Burger Bandit owner Ryan Straschnow has stood outside his business and peered across Merrick Road with interest as the Regal movie theater construction progressed. Straschnow, 22, said he bought the restaurant, across the street on Broadway, in the hope that he could generate business from hungry theatergoers.
“I came in here knowing that that movie theater was opening,” he said. “If that movie theater wasn’t opening, I probably wouldn’t have taken this on. When I came in here, I was expecting November. Then it went to December. Now they’re officially saying February, but the employees that are working over there are saying March.”
Mayor William Hendrick, who died in October, had originally targeted a holiday season opening for the $21 million theater, but construction delays pushed back the date. Mayor Alan Beach said last week that the updated timeline is “within the next 90 days.”
Straschnow said that when it opens, he hopes to work out a cross-promotion deal with the theater owners. He grew up in the food business, he said, noting that his parents owned a catering company, but this is his first solo venture. He took over Burger Bandit in July, just two months after graduating from Johnson & Wales with a degree in culinary arts, food management and hospitality, and revamped the menu.
Once the theater opens, he said, he plans to renovate the kitchen and parts of the dining area so that the restaurant can handle what he hopes will be a higher volume of customers. He said his business hasn’t suffered, but the weather has hurt it lately, and he is one of many business owners biding time until the theater opens. “We’re all waiting,” he said.
Another owner awaiting the opening is Vinny Sorrentino, who owns Angelina’s Pizzeria & Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue. Sorrentino said he saw a significant drop-off in customers after the old theater was razed in 2016. He also said he was a little disappointed in the construction process.
“It’s frustrating how long it’s taken,” Sorrentino said. “I think it should have been done a lot sooner than it has. When they tell you Thanksgiving, and now it’s gonna be Easter, it’s a big difference.”
Sorrentino will be ready when the theater opens. He said he plans to offer deals, such as a free slice or soda for anyone who brings in their movie ticket. He added that he offered those incentives to customers when the old theater operated, and they were popular.
Al Patel, who took over the Lyn Gift Shop on Atlantic Avenue last January and was not around for the old theater, said he hoped that the new venue would increase sales for everyone on Atlantic Avenue. He noted that he wasn’t necessarily counting on it, but said it could expose his business and others to new customers.
“It may not be residual, but maybe people go to the movies and two months later, they’re looking for a gift,” Patel said, “and they go, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that store over there near the theater.’”
Patel has already tried to attract new customers since taking over the store from Bill Gaylor, the father of Legislator William Gaylor, who owned it for three decades, by bringing in name brands such as Pandora and Swarovski.
Even new business owners like Gary Ostroff have found themselves peeking down toward Merrick Road to keep tabs on the theater. Ostroff and his wife, Theresa, own Popcorn Buddha, which popped up on Atlantic Avenue on Sept. 30, offering 85 flavors of gourmet popcorn ranging from dill pickle to everything bagel to bubble gum.
“I think that the theater is very important for the business district of Lynbrook,” Ostroff said, “because while we have very loyal customers, for businesses to survive, they need people from other towns to come in, and the theater will most likely bring that foot traffic, at least hopefully.”
Ostroff, who works full-time as an attorney in Manhattan, said the movie theater was not one of the factors he considered when opening the shop. He said he believed that Atlantic Avenue was a prime location, with or without it, and he was confident that his venture would be a success.
He noted, however, that after an initial buzz and a good reception, business slowed down in recent weeks. He attributed the stagnant customer flow to the recent cold snap, the snowfall and the holidays.
Like many of his fellow business owners surrounding the movie theater, Ostroff said he is hopeful it will open as soon as possible. He said that he understands that delays will happen considering the project’s size, and believes it will eventually be good for business.
“We’re not angry or anything like that,” he said of the construction delays. “It’s a bit frustrating, and we’re just hoping they can move up the time frame a little bit and open up a little bit sooner.”