On December 16, the morning of the Sag Harbor fire, Adrian Stivala was about to get ready for work, when he got a call from his coworker telling him that she was leaving the shop due to a smoke alert. Stivala, thinking nothing of it, went back to bed. Not much later, a police officer banged on the apartment door telling Adrian and his boyfriend Roman Krugovykh to evacuate the premises. They hurriedly threw on coats over their pajamas and rushed out to the street. There they stood in the freezing cold, watching nervously as the fire department struggled to quash the flames that were steadily inching closer to their apartment, while a river of ash and debris flowed down Main Street.
“You know you shouldn’t be looking, but you can’t look away,” Krugovykh said of the haunting sight.
The fire never did reach their apartment, but it destroyed the businesses where they worked. Coincidentally, Stivala is an employee of Shane Dyckman at SagTown Coffee, and Krugovykh is employed by Dyckman’s wife, Tisha Collette, at Collette Luxury Consignment. He used to work as a sales associate at the Sag Harbor location, but she promoted him to store manager of the Southampton home store in 2015.
While he was fortunate enough to be relocated before the fire, Stivala and their coworkers at Collette and SagTown were not so lucky. Few employees were able to relocate after the disaster, with distance and inferior winter staff budgets being the two biggest issues.
Nearly a month after the conflagration, many others are still looking for a new job (Stivala included) or collecting unemployment checks until their stores are rebuilt.
While not an official estimation, Krugovykh thinks it should take about a year for Collette to be repaired and reopened. Stivala is optimistically hoping SagTown will be able to host a grand reopening in time for this year’s summer rush.
Stivala went on to describe SagTown as not only the preferred coffee shop on Main Street, but the social epicenter of the village. It was the most popular place for locals to gather and share current gossip, but in its absence, he says, “the lines of communication have broken down.” In the meantime, ex-employees have turned Stivala’s apartment into a meeting place to discuss local job openings and town scuttlebutt. As he put it, “SagTown was like my second home, but now my home is like a second home to SagTown.”
With the preferred coffee shop gone, the people of Sag Harbor have asked BuddhaBerry to begin opening earlier to fill the perceived void left by SagTown, and starting January 11, the frozen yogurt shop began serving coffee as early as 8 a.m. While this will help alleviate the town’s morning coffee needs, it’s unclear whether BuddhaBerry will become the new social gathering spot.
Throughout this disaster, the people of Sag Harbor have pulled together as a community. They’ve volunteered to retrieve surviving merchandise from the singed stores, donated to fundraising dinners and online campaigns, and offered jobs to the recently jobless. While the village is still adjusting to the new normal there is a cautious optimism that things will get better.
SagTown, Collette and the auditorium of the Sag Harbor Cinema remain mostly intact and can be rebuilt. In the meantime, other local businesses, such as BuddhaBerry, are making an effort to fill their shoes.
While Sag Harbor isn’t immune to being struck by disaster, its people don’t stay down for long