The "Pardon Our Dust" decision

By Bernadette Starzee, Long Island Business News,
8/1/2014

Photo by Bob Giglione

The pros and cons of shutting down during renovations

The former Larkfield Manor reopened late last month after an $8 million renovation that recast the wedding venue as a Tuscan villa called The Larkfield.

The project not only necessitated the name change – “There are no manors in Tuscany,” said Vice President George Mountanos – but also shut down the population hall for eight months.

“It was tired, and we did some renovations over the years, but we saw more were needed and that we had to consider a new building,” Mountanos said, noting that it would have been impossible to remain open during construction.

Closing for an extended period, however, is tricky business for catering halls and other venues in the uber-competitive hospitality industry. 

“When closing, there is not just lost revenue and the cost of renovations,” said Kurt Bohlsen, co-owner of the Islip based Bohlsen Restaurant Group. “You have to deal with the logistics of keeping employees, paying rent and all other associated fixed costs.”

With weddings and other events that are booked months or even years in advance, there are scheduling issues as well, and, as Mountanos noted, “people forget about a place if it’s closed too long.”

During construction, The Larkfield took an office in a storefront directly across the street, where it accepted bookings and was accessible to clients with events already on the calendar. Bookings were strong during the hiatus, Mountanos said.

People knew the food and service would be the same, and that they would be getting the updated look,” he said.

The company was also able to retain 80 percent of its employees, many of whom have been at the property since it was purchased by Mountanos and two partners in 2005.

“We told them we would be closed for this period of time and that we would welcome them back, and many came back,” Mountanos said, noting that some employees were able to fine temporary work in the interim. ]

However, wedding couples, many of whom booked the venue based on an artist’s rendering, had to take a leap of faith.

“We had our ribbon-cutting on June 27, and our first wedding was July 3,” Mountanos said, noting 11 events were booked for the first two weeks of July.

“There was some nail-biting,” he said. To limit potential complications, final plans and permits were all in order well before the project began. The owners sat down with the construction team to make sure they were still on the same page.

Still, even well-planned construction can be rife with unknowns.

“You always worry – not only about the contractors but the subcontractors finishing on time,” said Tony Cotignola, director of sales for Atlantis Banquets & Events and the Hyatt Place East End in Riverhead, which completed its Sea Star Ballroom two years ago, just in time for a full schedule of weddings and other events.

During the building phase, prospective clients were taken on a construction tour.

“Some were wary, but when they saw the views of the river, many booked their event,” Cotignola said.

Mountanos concurred, "Brides never want to see construction or bulldozing on the site," he said.  "They want everything to be manicured and beautiful."

New look Larkfield back in business

By Corey Adwar, THE OBSERVER,
7/4/2013

Wedding, reception venue reopens after reconstruction work

 

Residents, town officials and brides-to-be gathered Thursday, June 27 for the grand reopening of The Larkfield wedding and reception venue in East Northport following an eight million dollar reconstruction project that began in late October 2012.

The 50 guests in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony included Huntington Town Council members Mark Mayoka, Mark Cuthbertson, Susan Berland, Huntington Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, Executive Director of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce Ellen O’Brien, New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia and members of the Huntington, Northport and East Northport Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Raia, who said he is a neighbor of The Larkfield and lives close enough to pass it every day, remarked on the quickness with which the extensive renovations were completed by the June deadline despite Hurricane Sandy and a tremendous February blizzard. “It was amazing – you’d pass by in the morning and then in the afternoon there would be a rood on the place. I have never seen something go so smoothly. When a blizzard hit and a hurricane hit I just kept saying, ‘June? Really?’” The assemblyman awarded The Larkfield owners with a New York State Assembly proclamation in honor of their commitment to the Town of Huntington.

The two people most relieved for the eight-month renovations to be completed on time were Claudia Martelloni and her fiancée Jim Brennan, of Northport, who will become the first couple to0 get married in the newly renovated facility Wednesday, July 3. The renovations were completed with only days to spare before Ms. Martelloni’s and Mr. Brennan’s wedding, which they booked before The Larkfield closed its doors for renovations the morning of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in October, 2012.

