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Hidden away in East Moriches is a tiny fishing station that has stood the test of time. Since taking the helm nearly four years ago, Silly Lily Fishing Station owner Jay Scott has breathed new life into the business while keeping its character — and history — in tact.
It’s one of the last of its kind; a place where visitors can rent paddle boards, kayaks, sailboats, motorized skiffs — and, of course, bait and tackle to take out fishing on Moriches Bay or perhaps to the sandy Cupsogue Beach for the day.
“Not everybody has a boat, or waterfront access,” Scott said. “Everybody wants to be out on the water on those hot July and August days.”
Scott purchased the business from former owner Gary Grunseich in 2015, originally looking for a boat yard where he could work on a wooden boat restoration project, an infatuation that began as a child spending time with family at a lake in the Adirondacks.
Scott, who now lives in Sag Harbor, said the idea always lived in the back of his mind but began taking shape while working in advertising in Manhattan. From his office building, he’d stare out at kayakers along the Hudson.
“I thought, I should be down there,” he said.
A serendipitous encounter with the former owners led to a handshake deal at the “funky” boat yard he remembers visiting as a child.
“Gary still works with me today and I get to do my wooden boat projects here, but the rental business has pretty much taken over our lives,” Scott said.
Inside, wood walls and beams are adorned with memorabilia: lanterns, clam rakes, fishing rods and hand painted signs with salty slogans from a bygone time when dozens of fishing stations dotted the shoreline. The shop also features Silly Lily-branded merchandise, provisions for spending a day in the sun and a small jewelry studio run by East Moriches artist Rebecca Dolber.
There’s plenty of family fun to be had on the land side, too, from corn hole and bocce to a pirate-themed pinball machine. On weekends, guests can also indulge in beachy fare such as the lobster roll, pulled pork bahn mi and an assortment of tacos at the Silly Eats food truck operated by chef Christian Mir of the Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue.
As for the name Silly Lily, ask any old timer and you’re bound to get a different iteration of the story. According to Scott, two fishermen’s wives, Sylvia and Lily, ran the fishing station several decades ago.
“We knew the name absolutely could not be changed,” Scott said, amused at the folklore behind the boatyard’s namesake.
The business dates back to at least 1932 and is famous for the phrase: “Quit wishing, go fishing.” Though he’s made several renovations to the building itself, Scott ensured that relics and good luck charms were preserved. Among his good luck charms are a refrigerator built circa the 1940s that has withstood flooding from several hurricanes and solely holds bait and cream soda and 38 silver dollars, all minted in 1938, that were likely tucked inside the building’s bones as they rebuilt after the Great New England Hurricane.
Scott views himself as a steward of the fishing station, ensuring its history isn’t lost on future generations.
“I don’t want this to be a place that you just read about in the history books,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Silly Lily Fishing Station & Marina is located at 99 Adelaide Avenue in East Moriches. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Silly Eats Food truck has been open from 5 to at least 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, with expanding hours in July and August. For more information, visit sillylily.com.