Say the words “dive bar” to any Mattituck resident, and the first place that must come to mind is The Broken Down Valise.
I can confidently say that where I live there is no “dive bar” to cherish the same way the patrons of the Valise love their little gem.
Located across from the Mattituck Train Station on Pike Street, the Valise certainly has character. It’s the kind of place that once you learn some of its history you realize there’s more than meets the eye.
After ordering a glass of Great South Bay Ambition Blonde, I was introduced to owner Jeanne Schumacher, who occupied a stool at the end of the bar. Jeanne is the third owner of the Valise, having overseen it the past 18 years. She and several other regulars told me that before the building became a bar in the late 1970s it housed at different times a liquor store, cigar shop, candy boutique and pharmacy.
So how did it become known as the Valise? Regular patron and part-time Valise historian Jimmy Robdau informed me the original owner arrived in Mattituck with little else on him but a valise and decided to convert this once disregarded building into what it is today, all while living out of his dilapidated luggage.
Jimmy went on to explain that the actual bar we were sitting at was made from discarded duckpin bowling lanes. He also said many of the pieces on the walls of the bar hold a personal connection to the loyal customers who frequent the establishment, including a fluorescent jacket which hangs in cherished memory of a beloved friend. There are photos of family members, collectables from sports teams , license plates and a terrifying doll known simply as “Frodrick.”
What makes this old saloon so special to its regulars are the relationships formed at the bar.
“When locals come down here after work, you’ll meet a doctor, plumber, landscaper, financial advisor and you’ll all become friends,” Jimmy said. “Everyone helps each other out. It is unique to find a group where people help each other out.”
“It is a close knit group,” added another regular. “No thrills, no frills.”
As I sat discussing The Broken Down Valise with its adoring patronage, it became apparent that this is more than a bar, and these are more than just customers. In a town of bustling boutiques, Volvo SUVs sporting “NOFO” bumper stickers, and street side cafes where diners enjoy brunch while debating which vineyard they should visit first, The Broken Down Valise is a quiet holdout, a steadfast reminder of the close-knit community that makes this tiny section of the Island so amazing.
This bar’s occupants are stewards of a philosophy of inclusiveness and camaraderie that makes the North Fork so special. It doesn’t matter where you came from, what you do, or what you are wearing, as long as you are warming a stool at The Broken Down Valise, you are a friend.
The Valise is one of the last remaining dive bars left on the North Fork, Jimmy advised.
This three tap, cash-only gem is located at 180 Pike Street in Mattituck.
The author is a Connecticut school teacher spending summer break in Peconic for the first time and blogging about it on northforker.com. In her first essay, she visited Taps and Corks in Southold.