Our Front Porch Interviews invite you to the homes and neighborhoods of notable North Forkers. This week, Luchi Masliah, owner of Goodfood Cafe & Market, talks about her journey from Uruguay to New York City and the East End, finally settling into village life in diverse, walkable Greenport.
“I was born and raised in Uruguay, and moved to New York City after college. I arrived not exactly knowing exactly how things were gonna go—I had friends who were already living in the city, and I had been there before, so I thought, as a 24 year old arriving, take your time, enjoy, it will sort itself out. And funnily enough, a couple months later I met my husband, Wayne, and we’ve been married for 30 years.
Food was what brought us from New York City out to the South Fork. I came out to help a friend who had bought a small fish market and restaurant. Two years later we took over, and that was it: We left the city and we stayed out here. And after about five years, we were thinking of starting to have a family and I went into social work and psychology, which is what my professional training is in. The food business was more something that I enjoyed a lot, but I learned on the job.
“Food was what brought us from New York City out to the South Fork. I came out to help a friend who had bought a small fish market and restaurant. Two years later we took over, and that was it: We left the city and we stayed out here.”
Five or six years ago, after being out of the food business for 20 years, I got the bug again, for better or for worse. I couldn’t find anything that made any kind of sense to accommodate the empanada business that I wanted to open on the South Fork, so I found our spot in Mattituck and I’ve run Goodfood there for over five years now.
We’re a lot of things at once—we have empanadas, prepared foods and take out, people can have breakfast or lunch. I do a lot of the cooking and I also manage the front of the house—although thankfully I have a fantastic staff that helps get me through.
What is going on this year is difficult, but we are getting up when we fall and everybody’s been super supportive. I think most of the people in the community at large were genuinely concerned that small businesses wouldn’t be able to get through it. So in that regard, the people have been wonderful. All the customers that come back say, ‘We’re so happy you’re open. We are so happy you’re here. Thank you.’
We’ve lived here in Greenport for only a year and a half. Before living here, we lived on the South Fork for 25 years, but we always enjoyed coming to the North Fork and I had been commuting for work. It always amazes me how many people, either on the South or the North, never visit the other one. It’s not that far! I think it’s just a mentality thing. So every summer, we managed to get a little rental for the season somewhere on the North Fork. And then we finally said, why don’t we just make the change?
We had lived in a beautiful place, but one kind of in the middle of nowhere. We were close to beautiful beaches and open areas, but every time that we needed something or wanted to go out, we would have to drive. So we said, if we are going to move to the North Fork, let’s go to Greenport, because it would be nice to be able to come home from work in the evening, stroll along the marinas or go get a bite to eat or without having to get in the car and go.
We love this space on Main Street. It’s small, but we don’t need too much room. Our daughter’s now in college, she’s a junior at Wesleyan. We didn’t really expect her to be here, which is one of—I would probably say the only—good thing about this year is that as a parent you have your children back with you.
It’s such a lovely village. After living in the woods for so long, I have to tell you when we first moved here, I wasn’t sure: Was I going to feel good about having your neighbors right there? And I don’t mind it at all. As a matter of fact, I like it. You get up in the morning, your neighbor is out having their coffee, or when we go out and walk the dog, you run into all the other people—I love that Greenport has so many dogs.
And I like having more of a mix of people. The diversity is part of why we are here. This is my daughter’s first summer here, and she was so thrilled and impressed to see the march that was held in June.
As an immigrant, I think it’s important for people to understand that immigration is all about work. Our communities are, between the agriculture and the tourism, very heavily service-oriented and the immigrant population tends to go where the jobs are. That started much earlier on the South Fork, but in the North Fork it’s newer.
You’re always going to have people who feel like the communities are changing and they may not like the changes that they see. And then you’re going to have those people who welcome the change with open arms, who can’t wait for the change. That’s just human nature. Change can be hard, and it takes time for communities to evolve. You have a lot of immigrant families whose children and grandchildren are born and raised in the U.S., and soon these young people will be graduating from high school and, if they decide to come back to the community, they’ll expand into different areas and become the doctors and teachers.
A nice thing about being in the service industry is that you get to meet a lot of people. On my day off, I can walk into town and I may run into 10 people that I know. And it gives you an opportunity to connect with them and help in a different way than you’ve been doing when you are at work. I became first, part of the business community, and now, because I also live here, I built on that and it progressed to become more personal.
Especially me being a small business, you want to be supportive of everybody because we all know it’s still a hard place to do this. We said when we got here that we would go to every single restaurant in Greenport at least once, and I think we’ve pretty much done it. We’ve been able to find great healthcare. We have the cheese market, the bookstore, all of the little businesses that have started, some of which are so unique. So I have pretty much everything I need here. I just feel very content.”