Sign up for our Newsletter


Magic Man: Stylin’ with Ricky Saetta

Photos by David Benthal

Any casual frequenter of North Fork has likely encountered the work of Ricky Saetta. His designs are easy to spot — in part due to his signature retro TVs (hence the nickname “Ricky TeeVee”) found in restaurants, delis and businesses across Long Island, but also because of how thoroughly unique each and every design is. 

“I want to create [retail] spaces that are memorable,” says Saetta, a Greenport native whose father is a well-known local carpenter. “I love novelty, even if it’s not my particular style. I love my work to become an immersive experience that people remember even after they leave.” 

Like his dad before him, Saetta, too, is making a tangible mark. His career as a woodworker morphed throughout the last five years into something that both carries on his family’s work and carves a new path. Saetta is dedicated to improving the businesses — both old and new — throughout his hometown, where he’s more than a carpenter: He is a part of the legacy that built it.

A Family Affair

In the early 1990s, Saetta’s father, Robert, reimagined and reconstructed a significant portion of Greenport Village. Iconic landmarks like the Greenport Carousel, Claudio’s, Sterlington Commons, and Bootleg Alley were all rebuilt by his eponymous construction company, along with Orient’s Long Beach Bar “Bug” Lighthouse. 

“Bug Light was their crown achievement,” says Saetta, who, as a teenager, watched his father and uncle restore the lighthouse, which burned down by arsonists in the 1960s. “My dad doesn’t do what I do, but he’s still super creative in his designs and is a way better carpenter than me.” 

Saetta first joined the family business in 2000 during his college breaks. He followed in his father’s footsteps throughout the beginning of his young adulthood, and by 2007 he was living in New York City, working on several commercial carpentry projects there like revamping classic brownstones. After a road trip to California in 2011 with his then-wife, Saetta settled there, focusing on residential finishes for Victorian-style houses in San Francisco.  

More work moved him to Phoenix, Ariz., and by 2015, his daughter, Dakota, was born, shifting Saetta’s focus closer to home. He became obsessed with crafting a world for his baby girl, beginning with the construction of furniture for Dakota’s bedroom, building a simple crib and rocking chair along with a sign of her name made out of wood. When his friends saw the sign, many began to ask for signs for their children, too. 

Two and a half years later, Saetta moved back to the North Fork. Once settled, he decided to build a new bed for Dakota in their new home. This bed wouldn’t be a traditional twin-sized, low-to-the-ground bed for a toddler. In December 2017, he dedicated all of his free time to building and decorating a life-sized recreation of a pink and gray vintage camper for her mattress to go into. 

“That was one of those moments where I was just chasing my creativity. I was messing around and then I stepped back and was like, ‘I did something here!’ ” Saetta says. “It gives you the confidence to move forward and chase that creativity further.” 

Carving Out a Life’s Work

As a photo of the camper bed circulated across social media platforms, from Pinterest to Facebook and Instagram, the overwhelmingly positive reception from friends and strangers alike sparked something inside Saetta. He soon found himself building a sign for Marc Lamania, an old high school acquaintance who owned Lucharitos, the popular Mexican restaurant in Greenport. 

“He made a sign that read ‘Lucha’ with superhero comic strips on it,” says LaMania. “Then, a year later he built the gazebo outside of our Center Moriches location, which was super unique. That was his foray into creative design for restaurants and businesses.” 

As his brand continued to grow and become more popular, Saetta began to blend his love of music with his art, creating unique playlists for each project for inspiration. Today, it’s an important part of the process in the unique builds he creates around the East End.

“I set up a playlist that I think sounds like the project I’m building and fully immerse myself in the art of it all,” he says. “I’ll have some guidelines, some overall parameters, but people really let me do what I want to do.”

Nailing the Sounds

Looking at Saetta, you wouldn’t take him for the type of person who would have Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani bumping through the speakers of his truck. But when he began his most recent project — the new Massapequa Park location of Mattituck’s North Fork Doughnut Company (or, as it’s known locally, NoFoDoCo) — bubblegum pop was all he listened to. 

Proprietors Jimmy Lyons and Kelly Briguccia — whose branding has become synonymous with the light pink shade of their doughnut boxes — knew they wanted their new shop to lean into the pink and be an immersive experience for their customers. They also knew that Saetta was the man for the job. 

“Ricky had the idea of a Y2K theme and we were immediately into it because our other stores [emulate] a different time period,” Lyons explains. “It’s a perfect example of how if you let Ricky do his thing, it’s gonna be something spectacular. The finished product was outstanding and [the decor] is one of the biggest draws to our store. People just come in and take pictures. We have people booking photo shoots for their wedding — all thanks to Ricky.” 

