PSEG Long Island presented a check to the owner of a new bakery in the West End for building her business with energy efficient equipment in a longtime-vacant space.
Catherine Schimenti, the owner and head pastry chef of Baked by the Ocean, is a Long Island native and two-time James Beard Award finalist who signed the lease for the long vacant space, at 919 W. Beech St., in February. The shop opened in July, thanks in part to the $25,000 grant from PSEG.
The grant is part of PSEG’s new Main Street Revitalization and Vacant Space Revival programs, which aim to support the economic vitality of a business district and optimize the use of existing electric infrastructure.
“We know the Long Island economy thrives on small businesses,” John Keating, manager of economic development for PSEG Long Island, said at a Sept. 20 news conference at the bakery. “These two programs help small business owners like Catherine Schimenti get a head start toward a successful future in our downtowns. It’s a win-win for all.”
Baked by the Ocean took over a historic hardware store, F.M. O’Rourke, that was destroyed when Hurricane Sandy devastated Long Beach in 2012. The store remained vacant for nearly six years, until Baked by the Ocean transformed the space — which was divided into three storefronts — into a trendy dessert shop.
Schimenti renovated the space with a new sprinkler system, energy efficient windows, air conditioner and state-of-the-art equipment.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to cooking and it only seemed right to open my new shop in Long Beach,” Schimenti said. “My friends and family are all here [in Long Beach], and I kept coming here every weekend. I just felt really connected with the community and started looking for real estate. My friend actually parked outside and there was a ‘for rent’ sign and I remember going, ‘I really want that space.’”
Schimenti said she spared no expense when constructing her business.
“I’ve committed probably 20 years of my life to cooking so I built it like it was my home,” she said. “The community has been super supportive. The food scene in Long Beach itself has been really great and just being an addition to that is amazing.”
Additionally, a representative from Assemblywoman Melissa Miller’s office presented Schimenti with a special proclamation.
“With the many challenges faced by small business owners on Long Island, it’s refreshing to see PSEG Long Island making smart investments in our community to support businesses and enhance our downtowns,” Miller said in a statement. “The Long Beach community welcomes Baked by the Ocean to this long vacant storefront and I wish them much success in the future.”
The shop has become an integral part of the renaissance taking place in the West End, City Council President Anthony Eramo said.
“Not only are they adding to the culture here, they are doing it in an environmentally conscious way with energy efficient equipment and lighting,” Eramo said. “We hope that her vibrant, more energy efficient space will serve as an example for other businesses.”