An Oyster Bay boutique offers Long Islanders a place to shop and buy local.
By Courtney MacGinley • photographs by doug young
Nestled in a mere 340 square feet of space, Think Long Island First is a store within a store, dedicated to goods made on Long Island, that sells the work of 96 local artists, craftsmen, authors and chefs. Their inventory, which ranges from pottery and jewelry to children’s books and tapenades, resides on the shelves of recycled china cabinets and reused display tables, all inimitably different, with prices stretching from $1.99 note cards to $1,200 oil paintings, all handcrafted, all unique. The ties that bind these goods together are proprietors Ewa Rumprecht and Jolanta Zamecka, who opened Think Long Island First with the specific desire to offer Long Islanders and tourists alike the ability to purchase one of a kind, locally made items.
In October 2010, Think Long Island First set up shop within the Buckingham Variety Store in historic Oyster Bay. With only the work of 14 artists composing their original collection, they set out to do what had never been done in these parts before. “Whenever Ewa and I travel we want to bring home items made locally from the areas we’re visiting. We wanted to offer that experience to people here.” Zamecka gets more excited as she elaborates, “Ewa’s dream is to be dressed head to toe in products made in Long Island. My dream is to bring the cottage industry back to Long Island; to create enough of a need for handmade items so that our makers can sustain a living doing what they love to do.”
In addition to carrying these locally made goods, Think Long Island First is proud to endorse the people behind the products by publishing interviews with the craftsmen on their Web site and by hosting Meet the Maker events at the store, which are free to the public and allow the customers to meet with the artists to discuss their work and the process that goes into their pieces. “We want to create an awareness with the public and connect them to the artists. People are fascinated by products that are created in their own backyards,” Rumprecht says with a smile. “We, as a whole, become more educated. There is literally a story behind each and every piece that we carry.”
And what they carry is of wide variety, including, to my excitement, locally made fare, chow, bites and provisions. Long Island deliciousness comes wrapped up in personalized Mason jars and snack bags: Jennifer Hochberg of Stone Ridge Farm in East Norwich provides biscotti, while Taste of the North Fork in Cutchogue brings their jams, jellies, mustards, tapenades and honey to the table, and North Fork Potato Chips in Mattituck supply, well…potato chips. The books of chef John Ross of Southold, The Story of North Fork Wine and The Food and Wine of the North Fork, are also for sale. And while alcohol is not available for purchase in their store, on their Web site’s blog, Ewa and Jolanta personally discuss their appreciation for Long Island wine, as they recount their trips out east while giving shout-outs to Makari Vineyards in Mattituck and Lenz Winery in Peconic.
When asked to choose a favorite artist of theirs, they both laugh at me and respond almost in sync, “That’s impossible!” Zamecka exclaims, with their signature enthusiasm. “It’s like asking which is your favorite child; impossible to answer!”
As they celebrate their eighth month in business, both women are excited to say that they’re very happy with the response they’ve gotten, from the public, from artists and from the media. “Our near-term goal is to provide our goods online and expand our space within the Buckingham Variety Store.” Rumprecht explains. Her longtime friend and business partner, Zamecka, projects further, “In five years we would like to open other Think Long Island First stores and collaborate with museum and hotel gift shops. In 10 years I hope to smile and say, ‘We did it! We became a source for quality handmade products. We educated the public and now they can decorate their homes, buy unique gifts and wear items all made on Long Island.’ ”
Courtney MacGinley has a passion for good food and great films. She writes from her home in Coram, where her best work resides, her family.
For more information and for a full list of artists represented by Think Long Island First, visit thinklongislandfirst.com.