In the mid-1990s, Bellmore’s downtown shopping district was barren, with little activity and empty storefronts, until a revitalization project breathed new life into the area. Downtown Bellmore, now known as Bellmore Village, became a vital part of the community, and serves as a major economic asset to this day.
As part of the project, a Bellmore Village sign was created. Hung from the Long Island Rail Road platform over Bedford Avenue, the green and gold sign once greeted visitors as they entered the commercial zone from Sunrise Highway. After years of wear and tear, though, the sign that had reflected the fresh look of Bellmore Village became tarnished and lost its luster.
Jim Spohrer, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, made it his mission to replace the aging sign. “The old sign was decrepit-looking,” Spohrer said. “It was made of wood and was rotting.”
With help from chamber members and local officials, a new sign now hangs in its place, with a red and gold finish to catch people’s attention. Spohrer said the chamber wanted to replace the original Bellmore Village sign to improve not only the look, but also safety.
“The sign was being held up by three straps,” said Spohrer, who owns Bellmore Automotive. “The bolts for the LIRR railing were also rusted. It became a safety concern. People wanted us to repair the old one, but getting a new one was a better idea.”
The project to replace the sign spanned four years, Spohrer said, including reaching out to Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney for help in blocking the roads to put up the sign and working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to receive permission to work on the agency’s property.
In keeping with the spirit of the revitalized Bellmore, the updated sign kept its old slogan: “a stroll down memory lane.”
“Going into Bellmore Village, we wanted to make people feel like they were walking into the shops of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” said Gary Hudes, a past president of the Bellmore chamber. When Hudes was president in the 1990s, he and other chamber leaders developed the concept for Bellmore Village as part of the revitalization project, making it the community asset that it is today.
Before the revitalization, passers-by couldn’t walk on Bedford Avenue without encountering several empty storefronts, according to Hudes. “It was a ghost town,” he said. “It was abandoned and in bad shape, and people were busy going to the shiny malls.”
After its completion, Bellmore Village became a vibrant commercial zone, with a new movie theater, restaurants and stores, run by locals. “People should have one thing in mind — personal service. You can personally talk to owners and meet your own neighbors,” Hudes said. “It’s not like big box stores. It exists on a more personal, local level.”
The funding for the sign came from Bellmorites. At the chamber’s weekly car show, community dinners and annual festival, the organization collected the funds to cover the sign.
Spohrer, who declined to disclose its cost, is happy with the new addition to Bellmore Village. “It’s a great-looking sign,” he said. “I hope people are satisfied.”
“Bellmore Village started as a pilot program,” Hudes said. “Luckily, it became a shining star.”