RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It may be quicker and easier to order that gift online or run into a mall or big box store, but local small business owners across the Tri-State Area are begging for a bit of shopping love this holiday season.
The Tanger Mall off the Long Island Expressway in Riverhead is a destination for many, sandwiched amid a whole host of big box stores, but drive a few miles to Main Street and a whole new world beckons.
"I get to see firsthand how hard these business owners work, how much they give back to the community," said Liz O'Shaughnessy, with the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce.
Riverhead's Historic District is filled with centuries-old buildings and small shops that stand the test of time.
"We decided to go to the Star Confectionery on the corner and see about their homemade ice creams," shopper Heather Bester said.
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Star Confectionery serves up fountain favorites.
"My family has been here since 1920," said Anthony Meras.
The luncheonette was barely hanging on through COVID. Locals bought gift certificates to help.
"And supported all the local businesses in town. We live in a great community out here," Meras said.
Shoppers are drawn to the uniqueness of Main Street, where the Peconic River runs through it.
"My friends and neighbors work in those shops," one shopper said.
Families can watch the seals outside the aquarium and then cross the street to buy a dress or one-of-a-kind furniture.
"One of the benefits for the customers to shop local here in Riverhead, especially, at a store like this, is you are not waiting on the big box stores for shipping," said Kristen Hanyo, with Privet's Consignment Warehouse.
Old-time Riverhead remains -- the Suffolk Theatre, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall and the Historical Society are all open for browsing as you shop and snack.
Restaurants are many and diverse.
"Small businesses have been hurting, but shoppers are very loyal and we want to see them shop downtown as opposed to big box stores," said Eric Alexander, with the Main Street Alliance.
Shopkeepers don't want patrons to be put off during the downtown makeover. Three Main Street buildings are being renovated to house the future Long Island Science Center.
About to open in time for Christmas -- Insatiable Eats pastaria-pizzeria.
"We import panettone from Sicily, extra virgin olive oil, cheeses," chef Marco Barrila said.
Local and small -- give a gift to your downtowns by patronizing them during the holidays.
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