Like most kids that grew up in Greenport, the Arcade was an integral part of David Akcay’s childhood and, like many of his neighbors; he couldn’t bear the thought of losing the iconic department store.
“One day I came here and the door was locked,” Akcay remembers. “I asked around and heard that the store was closing. I thought, ‘It can’t close. I won’t let it close.’”
So began the newest chapter in the history of a Greenport mainstay.
Originally opened in 1898 on Main Street and relocated to its current location in 1928, the Arcade department store was a central fixture of the village and, to some, its heart and soul.
“The Arcade was such a huge part of Greenport,” Akcay said, “and when it went away, a part of the village died. I wasn’t going to let a part of my village to die.”
Former owner Bob Paquette, of East Marion, had kept the Arcade going for more than 15 years, even as the pressure from Riverhead’s big box stores continued to grow. In the end, however, Paquette felt he could not compete and closed the Arcade in 2010. He later re-opened the store as the short-lived One-Eyed Bob’s Clearance Center & Discount Emporium. Eventually, he put the store up for sale.
Akcay quietly re-opened the store last month, with only the remaining stock for sale. He plans on using the off-season to bring in new stock and the charismatic Greenport High School graduate, now in his late 20s, isn’t naive about the tough road ahead.
“It wasn’t working and that’s why (Bob) closed the Arcade,” Akcay admits. “While on paper it may look great, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Akcay is hanging his hat on what he calls “the convenience factor,” hoping that local residents, as well as the summer tourist trade, can make the business a success.
“No one wants to drive forty minutes to Riverhead for one or two items when you can get what you need here in town,” he said. “With gas prices so high, it makes no sense to go to Riverhead and waste all that time and money, unless you’re planning to spend hundreds of dollars.”
It doesn’t hurt that retail is in Akcay’s blood. His family owns J.B. Liquors on South Street in Greenport, and previously owned a local gas station. In addition, while in college in Florida, Akcay worked in car sales.
Akcay says that his goal is to bring the Arcade back to its glory days and offer a little something for everyone and, while he hesitates to give an exact picture of what that may look like, stock will be based on customer feedback.
“We’re going to be responsive to the needs of our customers,” he explained. He plans to do so by keeping a watchful eye on what customers want and provide it to them. “One aisle at a time, the Arcade will grow and change based on those needs.”