Port Outdoors Sees Great Success Promoting Local Businesses and Uniting Community

Port Outdoors Sees Great Success Promoting Local Businesses and Uniting Community

Hannah Brooks, Staff Writer

For the past six months, COVID-19 has forced Port Washington residents to search for new forms of entertainment and excursion while keeping health and safety in mind. After a number of collaborative efforts to reignite local businesses and energize community members, the Port Washington Business Improvement District (BID) and Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Town of North Hempstead, Port Washington Police Department, Precision Work, Inc., Landmark on Main Street, Residents Forward, as well as a $5,000 grant from PSE&G, to support Port Outdoors.  Despite a series of rain-outs and reschedulings, this new open-air dining and shopping event draws widespread attention.

On Thursday nights, Port Outdoors closes off a part of Main Street and sets up vendor booths and restaurant tables. Families walk with their children (and dogs) while live music is played from makeshift stages.  Naturally, precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are taken which include posters reminding attendees to wear their masks and remain six feet apart, hand sanitizing stations set up throughout the area, and all outdoor seating adhering to spacing guidelines.  

All live entertainment including music, dance, taekwondo, and fencing, is provided by Landmark on Main Street. 

“When COVID hit, and we had to close the [Jeanne Rimsky] Theater, we had to come up with new ways to fulfill our mission,” said Laura Mogul, Executive Director of Landmark on Main Street, as the fitting tune of The Beatles’ “Come Together” started up behind her.  “We just put out the call, and people came.” 

For the past six months, COVID-19 has forced Port Washington residents to search for new forms of entertainment and excursion while keeping health and safety in mind. After a number of collaborative efforts to reignite local businesses and energize community members, the Port Washington Business Improvement District (BID) and Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Town of North Hempstead, Port Washington Police Department, Precision Work, Inc., Landmark on Main Street, Residents Forward, as well as a $5,000 grant from PSE&G, to support Port Outdoors.  Despite a series of rain-outs and reschedulings, this new open-air dining and shopping event draws widespread attention.

On Thursday nights, Port Outdoors closes off a part of Main Street and sets up vendor booths and restaurant tables. Families walk with their children (and dogs) while live music is played from makeshift stages.  Naturally, precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are taken which include posters reminding attendees to wear their masks and remain six feet apart, hand sanitizing stations set up throughout the area, and all outdoor seating adhering to spacing guidelines.  

All live entertainment including music, dance, taekwondo, and fencing, is provided by Landmark on Main Street. 

“When COVID hit, and we had to close the [Jeanne Rimsky] Theater, we had to come up with new ways to fulfill our mission,” said Laura Mogul, Executive Director of Landmark on Main Street, as the fitting tune of The Beatles’ “Come Together” started up behind her.  “We just put out the call, and people came.” 

“Port Outdoors was a great experience and event to be a part of, especially because of current circumstances, it was nice to be outdoors while still taking part in Main Street activities,” said junior Angelina Livigni who demonstrated taekwondo at one of the events.  

However, talented performers are not the only ones enjoying the event.  Nearly every local restaurant, from Port Commons to the Town Dock, participates with many offering outdoor dining and other services.

“We just wanted to be a part of the community gathering… and allow people to dine with us and get to know our restaurant,” said Emma Scott, General Manager of The Wild Goose, which has Main Street seating during the event.  “We’re a small restaurant as is, so allowing us to expand into the street has been a huge success for us.”

Local businesses are also taking part in Port Outdoors, setting up booths along Main Street’s perimeter.  On Sept. 24, Shields Hardware and Plumbing offered free “barbequed cookies,” dog treats, and water bottles to people passing by.

“It’s nice that we can bring people out, and that we get to be out here with them,” said Patti Shields, the establishment’s third-generation owner.  “I think it’s a wonderful thing… that the restaurants and businesses have an opportunity to [do something] fun and different.”

Laurie Ciotoli, who was promoting the Port Salt Cave and Krystal Blu Boutique agreed.  “Business is suffering right now, so we’re trying to get as much exposure as possible,” said Ciotoli.  “[Port Outdoors is] bringing the community together; eating outside and closing the roads down is just such a great idea.”

She wished to remind Port residents to shop small and – “Lift Up Local” – by supporting small businesses year-round.

Attendees of all ages echoed the sentiments expressed by business owners and entertainers.  Port Washington resident Samantha Gerson, came to Port Outdoors with her two nine-year-olds.

“My children wanted to come to check it out because it’s very exciting that you can come to walk in the road,” said Gerson.

She also commented that the event prompted her to make dinner reservations in town for the upcoming week.  

The event’s founders are proud of what Port Outdoors has become.

“We started [Port Outdoors] as a way to help our businesses, and I think we’ve done so much more in bringing our community together,” said Holly Byrne, Executive Director of the BID.  

Debbie Greco, President of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, agreed.

“Even though it’s far from normal, it was as upbeat and positive as I’ve seen our great community act for way too long,” said Greco.

 Time and time again, participants and organizers alike agreed that Port Outdoors should have existed before COVID-19 and that they hope it will become a tradition long after it.

There are at least two more scheduled dates for Port Outdoors; one on Oct. 8 located between lower and middle Main Street and one on Oct. 15 located near upper Main Street and Port Commons.