Amy Nicole Tangel
In March of 1946, The Colony Shop opened its doors under the ownership of businesswoman Eloise Staudinger and 74 years later, the children’s store continues to be a fixture in the Village of Patchogue, N.Y., but now, like countless other small businesses across Long Island, the doors are temporarily closed and her granddaughter, Lori Belmonte is holding tight to her family legacy and making plans for a new future.
Lori has been co-owner of The Colony Shop alongside her aunt for the past 10 years since her grandmother passed away in 2010, but she has spent her lifetime learning from and following in her grandmother’s footsteps. At 63 years old, she has spent much of her life dedicated to serving her customers and being an active member of the community serving as Committee Chair with the Business Promotion Committee for the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce and as First Vice President of the Business Improvement District. Now, Lori has been working diligently from home to prepare for the day to re-open and carefully going over all the necessary changes to come for her customers to safely social distance in the shop.
Like many other small locally-owned businesses who have been around for a long time, The Colony Shop runs a simple business serving their customers, and the only way to get what you need is to go to the store. Lori, her aunt and dedicated staff are known locally for the personal and high-end experience they provide to their customers. One of their specialties is providing a one-stop-shop for children’s First Communion needs, with fitting rooms on premise, and along with that comes Lori’s expertise in helping children find the perfect dress, suit or accessories.
The week before the NY Pause, The Colony Shop was in the midst of their prime shopping season for the occasion and now First Communions have been canceled with re-schedule dates yet to be announced, and Lori is hoping for an opportunity to bounce back.
“I have lost my communion business. I lost my Easter business, and now I am starting to lose my spring-summer business. My store is full of merchandise, and it’s just sitting there,” she said.
The past couple of weeks Lori has been receiving calls for items and has been trying to accommodate through local delivery or pick-up. Calls from the shop are being forwarded to her cell phone and Lori said requests have been primarily for birthdays and births.
The shutdown of business has been the biggest hit The Colony Shop has ever taken, but Lori has drawn strength from a story her grandmother Eloise used to tell her when she was a child about her experience living through the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. Growing up and until recently, Lori said she always thought, like most kids would, that her grandmother was exaggerating the story, but she was not. Her grandmother was a survivor of unimaginable circumstances.
“When my grandmother was 10 years old, she lost her father and her step-mother. Her mother died when she was three. She lost her father and her stepmother in 1918. She would tell me, ‘You don’t know, people were dying left and right,’ and who would have thought 100 years later here we go,” she said.
Moving forward, some fittings are going to have to be by appointment only and only one of the two fitting rooms will be used at a time. After every fitting, the rooms will be thoroughly sanitized and whatever customers have tried on will be steamed out and sanitized before it goes back on the rack. Lori said even though it is going to be extra work for them, they have to keep going. She said, their first priority is to put their customers’ safety first while they shop, and The Colony Shop will do whatever is needed to carry on.
“It’s going to be hard in my store. Sometimes when they shop, for say, a baby’s christening outfit, it’s the baby in the stroller, and it’s mommy and the godmother and two grandmas. I am going to have to limit that,” she said.
The Colony Shop is in Phase 2 of the reopening plan for NY State, and Lori said she is hoping she can re-open in the coming weeks.
“I am available. If somebody needs something, all they have to do is call me,” she said.
For more information on how you can shop through social distancing at The Colony Shop you can visit, www.thecolonyshop.net or call 631-605-7278.