Though some might suspect that the matriarch of a family that’s recently arrived on the North Fork and purchased hundreds of acres of agricultural and commercial properties might be little more than a quiet financier, that’s not the case with northforker’s 2021 Person of the Year.
Since arriving in Cutchogue several years ago, Stacey Soloviev has given a face to a last name that’s written on business signs across the region — signs that indicate just how much of an impact the Soloviev family could have on the future development of Southold. And while some may remain skeptical of that fact, Stacey Soloviev has taken good care over the past several years to ensure the businesses she helps run are a positive for the community.
“She’s definitely not the type to sit in the background,” said Ken Cereola, general manager of Peconic Bay Vineyards in Cutchogue, which the Solovievs reopened in 2021. “She’s involved in everything day-to-day, every day. It’s pretty amazing.”
And that work has included not only opening the long dormant winery, but also investing in the nearby Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cutchogue, renovating The Chequit on Shelter Island and giving new life to Davis Peach Farm in Wading River.
Soloviev’s commitment to the North Fork community, both business and otherwise, shows a commitment to being more than just a landlord or absentee business owner.
And when the vineyard reopened last year it was important to her that the new staff be made up largely of local residents.
“Hiring local has always been her goal,” said Cereola, who lives in Mattituck and had been working at Palmer Vineyards previously. She also brought back the former winemaker and tasting room manager from the winery’s previous incarnation.
Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm, which now includes a synthetic ice skating rink, was also reinvigorated after the Solovievs purchased it.
“She took the ball and ran with it,” said ToniAnn Sinning, who has worked there in various capacities for more than 30 years. Soloviev was heavily involved in refurbishing the space and the day-to-day operations.
“She has a lot on her plate,” said Sinning, who noted Soloviev’s ongoing renovation of The Chequit on Shelter Island and a planned hotel at Peconic Bay Vineyards. “During Christmastime, when I needed her here, she was here working.” In addition to a fresh coat of paint and the ice rink, Soloviev added a bounce house for kids to enjoy. She also kept things affordable with $5 admission to the skating rink and bounce house and free admission to the farm.
“It speaks volumes — to make a ton of money, she could charge more for things and she doesn’t,” Sinning said.
Soloviev has also used her various businesses to give back to the community.
Peconic Bay Vineyards worked with Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation to host several drive-in movie fundraisers in 2020 and 2021, helping to support those in need on the North Fork.
“She wants to be a good neighbor and supportive of the entire community,” said CAST executive director Cathy Demeroto, who added that the property was donated to the organization to use free of charge. “She’s thoughtful and willing to help when called for assistance. It’s amazing when someone is willing to share what they have with the community.”
Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm also hosted “Sensitive Santa” nights for people with sensory and special needs to meet Santa in a calm, quieter environment. Soloviev worked with members of the community to make sure the experience was a pleasant and fun one for all.
“I saw how many moms Stacey connected with, moms with kids with special needs,” said Eileen Benthal, whose daughter, Johanna, worked with Soloviev on the project. Johanna, 25, has specific sensory needs, according to Benthal, and Soloviev got to know her and her story to understand how to tailor the experience.
“Stacey asked Johanna to partner with her for Sensitive Santa this year,” Benthal said. “She got to know her. She didn’t have to do that. She could have just sent us a message on the phone.”
While some of the Solovievs’ plans for the North Fork have been met with resistance, including the Peconic Bay Vineyards hotel, Soloviev has been open and willing to listen to concerns from the community, including hosting a meeting with neighbors to share their concerns before plans are submitted to the town.
“Her transparency is incredible,” said Cereola, who believed the presentation was a success. “There’s no trickery. No games.”
Benthal said she has a gift for making connections with people.
“Authenticity is the word I would use to describe her,” she said.
2016 — Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks
2018 — Brent Pelton, American Beech
2020 — Greenport BID