Each year, small businesses on Long Island face tremendous challenges to remain not only competitive but alive. We recently looked at three such companies as they head into a new year, still beset by challenges, but hoping the wind is now at their backs.
Noble Savage Brewing Company, 27 Glen St., Glen Cove
How many craft breweries can Long Island, or the nation for that matter, support? There are now 47 on Long Island, according to a local trade association, up from maybe nine a few years ago, and more than 7,000 nationwide, according to the Brewers Association in Colorado. And more are coming.
One of them, Noble Savage Brewing Company, opened in August in downtown Glen Cove, and is looking forward to its first full year in business in 2020, said the 32-year-old owner, Frank Bilello, of Sea Cliff.
He understands the risks of a startup, and the growing competition. In fact, another, and much larger, craft brewer, Garvies Point Craft Brewery, is only a few blocks from his business.
But, says Bilello, “Everything is going local. People want to go to their local brewery.”
Bilello is part of a reviving Glen Cove. Two giant condo apartment buildings are under construction, one downtown and the other at Garvies Point, bringing in thousands of new residents.
The brewmaster holds a masters in environment policy from the University of Bristol, England. He worked at the Oyster Bay Brewing Company for a year, beginning in 2015, as an intern, and was promoted to working on the brew deck.
He got some personal loans and a grant from PSEG, through a utility program to fill underutilized buildings. Bilello took over a 2,667-square-foot former dentist’s office and tore the place apart, putting in a bar and ripping out rotting layers of ceiling and old wall panels. The place now has a comfortable, rustic look.
Bilello has come up with some of his favorite brews, but also serves more traditional brews, such as brown and red ales. He said he hopes the business will be profitable in about a year.
Can he make it? Yes, he answers immediately, “by sheer will.”
Locust Valley Bookstore, 8 Birch Hill Rd., Locust Valley
Lisa Scully was an editor of a community weekly on the North Shore and worked on the financial side of Forbes magazine and Institutional Investor. But her heart was always in books.
So, when she and her husband, David, were living in Manhattan and she was between jobs, Scully asked the owner of a bookshop in Locust Valley for a part-time job. The woman said she was not looking for an employee, but for a buyer for her store, Forest Books.
Scully rushed home to discuss the prospect with her husband, who works in the financial world. He not only liked the idea, but gave her a list of “must-have” books for the shop. Scully purchased a stack of books from Forest Books, and quickly relocated to the main drag in Locust Valley. Locust Valley Bookstore is entering its third year in business.
“I said to myself, Who in their right mind would buy a bookstore in this environment?” Scully says, standing behind the counter in her cozy, 650-square-foot shop. She not only faced start-up costs, but the biggest challenge a small, independent merchant faces these days: Amazon.
“But I wasn’t scared,” Scully says. “I really believed in it. I believe if you love something enough, you can sell it.”
Scully says her shop is profitable, and she has attracted not only foot traffic, but famous authors. Nelson DeMille signed more than 200 books at her store in early November. Jenna Bush Hager is scheduled to do the same.
Scully now has 4,000 books on the shelves. Independent bookstores are a rarity these days. There are only a handful on Long Island, including Book Revue in Huntington and the Dolphin Bookshop & Café in Port Washington.
Scully has no grand plans for 2020, just to continue what she has been doing.
“It excites me to get up every morning to come to the bookstore and serve customers,” she says.
Atlas Cybersecurity, 107 Northern Blvd., Great Neck
Benjamin Dynkin, a 25-year-old whose lawyerly suits, glasses, and full build make him look every bit the scholarly attorney he studied to be, actually works these days as a hunter – of cyberthieves.
He is co-founder and chief executive of Atlas Cybersecurity, which has just finished its first year of business seeking out bandits on the internet who steal money and corporate secrets and ruin reputations. He and his brother, Barry, 29, put together a team, including other family members, who travel constantly to partner with companies that need security for their computer operations.
“Our first partner came three weeks after we launched our business,” Dynkin says. “We catch advanced, persistent threats. There are groups of well-funded, well-organized cyberthieves who engage in sustained campaigns against companies.”
His dozen employees work around the clock, and in 2020, he plans to double in size, as the bad guys become more sophisticated and troublesome.
“Our business is going to be increasingly important,” Dynkin says.