart without Hubbs, who died on Aug. 2, at age 91.
“Arthur is looking down from up there on his Mini Mart, what he brought to Kiwanis,” said Kiwanian Leslie McCarthy. “So, he’s looking down now in peace, in comfort and just enjoying it, and he’s just happy that we’re continuing it. It will always be a part of him, and he’ll always be a part of Kiwanis.”
Roger Hill, co-chair of the club’s Mini Mart Committee, said that Hubbs’s passing made this year’s event even more meaningful for the club — and the fact that it has been going strong for 50 years was just as meaningful for the community.
“Sea Cliff uses this as [its] national holiday,” Hill said. “Everybody looks forward to it, high schools have their reunions here, some people come back from college just to be here. It’s like a gigantic block party, and a lot of family stuff happens around here, so I think that’s what makes it special. Fifty years of still going [when] some festivals aren’t, and so many things have gone by the wayside, I think it shows how tightly bonded the community is.”
Along with Kiwanis, many other local organizations manned booths at the Mini Mart. The North Shore High School Key Club sold cookies — baked in small ovens at the back of its tent — to raise money for nonprofit organizations.
“It’s a time for everyone to come together and show off their own personal business or what their interests are,” said Key Club President Gillian Neos, 17. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone to meet new people and buy some cute things.”
“You just see everyone with a smile on their face, greeting anyone even if [they] don’t know them,” added Vice President Frankie Corozzo, 16. “That’s just who we are, and what this town is.”
Jason and Laura Ciullo, who grew up on the North Shore and now live in Glen Head, said they love bringing their three children to the Mini Mart every year. Their 7-year-old daughter, Libby, said she was having a great time shopping, and was particularly pleased with a pair of homemade earrings she found.
Laura’s mother, Carolyne Grupe, who grew up in Sea Cliff and attended the Mini Mart as a child, said she loved sharing the experience with her grandchildren, and showing them that she did the exact same thing when she was young.
One of the many elected officials who stopped by was Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Sea Cliff is a very, very cool place, with a lot of cool people who live here,” she said. “This is a celebration of the community, and the fact that it’s bringing out all ages . . . in one place to celebrate their community is a very special thing.”
Sea Cliff Mayor Edward Lieberman, who was all smiles as he mingled with shoppers, said that Mini Mart is a pivotal part of Sea Cliff’s culture. “It’s just another one of those examples of tradition and heritage that we have in Sea Cliff that we try to keep going each year, stronger and stronger and more popular,” he said, “and keep it quaint at the same time in the Sea Cliff manner.”