Since the completion of the historic Suffolk Theater’s renovations in 2013, its owner Bob Castaldi has been searching for new projects in the downtown Riverhead area. The massive, eight-year-long restoration of the theater would likely exhaust most people, but Castaldi likes to keep busy. “I’m not ready to sit at home and build birdhouses yet,” he says.
Earlier this year, Castaldi purchased the Second Street Firehouse from the Town of Riverhead. Much like the once-abandoned Suffolk Theater, the Second Street Firehouse has remained vacant under the ownership of the town ever since the Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department’s move to Roanoke Avenue.
Castaldi has pursued various ideas for the building, including a life-like dinosaur attraction. Due to budget constraints, however, that idea has gone extinct.
Instead, Castaldi has been focusing on agrotourism developments within the building, thanks to recent funding offered by New York State. According to Castaldi, New York State has agreed to fund up to 40% of infrastructure costs for any agrotourism developments within the building, inclusive of an additional $200,000 for advertising and promotion. Castaldi is still exploring the exact terms but refers to the rumors that circulated earlier this year regarding a large grant from the state as “misinformation.”
The idea for an agrotourism information center to occupy the firehouse appears to be more probable than the former talk of a pseudo-Jurassic World, but it’s still not final. The only tenant who can call the building a permanent home is Long Beard Brewing Co., a new brewery started by two local mechanics.
Castaldi believes a new brewery in the downtown area will add to Riverhead’s growing tourism scene. “It seems like Riverhead is becoming the brew capital of New York State,” Castaldi reflects, “which is great because I like beer. I like wine too. So I guess I’m in the right place.” Long Beard Brewing Co. plans to open its doors by St. Patrick’s Day, 2016.
The brewery “is taking up half of the first floor, so we’re still looking for tenants for the rest of the building.” The addition of Long Beard Brewing Co. leaves much of the building’s space available for rent, including the 4,000-square-foot second floor and the basement portion, which has a built-in bar.
Though the plans for the Second Street Firehouse aren’t entirely complete, Castaldi says that the building is “going to bring some new life down to Second Street and it is really going to turn the lights on back there.”
Meanwhile, as the search for tenants continues, Castaldi moves forward with his next project. “I’m in the process of possibly doing a small restaurant,” he says, “to build, not to run; I don’t want to run anything. I want to fish all day and drink wine.”
Castaldi envisions the restaurant, which is to be located on the river, as a fish house and hotdog/hamburger joint. Only one thing is for sure, though—there won’t be any dinosaurs.