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Port Jefferson retail group meets to share ideas, frustrations

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The Port Jefferson Retailers Association has made good on its promise to bring village shops together, downtown business owners say.

Steve Munoz, owner of The Amazing Olive olive oil store, founded the group nearly a year ago to establish a setting where local retail owners could meet to generate ideas and vent frustrations

“I just wanted to piece together all the retailers in the village. I wanted a place where business owners could talk about commerce and share advertising tips,” said Munoz, also a board member of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

The association’s first meeting last February had eight retail owners present, followed by 13 at their next meeting.

Soon word of mouth spread among the retail community about the group where business owners could commingle and express themselves.

“We’re trying to get people to shop local instead of big box all year long,” Munoz said, adding many people only think about shopping in the village during warmer months.

One thing the association did to drum up business was host the “Spring Thing Raffle,” in which customers take guesses on a special things in different shops in hopes of winning a gift certificate or basket.

Barbara Ransome, director of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said the marketing tool was great and that another is planned for May.

“That’s the whole point, to get people to engage in foot traffic,” Ransome said.

Roughly 30 businesses are now part of the association, which plans to celebrate its first anniversary with an informal breakfast next week.

Officials say all village retailers are welcome to join the free association, a branch of the chamber.

The retailers group is partly modeled after the Patchogue Retailers Committee, chamber officials said.

Before East End Shirt Company owner Mary Joy Pipe joined, she said she wondered why she didn’t know many of her neighboring business owners.

“It’s easy to feel isolated,” she said, adding the association has “very much been a success.”

Another successful venture for the group was creating the “Luminaria Nights” this past December.

Participating businesses put lights inside of clear white bags to give storefronts an illuminating effect. It also acted as a way to let shoppers know they were open late during the holiday season.

“It’s our job. We have to create economic stimulus for the business community,” said Pipe, who has owned her shop for 11 years.

Working as a unit has been for the betterment of the association, they say.

An email chain last year among the group was quick to warn everyone last year when a would-be customer used counterfeit bills at many of their shops to purchase items.

“We’re building bridges amongst our neighbors,” Pipe said.

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