Douglaston community leaders are hopeful that a bakery and gift shop’s pending move to a spot near the Long Island Rail Road station will lead to a renaissance of businesses there.
The shop, Giftalicious, now located at 42-34 235 St., has been in business since last July and owner Demetra Sirica said she will be moving to a larger space at the former site of the Douglaston Market, across the railroad tracks at 40-39 235 St. “We always liked the location and the landlord has been very accommodating,” Sirica said Tuesday of the new space.
The market was open for 12 years and was a popular spot for commuters and parents of students at nearby PS 98 to gather for coffee, food and conversation. But the Department of Health issued numerous violations last year and the store closed last June.
Now, the businesses remaining on the strip include a drycleaner, a shoemaker, an architect and a dance and exercise center. Civic leaders and Douglaston boosters have been concerned that the area is deteriorating and looks bad with so many empty stores. Now, they think, that is about to change.
Dorothy Matinale, president of the Douglaston Chamber of Commerce, said the bakery will be the anchor for the strip. “It has been our focus to try to fill that space as the community outcry was strong,” Matinale said. “The community seems very excited about the reopening and we are working diligently with the landlords to find occupants for the two remaining spots.”
Jane Stewart, a board member of the Douglaston Local Development Corp., called the bakery’s move “great news.”
“People need a place to get coffee,” Stewart said. “And the fact that there are several empty stores along there makes it look terrible We hope with the bakery opening, it will lead to the renting of the other stores.”
Sirica is hoping for more foot traffic in the new store, with people stopping in on their way to trains heading to Manhattan. Giftalicious will offer breakfast and lunch and will be open seven days a week, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Last year, Douglaston’s green market opened in the traffic circle around the LIRR station. The program was renewed for this year and will run on Sundays from July 8 through Nov. 18. One of the organizers, Douglas Montgomery, said the new store will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
“The bakery will be wonderful for the area,” Montgomery said. “It can take advantage of the farmers market and we can have a symbiotic relationship with it.”
He noted that last year visitors couldn’t get a bottle of water while they were shopping at the green market. “This is fantastic for the community and I hope it lasts.”
Sirica called the farmers market “a win-win situation,” adding that her shop will also feature outdoor tables and chairs.
Ann Jawin, chairwoman of the Doug Bay Manor Civic Association, thinks the bakery is the right store for the area. “It’s not an easy area to get to,” Jawin said. “But it’s ideal for a bakery. Like where else can you get a cup of coffee?”
Sirica plans to close her existing location on Feb. 29 and open at the new site on March 5. “Half the store will be open, but by June we’ll be fully operational,” Sirica said.
She is adding ice cream and a candy bar for youngsters and will also sell newspapers.
A successful businesswoman with three grown sons, Sirica has run 10 stores and has been encouraged by the reception she’s received in Douglaston, where she raised her children.
Her bakery items, made off-site, include cookies, cheesecake, cupcakes, cake balls, croissants and more. Gifts include salad dressings, sauces, soap products and lots more. The business also offers party planning, balloons, kids parties and gift baskets.
“We did 2,500 gift packages at Christmas,” Sirica said. “People are happy when they come to the store because everything is high quality.”
Her philosophy is to provide good service, products and prices in a clean environment. “You have to be good to your customers and make them happy. That’s how business grows,” she added.
The store owner will work with the Douglaston Chamber of Commerce to host events or help with other programs. “We’re good with that because we are part of the community,” Sirica said.
She expects to hire 10 employees, including two, Luis and Carlos, who worked at the Douglaston Market.