Saetta admits that each build is like wearing a different costume. Like an actor getting into a new role, he has become chameleon-like in constructing each individual project. Over the past five years, he has created extensive and intricate displays for retail spaces — many of these projects are meticulously filmed and documented for his Instagram, @ricky.teevee. Eccentric Bagels in Shelter Island is one such example.  

“I was looking for someone who could create a [memorable] moment in our store,” says Amy Weinstein, who, with her bagel-making husband, Darryn, decided to open a bagel shop on Shelter Island in 2022. “I found [Saetta] on Instagram and was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s incredible.’ I thought he’d be based in France for California. But I looked and to my luck, he’s based right in Greenport.” 

The Weinsteins knew their bagel shop couldn’t be a typical Long Island deli — it had to be something that mirrored the eccentricity of Darryn and his affinity for ’80s culture and wildly inventive bagel creations. Amy found Saetta’s phone number and called him, offering him complete creative freedom in the nascent bagel shop. They discussed color schemes and ideas, and Saetta returned with a series of hypnotic disco designs. 

“I decided [the vibe] was gonna be all funk, so I listened to funk and disco for that whole project,” explains Saetta, whose “Be Eccentric” playlist was filled with the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Funkadelic and The Isley Brothers. 

Amy didn’t lie when she said he’d have the freedom to do whatever he wanted. While the pair discussed vague color schemes and atmospheres, Saetta took charge of the total redesign of the small bagel shop. 

He meticulously hand-carved hundreds of zig-zags to create a groovy 3D wallpaper in a shade of mustard-yellow that spreads across the ceiling and added thoughtful touches such as a white cover for the display case so guests can see the bagels, but not the baskets they rest in. 

“If you let him just flow, he’ll go with your thoughts and your ideas and run with it and the result is amazing,” Amy says.  

Saetta’s passion for creativity and music is apparent in all of his projects, and he loves that he gets the opportunity from his community to experiment with his craft.

“I get to design a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t do on my own,” Saetta says. “But The Times Vintage, it was kind of like a rabbit hole for me and my creativity.” 

Changing Times

Elizabeth Sweigart, owner of the Times Vintage in Greenport, says Saetta came into her life at the perfect moment in time. 

In 2019, she was searching for a spark of inspiration for her store. After six years of operating the nostalgic clothing and household shop in the heart of Greenport Village, Sweigart felt that a stagnant feeling was taking hold among the racks and shelves of pre-loved goods. 

Sweigart first met Saetta several years prior, when he crafted a wooden advertisement sign for the store’s extensive vinyl collection. But it was during this moment of Sweigart’s design stasis that she became reacquainted with the carpenter, who coincidentally reached out about potentially redoing the dressing rooms. 

Inspired by both her mother’s nickname — Mariposa— and the desire for total transformation, Sweigart knew ’60s flower power and plenty of butterflies needed to be in the design. They each scoured Pinterest for days on end to develop the direction, and then Saetta took over. 

“I had no idea the insane amount of work he would do,” she says. “He carved each butterfly in the dressing room by hand and essentially created a 3D wallpaper. I had never collaborated with someone and had so much fun creating something. I call him ‘Ricky Magic Man’ because he can create anything out of thin air.” 

Songs like America’s “You Can Do Magic” and “We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’ ” by Simon & Garfunkel were the soundtrack as the space began to take shape section by section over the next two years. 

Moments in Time

In his builds, Saetta attempts to capture the aesthetics and design trends of a particular decade. However, more often than not, the final outcome appears to have been constructed recently. 

In the fall of 2020, Saetta created a yellow school bus vanity display for the Times Vintage inspired by the mod-Space Age aesthetic of the 1960s. 

“The vanity was the first piece where I was first like ‘holy sh—, I just designed and built something that looks like it came directly from the ’60s,’ ” Saetta says. “People think it’s a vintage piece that was brought in.” 

It caught the attention of Larissa Blintz, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based vintage fashion company, Miracle Eye, who asked if he could recreate the display for her store in her new brick-and-mortar location. As a rule, Saetta does not recreate any of his past projects, but he knew this was one of the biggest design opportunities of his career. He took a road trip across the country to build displays and clothing racks that closely mirrored the style of what he created at The Times Vintage. 

“I knew I had the opportunity to flex my creative muscle and it was a great experience,” he says. 

Like his father before him, Saetta’s work is in-demand. While he has a long list of dreams and goals for the future, he doesn’t get a lot of free time these days. What time he does have off is dedicated to improving his craft and coming up with his own projects — whether that’s carving hundreds of cassette tapes out of driftwood for a personal scavenger hunt project he created on social media, reconstructing a vintage Airstream trailer to travel around the country or spending time with his original center of inspiration, his daughter.

“I’m chasing the creativity,” says Saetta. “Not the money.”