On the first Friday evening of every month in summer, hundreds of people flock to Love Lane in Mattituck, where the street is closed off and filled with vendors, games and live music.
The event, now called Love Lane First Fridays, began three years ago when the merchants got together to toss around the idea of staying open a little later and creating a special community gathering on the street.
Together, the business owners successfully put on the block party-style event, but quickly realized it took an extreme amount of time and effort to keep it going.
In 2017, the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce stepped in to help, securing the funding and other resources necessary to sustain and expand it.
For working together to create one of the North Fork’s most fun and successful events, the organizers of First Fridays — both the Love Lane merchants who participate and several key players from the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce — are the Northforker People of the Year for 2017.
First Fridays take place from May through October. Local businesses host specials or promotions during the day and then, from 6 to 9 p.m., Love Lane is closed off so people can walk around freely and visit various local vendors. The Love Lane merchants also keep their doors open a bit later and set up tables outside their shops offering various finger foods or tastings.
“We light up the street and throw a great party,” David Perrin, vice president of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce, said in a Northforker interview during the first event of 2017. “The community really gets behind it and it’s a family-oriented thing.”
Carolyn Iannone, owner of Love Lane Kitchen, said the event has evolved each year. She recalled when she and other merchants originally bounced around the idea, naming Kate Altman of Altman’s Needlearts and Richard Pisacano of Roanoke Vineyards as the two business owners who started the conversation.
“We all loved the idea of it and we didn’t want to give up, but it was just beginning to be too much,” Ms. Iannone said, adding that she and other business owners found it challenging to plan the event during the busy summer season. “The Chamber of Commerce really swooped in and helped us a lot, making it more fluid and organized.”
Ms. Iannone also cited Marco Da Fonte as a key player in running the event. Mr. Da Fonte was hired by the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce to help with marketing, but Ms. Iannone described him as a “game changer,” adding that he is the person in charge of the bands and in communication with the vendors, and also runs around to help set up and clean up the day of each event.
“He was able to be the go-to person,” she said.
Mr. Da Fonte sees it as a collaborative effort and said the Chamber of Commerce wanted to make sure the event could continue growing.
“They had a vision and it turned out exactly how they wanted it,” he said.
He joked that Mr. Perrin and chamber president Danielle LaSclala either don’t sleep or are just very efficient workers. He said it takes a lot of time to organize First Fridays and all those involved have other commitments and businesses of their own.
“For [Mr. Perrin and Ms. LaScala] to volunteer their time and put this together is just very impressive,” he said. “They manage to do it and they do it with a smile.”
Ms. LaScala, who owns Mattituck Florist on Love Lane, said the event is about local food, beverages, music and just getting together and having a good time. She said the planning process is busy and time-consuming, but she loves to do it.
“The three of us really just grab the bull by the horns and worked as a great team,” she said of Mr. Da Fonte and Mr. Perrin.
Ms. LaScala said the chamber is already coming up with ideas to improve First Fridays for summer 2018 and she and her team are excited to get the ball rolling.
“We work great together,” she said. “We have a lot of fun.”
The businesses on Love Lane are happy the event is gaining momentum each year and is able to continue.
“Everybody brings their goodies outside in the street, the music is great and people come from around just to mingle and take advantage of all of these lovely nibbles and bites,” Michael Affatato, owner of The Village Cheese Shop, said at the event in June. “It’s gaining momentum, people love it and it just shows how much people in this area love to dabble into the riches that we can offer here.”
Ms. Iannone said she’s glad to see the event continue to achieve the goal that the Love Lane shops set out for.
“I’m really proud that it’s still that original idea that we all came up with together, but it’s just being run so much better now,” she said. “It’s a real group effort for sure and it’s fun and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”
Times Review Media Group’s People of the Year are recognized in the first print editions in January. They are later honored with a video tribute at a celebration in March. The above video was produced from the First Fridays event in June.
2014 — Holly Browder
2015 — Gerry Hayden
2016 — Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks