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The Falussy family from left, Brittany, Big Al and Travis, new proprietors of Big Al’s Bait and Tackle at Warren’s Center, in Aquebogue, former home of Warren’s Tackle Center. (Photo credit: Angela Colangelo)

Al Falussy is angling for some change. The Laurel resident purchased the property, building and business formerly known, and loved by locals, as Warren’s Tackle Center on Main Road in Aquebogue. His business partners? Fellow fishing buddies and offspring, Brittany and Travis Falussy.

The business is operating now as a bait and tackle shop, and the new crew of Big Al’s Bait and Tackle at Warren’s Center has big plans to create a destination spot for families and fishermen alike, with a soft opening sale slotted for this coming Black Friday, November 24.

“We plan to run it as a bait and tackle shop and have fun ideas for families,” said Brittany Falussy, who will bring her side-hustle hot dog truck, Campers Curbside, to the property on weekends starting with the grand opening planned for next spring. Her brother Travis is slated to manage day to day operations of the shop. He will also run his custom embroidery service out of the shop. EIA Custom—stands for embroiditall—will create branded merchandise for the shop and offer custom products such as hats and towels to boat owners.

For Al, the heart of the project is to draw in families and get kids back into fishing. While the Falussy family refurbishes the building with fresh aesthetics like new blue paint out front, their focus is to keep what they can from Warren’s and build upon it.

“We want to lean into the nostalgia and history of the place and add our own spin,” Brittany said as she held old photos, many Polaroids, of locals proud with their fish catches under the old Warren’s Tackle Center sign.

Luring in the locals

Besides the typical bait and tackle offerings of crabs, worms and lures, the family plans to continue boat storage and shrinkwrapping services on the property and full rod and reel repair, as well as Mercury and Yamaha marine motor mechanics at the ready come spring 2024. The Falussys already have a used boat inventory for customers to peruse, a 24-hour ice machine, and plans for two Tesla charging stations. He said he intends to expand the tackle selections to include more big game offshore fishing needs like tuna rigs and ballyhoo in the spring as well.

“We all have our roles and responsibilities, the things we’re focusing on” Al said.

His daughter agrees. “[Dad] is the fisherman, Travis is the operations, I’m the marketing and branding, and it works together,” she said.

The current tackle displayed on the shop peg boards is stocked ready for local fishing favorites such as striped bass, fluke and blackfish. Surfcasting lures abound with some highly sought SuperStrikes in discontinued colors spied among them. Every sized diamond jig one could need is available from surfcasting local beaches to deep dropping Plum Gut. Rods and reels are stacked currently, just where the last owner of Warren’s Tackle Center kept them.

Big Al with a vintage new, in-box Penn ‘greenie’ found in the inventory of the former Warren’s Tackle Center. (Photo credit: Angela Colangelo)

Swimming in history

The history of Warren’s Tackle Center goes back decades and beyond the tackle sold there. Originally owned and operated by Warren Staib, a report in the Suffolk Times newspaper archives dated May 20, 1976, states that a possible world record weakfish was weighed in at the shop by 35-year-old Aquebogue mason John A. Bogdan. It was caught west of Robins Island on 12-pound test line and bucktail purchased from Mr. Staib and verified by the International Game Fish Association as a world record weighing 14 pounds, 12 ounces.

When Mr. Staib was ready to retire in 1981, local fish nut and shop helper, Ed Kopack, along with a few fishing buddies, bought the business. Kopack eventually became the sole proprietor and ran it for 40 years. A part of the original agreement was to keep the name Warren’s Tackle Center. 

Al said the October 2023 purchase of the business from Mr. Kopack’s widow, Sharon Kopack, wasn’t just a transfer of money. “We had to schmooze her to convince her. We had to show her that we wanted it to be a family-run business,” he said. And once on board with the sale, she’s been working with the new family to bring their dream to reality.

“She’s a great person,” said Brittany. “She’s been sweet and helpful as we set up the business; showed us how Ed did things and what’s going to be important to the people who come here all the time.”

For Al, the purchase of this property in particular was a full-circle moment. “My grandmother lived on Park Avenue in Mattituck, so we came out here from Dix Hills on weekends. We didn’t have much money and I always asked to stop here just to buy something on our way out,” Al recalled. “To own this place really means something. I’ve been fishing since I can remember, since I could breathe. Waking up with my cousin at 5 a.m. to head out.”

He’s had his eye on the property since he bought his home in Laurel in 2016. When Al got wind that a deal to sell Warren’s to another buyer didn’t go through, he jumped on it.

Know-how, and family bonding, on the hook

Al said if he went fishing tomorrow, he’d grab some green crabs, which they have in stock now, and try for blackfish and sea bass. He’d try to beat the 21-inch sea bass and 9-pound blackfish he caught last week in the Sound in 25 feet of water on the north shore. 

“We have the best family,” Brittany said. “The ride to this point, you’d think the family would be clawing at each other or disagreeing. But it’s actually been really fun. We’ve had some really great meetings about it.” 

“Yeah, even before we bought it,” her dad agreed.

The Black Friday soft-opening is more about introducing the Falussy family to the community than turning a profit. They plan to offer deals on tackle and other items in the current inventory. A grand-opening celebration is in the works for spring 2024.

Already, though, Al says that locals — many of whom are what one might peg as old salts — have been walking in the door excited to see it open again. “Sixty to 70 people I’ve spoken to are happy about it,” Al gushed. Brittany added, “The community has known about this place forever, and it has such a legacy. We want to respect that and own that. We’re coming in to do this, to do it right, do right by the locals.”