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The Suffolk. (Photography by Michael Heller)

Known for its large variety of high-energy tribute shows, The Suffolk (118 East Main St., Riverhead) has been consistently evolving and adapting since opening in Downtown Riverhead in 2013. 

Diversity is key to its lineup, from dead-ringer Elton John to ‘80s emo punk tributes, weekends hold something for nearly any musical bent out there. 

“One of the things we’re succeeding in right now is bringing a huge swath of genres of music to this community,” says Gary Hygom, The Suffolk’s executive director. “If you’re a jazz fan, there’s something for you. If you’re a heavy metal fan, there’s something for you.” 

Hygom has noticed, in particular, a devoted audience of hard rock enthusiasts, citing a hugely successful recent Metallica tribute show featuring The Four Horsemen.

“It started with an AC/DC show, went into Aerosmith … I had a couple requests for Metallica and found this Metallica [tribute] band in Virginia,” he says. “The audience just loved them! I could not have been more wrong about who the audience would be. They were so diverse. We had families with 10-year-old kids up to 75-year-olds and everything in between … it’s completely taken me by surprise.”

As has the The Suffolk’s reach beyond Riverhead and eastern Long Island. Audiences are often made up of attendees from further-afield towns in western Suffolk County and as far as Nassau County. “When you see a show that isn’t at every performing arts center, and it’s hard to come by,” he says, “you drive for it.” 

The theater, which can accommodate up to 700 fans of stage and sound, originally opened on December 30, 1933. In the many decades since, it’s served many purposes, from issuing war bonds in World War II to screening movies and hosting special events. Riverhead Town bought the space in 1996, selling it to Dianne and Bob Castaldi in 2005. The Castaldis repaired and renovated the space, and it reopened to the public in 2013.

The venue offers two full bars and a food menu, along with table service. Hygom and Lauren Caruana, the food and beverage director, added a small plates and appetizer menu recently, allowing patrons to have a little something to sip and snack on.

They also do specialty drinks according to the shows as well, with many of the menu items named for a song, a character in a movie, or a band. For the theater’s screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, there was a pigs-in-a-blanket starter called Frank-n-furter. And heavy metal fans got heavy-hitter craft beers for the Metallica tribute show.

While the theater’s focus is on music performances and the occasional film screenings, a $2 million planned expansion (part of Governor Kathy Hochul’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant) will allow Hygom to offer ever more musical and performing-arts options to East Enders. The renovation will double the size of the stage, allowing for circus-style programming, more options for children’s entertainment and professional touring productions. And for Hygom, the new spaces and changes can’t come fast enough.

“This year has been the busiest year the theater’s ever had,” he says. “We’ve had more people come through our doors than ever before. So I would hope that increasing the amount of traffic into Riverhead will bring it more into focus. We’ll make things that much more exciting to people and a reason for them to come back.” 

To check out The Suffolk’s ever-expanding lineup, visit