Dr. John Santopolo, a lifelong Woodmere resident whose dental office is based in town, took over as head of the Woodmere Merchants Association this summer after Sy Glass retired.
Patch spoke to Santopolo about the importance of the group in a town without a local government and the current state of the Woodmere business scene.
First off, can you tell the readers what the Woodmere Business Association is?
The Woodmere Merchants Association is really a community organization. We had in the past worked with the government to get them to repair and fix up Woodmere. The bricks on the sidewalk and the garbage cans were put it by the town and state at our urging. We also got them to repair the docks and parking lots behind the stores. We get the government to work in Woodmere. We also collect service donations for the community and give a scholarship to a student in .
Who belongs to the Woodmere Business Association?
The majority of people are business owners. Business owners come in all shapes and sizes. You don't have to be a retailer to be eligible. We also have members of the community at large, like Hewlett-Woodmere Schools Superintendent Dr. Joyce Bisso. It's a good thing you're asking because we're doing all we can to recruit new members.
What's good and what's bad about having a business in Woodmere?
The good things about having a business is that it is well cared for and well maintained. There is a certain amount of pride people have about their businesses here. I think there's a little bit of a parking problem here, which is irksome to our members. We've been trying to get parking here and there and we haven't had much help with the local government.
Would things be easier if Woodmere had its own village government?
Village government allows you to do things with more economy rather than dealing with the town or state. Most of the things we do we have to deal with the town and state. So it becomes a political event, quote unquote.
Woodmere seems to have a problem with vacant stores now, why do you think that is?
It's interesting, I've talked to different people about that and they say take a look at the economy. They're saying turnover is slower and slower. They say it's natural. I blame most of the vacancies on the economic situation. What you see now is much higher than we usually have. Still, if you drive down Broadway, you can see landowners are fixing up their businesses. They're not giving up on Woodmere.
Is there a specific type of business you'd like to see in Woodmere?
I think it'd be wonderful to have a movie theater, one like that place in . No one said they're interested in it, but I think that would be perfect.
What do you hope to accomplish as head of the merchants association in the next year?
To revitalize the merchants association, get the membership back to what it used to be and attract people to Woodmere. Maybe this summer having an antique cars event like they do in Lynbrook. That kind of thing. To bring people back again and get them to shop here once more.
Anyone interested in joining the Woodmere Merchants Association can call Dr. Santopolo at 516-374-3663.