Nearly a year has passed since the coronavirus pandemic shook the Wantagh-Seaford area and hampered the plans and ideas of the new leadership of local chambers.
As more residents are getting vaccinated and hope is on the horizon, chamber officials are revisiting some previous goals. This spring the Seaford Chamber of Commerce will debut its first Maker’s Market at the Seaford Long Island Rail Road station.
“The chamber wanted to do something to get everyone out and into the community,” said Donna Jebaily, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, who is organizing the event. “We have a lot of crafters . . . and we have a lot of people with home-based businesses. We wanted to give those residents a place to sell their merchandise, and the community an experience outside with their neighbors.”
The Maker’s Market will feature 20 to 30 vendors a day, and run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on five Saturdays, May 15, June 12, July 10, Aug. 14 and Sept. 25. The chamber will also host a food truck festival, with live music, on three other Saturdays, June 19, July 17 and Aug. 21.
The chamber regularly hosts similar events and craft fairs at the LIRR station, but didn’t have nearly as many last year because of the pandemic. This spring, Jebaily said, she hopes the Maker’s Market and food truck festival will bring the community together again.
Jebaily, a 54-year-old mother of three, moved to the community when she was 24. She said that the care and compassion shared by neighbors in Seaford was reminiscent of her childhood in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
“It was like a big family where I grew up — everyone was looking after each other,” she said. “Kids were out playing until it was dark. Everyone’s parents were close, so they’d keep an eye on the kids.”
The major difference, however, was that Seaford seemed “a bit quiet,” Jebaily said. “When I first got to Seaford, you could go weeks without seeing your neighbors. Not many people were outside on their porch.”
Through efforts like the Maker’s Market, she hopes to bring neighbors together and create an atmosphere like the one she loved in her hometown.
In addition to hosting events again, the chamber is in the process of organizing a beautification project along Merrick Road. Plans include the planting of flowers and a display of American flags by the “Welcome to Seaford” sign, and adorning the streetlights with ornamental plants.
“We want to make Seaford beautiful, and make it stand out,” said Chamber President Nick Bilotta. “We want people that are driving through to stop, shop and stay. I think that’s a good way to get people to shop local after this is all over.”
Bilotta, 30, of East Rockaway, who owns Final Tough Auto Collision, on Merrick Road, was sworn in as president almost a year ago. The Herald spoke with him shortly after he took over, when the pandemic was spreading and businesses had just shuttered.
While Covid-19 remains a threat a year later, the chamber is no longer in emergency mode, and can focus on community and quality-of-life efforts. The beautification project, Bilotta said, will ideally entice drivers coming down Merrick Road to stop for food, shop at local stores and spend time in the community — to make it a known destination, attract more travelers and stimulate business growth.