Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter was shocked on Tuesday to learn that a proposed plan for a new bookstore and writing center was no longer coming to fruition.
"That's a shame," Walter said. "I'm surprised. I wish she had called me. I hadn't heard."
Wendy Yusin, "killed" plans for her proposed new business, , that was slated to open at the old Suffolk Trust Building, located at 8 East Main Street in downtown Riverhead, was taken aback when she learned the supervisor had no clue.
"I'm speechless," she said Wednesday. Yusin, who worked extensively for months with Chris Kempner, Riverhead Town's community development director, said she felt Walter should have kept abreast and reached out.
Yusin, who said she "exhausted" every avenue to try to transfrom her dream for the business into reality, added that there are daunting challenges facing any prospective small business owner in an uncertain economic climate, including financial institutions that put up roadblocks and demand triple the worth of a property just to do business in Riverhead Town.
"You cannot expect a small business person to follow the rules of the banking industry if you want to jumpstart the economy," Yusin said. "You cannot ask for two and three times the value of a building."
In addition, Yusin said, there are costs to be borne that a small business owner must shoulder in order to remain viable, including maintenance and other issues. "If a project cannot be done correctly, you should not do a project," she said.
The problems facing small business owners, Yusin said, are endemic to Riverhead and must be resolved if downtown is to flourish. "A lot of people have had trouble trying to get funding. There has to be somebody to step up," she said.
Walter said while he is sorry the business won't come to Riverhead, the situation is reflective of a nationwide dilemma. "Her financing issue is something, unfortunately, I don't have any control over. That’s part of the problem," he said. "The government bailed out all of these banks -- they were supposed to turn the spigot on. I have a small, converted law office/house, and I can't even get that refinanced."
Yusin said the problem needs to be addressed on every level of government. "You need to help the small business person," she said. "Maybe this is the wake-up call that's needed to do that."
As for Walter's reaction to her news, Yusin said. "I would have thought that the town would have been more observant. No one asked me for updates," she said, save Kempner. "No one from the town has ever called me."
And, Yusin added, knowing that there are inherent challenges in trying to launch small businesses, the town "should come up with a plan" such as creating a fund or a way for small business owners to borrow at an interest rate that would bring revenue into town coffers -- and afford options to traditional lending avenues.
Government, on the national level, Yusin said, needs to "step back and help." The U.S. Small Business Administration, she added, is looking to back only guaranteed ventures. "This should be about helping foster somebody's dreams."