Downtown Reacts to Loss of Aquarium Co-Owner

Jim Bissett, 48, was found dead Wednesday night in Mattituck, a shock to downtown Riverhead businesspeople.

Upon hearing about the unexpected on Thursday morning, Riverhead Patch asked a handful of businesspeople on Main Street for their thoughts on the businessman who helped bring the aquarium, and , to downtown Riverhead.

Their thoughts are below, and we welcome anyone else to share their thoughts as well in the comments section:


We are all enormously saddened by the loss of Jim Bissett. He wasn't just a businessman who believed in Riverhead. He brought such enthusiasm and can-do spirit to the town of Riverhead that it was infectious.

Fortunately for all of us, he surrounded himself with a fabulous team at the aquarium and at Hyatt Place, I'm sure they will feel empowered by him to continue to run the business in a fashion that meets his vision.

     - Janine Nebons, executive director, Riverhead Chamber of Commerce


Mr. Bissett was a wonderful and caring man with a great vision. His legacy will live on forever as downtown Riverhead continues to build from his dream. My heartfelt prayers are with his family and friends now. They will need this community to be there as much as they have been there for all of us.

     - Supervisor Sean Walter


He was a great guy, and a very good friend of mine, too. I have a lot of connections with Jim - we went back 25 years. I used to have a landscaping business so I knew him from his nursery. He was a good, good guy. He'd do anything for you.

I had a friend doing a huge landscaping job one time. He was on his way over to Bissett's to pick up all his bushes and he broke down on the way. So he called over to Bissett to rent a truck. I guess they were all out of rentals and the person at the nursery told him that and hung up on him. When Jim found out about that, he called him and said, "Where are you? I'll let you use my own personal truck." He said he had sent his crew home, so Jim said, "use my crew." At the end of the day my friend asked Jim what he owed him for the truck and his crew. He just told him to buy his crew a nice dinner.

He was that kind of guy.

     - Ray Pickersgill, owner, Robert James Salon


This makes you step back and think about the important people in this town, and how important they are to the town, and how this town has thrived under certain leadership.

I recently met with Jimmy and his staff to talk about how we can do some programs together through the butterfly exhibit, and other programs that connect us. We have a long history together.

     - Pat Snyder, executive director, East End Arts Council


Jim and I both served on the Board of Directors at Okeanos, so I knew Jim not simply as a supervisor and councilperson but before, when we initially proposed an aquarium.

He was dynamic. Optimistic. Hard working. And just generally a cordial and pleasant individual. He was always a pleasure to work with and he was very intelligent.

Dating back 20 years ago he saw the need for an aquarium on Long Island. The bond when we were with Okeanos fell short, but he continued with his vision and was able to implement it through private funding. This was a tribute to his vision.

     - Phil Cardinale, former councilperson and supervisor


I had only met him a couple of times, and I don't think I had seen him in two or three years. But you hate to hear stuff like that. I had the intention of getting over there and seeing him again, once we start to see an end around here - you know, rounding third and heading home - to see what we could put together.

     - Bob Castaldi, owner, Suffolk Theatre

thea cohen December 16, 2011 at 02:14 PM
If we put stars on our sidewalk, Jimmy Bisset would be the first name engraved..as our star player, he started the engines that got Downtown rolling. More than that Jimmy was a good and down to earth man. When we asked him to sponsor a kid for the Council for Unity, he sponsored 20 and now has the CFU Induction Dinner at his Aquarium..We love you Jimmy..you will be missed. Our Prayers to his family and friends. Thea Cohen..owner of The Junque Shop
Mindy Block December 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM
I didn't realize that Jimmy Bisset was instrumental in improving downtown Riverhead. This is where Raymond P. Corwin grew up. I always pass by the Hyatt Hotel and think about him and how nice it looks, and now I will also think of Jimmy as well. Ray died suddenly in April 2010. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn't anybody's fault. And so I hope the family realizes this with Jimmy's sudden loss as well. If any family member needs a friend on the phone to call. I'm here 24/7 for you. What has kept me going is keeping the faith, friends and family. Don't hesitate to call if you need to..... Do take care, Mindy Block
Jerry Dicecco December 16, 2011 at 10:46 PM
My family affectionately called Riverhead "Bissetville". Jimmy could be credited with much of the revitalization of downtown Riverhead. I have known Jimmy for 30 years and my path has been led to Riverhead because of him. I came to Riverhead 18 years ago when he told me of his plans for the future. Jimmy was hardworking, kind, and generous. My son, Jerry Jr., looked at him as a role model. He has great respect for him as a business man and a family man. Jimmy will be greatly missed by myself, my family, and my staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. Jerry Dicecco Jerry & the Mermaid


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