What happens when you turn the back half of a 1957 Ford truck into a cash wrap focal point of your boutique? Consumers will take photos, post them on Instagram, and new customers will find their way into your store organically. This happened at Taste the East End, a year-old home/fashion/artisanal food boutique in Riverhead, NY—the jumping off point to Long Island’s wine country destination on the North Fork and the tony Hamptons to the South. Accessories caught up with store manager Alexandra Bussi to discuss how Taste the East End got the idea to put a giant truck cab in the middle of the store, and what it’s added to the business so far.
First off, tell us a little bit about the store?
My father, Joe Petrocelli, is the owner of the store. He opened and owns the nearby Aquarium and Hyatt Hotel and we thought we needed a store for all local artists, artisans, farmers, etcetera for a place customers can enjoy East Ends goods all year round. We have local pickles and jams as well as hats, bags, jewelry, scarves, pillows, lotions, serving trays and much more.
How did the truck cash wrap concept arise?
My father has a construction company with his family, J.Petrocelli Construction. One of my dad’s managers that works with him at Aquarium had found the truck online and ordered it, not knowing what my dad would turn it into. His creativeness really shines in the store, the truck being the main focus. My dad had his shop at the construction company restore the bed of the truck and put it back to its original color, which happens to be a beautiful pastel green! He put beautiful wood countertops on, as well as hooks and shelves in the inside for the cash wrap.
Did you expect it to be a focal point of the store?
Sure, you can’t miss it! It is usually the first thing customers see and comment on as soon as they enter the boutique. Some have come in saying they saw it on Instagram or Facebook and came in to get a closer look. Others just notice it upon walking in or even walking past the store. I must say, it is a great conversation starter!
Does everyone take photos of it?
Many, many customers—both men and women—do. Even the men who come in shopping with their wives or girlfriends love it! It gives them something to admire while their significant other looks around. A few men have even said – ‘Wow, what a great idea! I have an old bed to a truck and maybe I should make it into a bar for the backyard!’ We love that we’re inspiring people.
Taking it one step further, my dad even hooked up the tail lights so they are functioning with the flick of a switch! I love the way the red lights look when they are on, especially when it is darker outside, it looks really cool from the window.
“A few men have even said – ‘Wow, what a great idea! I have an old bed to a truck and maybe I should make it into a bar for the backyard!’ We love that we’re inspiring people.”
–Alex Bussi, Taste the East End
The car is facing a huge wall mural of a vineyard. Is that a local North Fork winery?
Actually, it’s my family’s winery on Main Road in Peconic—Raphael Winery. It’s a black and white photograph turned into a mural, and it draws the eyes there. It definitely sparks conversation and we end up sending many tourists there who are looking for winery ideas. Notice the license plate? People often ask us what Raphael1 means.
What’s your background in retail and design
I attended LIM College in Manhattan (College for the Business of Fashion) and immediately immersed myself into all aspects of fashion. I did freelance visual merchandising at Gucci on 5th avenue, a few other small gigs, then planted my feet at a company called YOSI SAMRA where I managed their office and showroom for about 5 years. I always knew, however, that I would end up with family business. My dad presented the store to me, so my husband, Michael, and I packed up our things, bought a house on Long Island and here we are. There’s nothing better than family, so I knew I would be happy doing so. Although of course I miss the city!
How does your aesthetic fit this store?
It’s the perfect blend of homey country and urban city. East End farm goods meets downtown. While we target tourists passing through Riverhead on their way further East, we also appeal to guests at the Hyatt next door who want to sample the East End but don’t have the time to explore further. As you can tell by the name of the store, Taste The East End Boutique carries many local products from artists, artisans and farmers. We really wanted to give a place for locals and visitors to shop all of the many wonderful things the East End of Long Island has to offer.
You mentioned guys enjoy it while their significant others shop. What about the kids? Do they get to play too?
Kids especially love it. One of my favorite things about the truck is the small foot bed on either side of the back of the truck because I have had young small children come in and sit there while their parent shops. It is the perfect size for them, and they look so cute sitting there! And of course sometimes they ask to jump behind the counter for a quick photo op.
Store Savvy is an ongoing column in Accessories Magazine. If your store does something particularly interesting, please send some photos and explanation to Lauren Parker, Editor-In-Chief at email@example.com.