For the past 50 years, Reese’s 1900 has been a Patchogue staple, serving up good, hearty food, spirits and family vibes. In celebration of the restaurant/bar’s birthday, owners Matt Lowe and Joe Palmeri reflected on five decades and look forward to five decades more.
Dave and Janet Reese opened Reese’s on Dec. 7, 1971. To this day, people stroll into the North Ocean Avenue establishment looking for the Reeses, according to Lowe. The Reeses sold in 1984; Kenny and Ginny Russell took over as owners until 2006, Lowe explained.
Lowe and Palmeri are well-versed in the history of Reese’s, not only because they’re the current owners, but also because they were customers and employees. Lowe said he worked for the Russells doing many things over the years, including washing the dishes. Going from dishwasher to owning the business isn’t the only thing that’s changed; Lowe and Palmeri said Patchogue looks different now than it did back then.
“When we first bought the place, the Moose Lodge was boarded up. Swezey’s was boarded up. The first five or six years here, none of these places were across the street, even the little offices,” said Palmeri.
The 2012 New Village project by Tritec brought new life to the downtown area with the addition of 91 apartments and thousands of square feet of retail and office space, based on the principles of smart growth and new urbanism, they said.
“Foot traffic is back. It’s safer. It’s lit up now. It looks more inviting. Not that it was ever ‘not safe’, but if you didn’t know Patchogue, you wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around at that point,” said Lowe.
Lowe and Palmeri agree that one of the biggest challenges they’ve had as business owners has been the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had 10 tables and we were down to four,” said Palmeri of the first surge in March and April of 2020.
Lowe added, “Six barstools and four tables. And we were closed for three months. There was nothing scarier.”
While COVID-19 brought out some of the scariest times they had as business owners, it also showed them love and loyalty that they still reflect on to this day. When asked what got them through the height of the pandemic, Palmeri said one word: “Loyalty.”
“We had people coming in to buy gift certificates that didn’t even need them that probably won’t even use them because they’re friends of ours. We had family members coming in; the previous owners bought gift certificates that they didn’t even need,” said Lowe.
Looking towards the next 50 years of Reese’s, Lowe and Palmeri said they’ll keep the tradition alive, and that means they’ll remain closed on Sundays, as they have been since 1971.
“We get a little flack for the Sunday thing, but it’s a family day,” said Palmeri. “The two guys in the kitchen have been here 20 and 21 years and they both have families; we all have families. So, Sunday has always been a family day.”
Reese’s Sunday rule is so infamous, it was featured on one customer’s Christmas card. On the card is a photo of two longtime patrons wearing Christmas pajamas. They sit on Reese’s front steps with a forlorn look on their faces. Above them are the words, “Another Sunday at Reese’s.”
In another example of long-term patronage, Jim Merlo, another customer, said that Reese’s is a great place to see familiar faces and just as great a place at meeting new ones. Lauraine Masciopinto is one of the familiar faces Reese’s customers come in to see. She’s been working at Reese’s for 21 years
“We have our loyal, regular customers. Even when they move away across the country, they still come back here to visit,” she said.
Whether you’re a loyal customer coming to say “hello” from afar or just traveling from your home around the block, the next time you stop by Reese’s, make sure you say, “Cheers to 50 years!”
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