This is the first of two stories on East Meadow’s oldest businesses and the owners who made them part of the community’s history.
Some of East Meadow’s businesses have been operating for half a century or longer. Their owners have watched the community evolve, with major changes — the construction of the Nassau County Correctional Center; the closing and reopening of Nassau Coliseum — interspersed with minor ones.
Their patrons have come to know their storefronts as staples of East Meadow, stopping by to take care of their home improvement needs, to try a new craft beer or to enjoy a pasta dinner after seeing a show or a New York Islanders game at the Coliseum.
“Being in East Meadow, we’re in the perfect location,” said Frank Borrelli, owner of the Italian restaurant Borrelli’s, which opened in East Meadow in 1955. “We’re in the center of Long Island . . . I don’t see us going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully we’ll stay here for another 50 years and keep the business in the family.”
The owners of other popular businesses recalled their beginnings in East Meadow, the changes in their industries over the decades and what they believe has helped them succeed.
East Meadow Upholsterers
Michael Shannon pressed his palm into the cushion of a dining chair that Anna Cervini, 43, of Plainview, brought into his storefront on East Meadow Avenue on a hot summer morning. “It’s got poor webbing — that why it sinks in like this,” Shannon told her before offering to replace the material with something more comfortable.
Shannon began working at East Meadow Upholsterers in 1981 and become its owner in 1987, taking over for his father-in-law, Louis Ferrari, who opened the business in 1951. “He was a pioneer,” Shannon said of Ferrari, who was president of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce in 1962 and 1963.
Shannon had planned to become an electrician, like many others in his family. But he learned upholstery after marrying Ferrari’s daughter Debrah, and saw it as a profitable venture, he said.
At the turn of the millennium, however, his focus turned toward keeping the craft alive. “Nobody’s doing the trade anymore,” he said, adding that people prefer to buy cheap furniture and dispose of it if it breaks. “There are no upholsterers. It’s a throwaway society. But I still see a need for craft furniture.”
Over the years, Shannon has tried expanding his business and hiring more employees, but, he said, none of them were adept at the craft. For the past 18 years he has been working alongside just one employee, Ziya Sinik, a Turkish businessman who owned and operated a successful upholstery business in his home country.
As more people turn toward Craigslist and Amazon for their home needs, Shannon said, the craft has become less profitable than when he learned it. “If I sat down and figured out what I make, I would’ve quit years ago,” he said. “But I take a lot more pride in the craft than I do in the money. And I take pride in doing things right.”
On Independence Day at 8:30 a.m., Jared Kane pulled into the parking lot of Beverage Barn to see four of his customers patiently waiting in their cars. The 35-year-old business owner said that July Fourth is the busiest day of the year for him, and that, last week, customers crowded his business nonstop until sunset.
Kane’s grandfather, Dan Kane, started the business in 1961, and opened a second location in Bayshore in 1971. The elder Kane grew up in Brooklyn, where he delivered seltzer door to door at age 9 before starting his own seltzer-distribution business in his 20s. A decade later, he opened Beverage Barn on Front Street in East Meadow.
Dan Kane’s son Henry joined the business when he was young, and Jared, Henry’s son, followed suit, helping out around the store as a child. “If I wanted to hang out with my dad, I went to his store and worked,” Jared said, and recalled standing on empty trays of Hammer soda at age 8 so he could reach the store’s top shelves and stack beer bottles.
Beverage Barn has since expanded into three adjacent storefronts, most recently in the mid-1990s, during what Kane called the craft beer explosion. At the time, the demand was growing for beers like Samuel Adams, Brooklyn Brewing Company and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
“I think our service and prices keep us around,” Kane said, adding that there are even more breweries in New York and across the country now, some of which, he acknowledged, he’s not even aware of. While his store remains popular, he said that the future is uncertain, because there are so many more places to buy beer and other beverages.
“It’s definitely a changing marketplace,” he said. “We have to be nimble and see what’s best moving forward.”
Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant
Since the reopening of the Coliseum in April 2017, Frank Borrelli Jr. said, he has seen an influx of customers at his restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike after shows like Cirque de Soleil’s “Volta.”
Borrelli’s has sat across from Eisenhower Park since it opened in 1955. Borrelli said that his location near the park, the Coliseum and Hofstra University has brought many diners — including members of the New York Islanders after games at the Coliseum, their former home, and New York Jets after training camp sessions at Hofstra, their former home.
“It was harder to identify the hockey players,” Borrelli said, adding that football players stood out. “Even if you don’t know them by name,” he said with a laugh, “you know them by neck size.”
When the Coliseum temporarily closed three years ago, Borrelli had to think of new ways to attract customers. In 2010 he created a party room and began hosting community events on weekends.
The arena’s reopening brought with it 68 home games the Islanders will play over the next three seasons — meaning more business for the restaurant. But the eventual opening of their team’s new home at Belmont Park brings some trepidation as well, Borrelli said, because it certainly won’t help business away. Nonetheless, he added, nodding back to the party room, “We’re geared up for that.”