Five Towns residents who are always on the go will appreciate the arrival of a new 7-Eleven store in Hewlett, which prepares a big variety of ready-made breakfast and lunch foods every day, in addition to carrying basic convenience store items, slurpees and a coffee bar.
In recent years, 7-Eleven has continued to shift its focus from packaged food to fresh food, according to franchise owner Ali Ceylan. Some of the choices include cheeseburger links, buffalo chicken, seasoned potato wedges, egg sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs and taco rolls. Pre-packaged sandwiches, salads and fruit are available too, and some kosher items will be available shortly.
“The food is very good and very fresh, and there’s going to be more of it in the future,” Ceylan said. “In the next year or two, 7-Eleven plans to focus even more on fresh foods.”
The store, which opened a few weeks ago, replaced the old J-Mar Service Center at 1700 Broadway. Ceylan plans to have a big grand opening event in February that includes balloons, rides, give-aways and plenty of food.
“This location is great for the community, and I live just a few blocks from here, which is great too,” he said. “Since I’ve lived around here for so many years, I have a lot of friends that are coming in. And the high school kids and also young ones come in all the time for our slurpees.”
A real 'family' restaurant
Narciso Vargas realized his life-long dream of launching his own restaurant with Hewlett’s new Cucina Di Vargas, an upscale Italian eatery he recently opened with his son Danny and daughter Erica.
Ever since opening in late October, the restaurant has been filled to near capacity almost every night, thanks to the large and loyal following of Vargas, who has been a chef at several local restaurants for more than 25 years. As long-time Five Towns residents, the Vargas family also derives much of its business from close friends who live nearby.
“My father is a well-known chef in the area, and everyone loves his food,” Erica said. “Customers followed him here from all the other places he’s worked. And this neighborhood is home, so we know so many people from this area.”
While their father oversees the kitchen, Erica and Danny handle the business end of things and manage the dining room. Danny started working with his dad almost 15 years ago, eventually mastering nearly every restaurant position. He is in charge of the bar, as well as helping his sister with various administrative functions.
A large part of the restaurant’s weekday customers are business people who come in with clients and co-workers, while weekends bring in mostly families. Since the restaurant is so busy, making reservations is standard practice, but walk-in customers are welcome and will be accommodated if space allows.
Most menu items are offered in both half and full portions to accommodate the restaurant’s family-style dining. The larger portion can be shared by about four people. Every dish is made to order from products that are delivered fresh each day, such as the house favorite, chicken ala Vargas, which is smothered with sausage and primavera vegetables. The burnt broccoli sautéed in garlic and oil is another favorite, served as an appetizer or side dish. All desserts are homemade, including the Napoleon, the restaurant’s top seller.
“We tried to make the restaurant as comfortable as we can, because we want people to feel like they’re at home,” Erica said. “A lot of the people who come in here are our friends, but we’re looking forward to making new friends with our new customers.”
Elaine Wong, along with several of her friends, opened Simply Nails and Spa last month in Cedarhurst, with an eye on providing services to their customers in an ultra-hygienic environment.
The new partners were motivated to start their own business because they claim that other salons they had worked for in the past didn’t use procedures or tools that were up to the highest standards of a sanitary environment, according to Wong.
“It wasn’t a good experience for us,” she said. “I wanted some day to open a place that everything was very clean and hygienic, and now we have it.”
Many of the tools used at the shop are disposable, which Wong claims is not the case in many other salons in the area. As for the reusable tools, every technician has their own individual pack of instruments that are never shared, so there is no cross-contamination. They are all sterilized in an autoclave at the end of each day. For the waxing services, a new stick is used after each application, so there is no “double dipping.” Every technician is licensed, which Wong said is not a given in other places.
The salon, located at 494 Central Ave., specializes in manicures, pedicures and waxing. Other services include back and stone massages, foot reflexology and ear candling, a unique holistic procedure. The salon offers reduced prices for teens, even steeper savings for younger kids and free nail polishing for those under 5, when accompanied by an adult customer.
Wong, who has been in this line of work for more than 10 years, is proud to finally have her own business.
“I live in Queens, but I like working in this area — the people are very nice here,” she said. “So far, business is good.”