Ms. Martelloni and Mr. Brennan said their wedding was originally scheduled to take place before the renovations, but a death in the family caused them to postpone two years ago. Although the postponement meant the couple would have to wait eight additional months and trust the renovations didn’t fall behind, they were confident their July 3 wedding at the Larkfield would be a success based on past experiences at receptions there and good recommendations from friends. “I had total confidence because it’s been here for years. That’s one of the reasons we picked it, because it’s local,” Mr. Brennan said.

“It’s beautiful,” Ms. Martelloni said of the newly renovated facility as she stood with her fiancée Thursday in one of the two brand new ballrooms. 

“It blew me away,” Mr. Brennan said of the finished renovations. “I knew they would put their best foot forward but when I walked in I was blown away. This was amazing.”

The newly renovated venue with space for up to 400 guests is modeled in the style of a Tuscan villa, featuring stone, brick, and stucco with rustic brackets, 20-foot ballroom ceilings, a 19th century vintage bar, slate roofs, an orangery with rustic reclaimed timber trusses overlooking a new stone and travertine courtyard and a two-story-high lobby with limestone, terracotta, wrought iron and rustic woods. Architects LLP of Huntington carried out the redesign. 

The Larkfield, specializing in weddings, corporate events, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Quineaneras, Sweet 16s and anniversaries, is co-owned by brothers George and Harry Mountanos and partner Nick Stathos. In an interview Thursday in The Larkfield’s upstairs offices following the ribbon cutting, George Mountanos said The Larkfield’s last wedding before closing for renovations finished Monday, October 29 at 12 a.m., as Hurricane Sandy already began to make landfall.

Work crews then raced to clean out the building that same day, demolition crews began taking down the building. Mr. Mountanos chuckled as he recalled that the reception venue was probably the only Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) customer which arranged to have its gas and electricity turned off 12 hours before the storm knocked out power to nearly every LIPA customer on Long Island. After the hurricane passed over, Mr. Mountanos said the community thought Sandy had severely damaged the building, when in reality it had all been the work of the demolition crews.

Mr. Mountanos said the storm’s arrival on the first day of renovations did not cause any disruption the seasoned managers couldn’t handle. “This is our business. We function best under pressure,” he said.

Mr. Mountanos and his co-owners purchased the building in late 2004 with the initial intention to carry out a smaller scale renovation, but several years of planning turned into a major renovation which included demolishing the former building from the basement upward, with new steel, plumbing and electrical wiring. All that has remained from the previous facility is the foundation and kitchen, which was remodeled a few years ago. The new Larkfield features brand new smaller and larger ballroom, two courtyards, two cocktail rooms and a newly arranged upstairs dedicated to offices and two bridal suites served by a separate employee staircase. “You can’t really do it right unless you do it from the bottom upward,” said Mountanos, of Wantagh, of the renovations.

He said The Larkfield will be busy in the coming week with seven weddings scheduled between July 3 and 7. “Now the real work starts. We make sure the service and food is up to par,” Mr. Mountanos said. “Before it was just waiting for what we like to do with this catering hall, and now this is our chance.”

Guests Thursday were given a tour of the newly renovated facility and sampling of menu offerings, which The Larkfield’s owners said also improved after the addition of a food stylist, sushi chef and pastry chef.

For more information about The Larkfield located at 507 Larkfield Road in East Northport and its new renovations, community members may call 631.368.4422 or visit www.larkfield.com. 

Larkfield Manor’s Grand Re-Opening

By Jacqueline Birzon, The Long Islander,
6/27/2014

Completed $8-million renovations project brings Tuscan-inspired look to popular hall

Seven months and $8 million in renovations cost later, Larkfield Manor catering hall in East Northport will open its doors Thursday for a re-grand opening ceremony.

The original structure, built in the 1970’s, was knocked down last October to make way for a Tuscan-villa inspired re construction project.

Vice President Harry Mountanous said he wanted the new venue to be “fresh, exciting and elegant” for future brides. Less than one week after the June 27 re-grand opening, the Manor will host two summer weddings.

“Quick fixes here and there wouldn’t cut it… We took a huge gamble shutting our doors when we did and our brides and grooms took a huge gamble on us – but we’re extremely proud of the updated facility,” he said.

The new venue accommodates 400 guests.

Hoffman Grayson Architects LLP, a Huntington-based firm that designed the interior and exterior of The Paramount and Crest Hollow Country Club, were tasked with bringing Mountanous’ vision to life.

Inspired by villas in Italy, the architects designed the building which features stone, brick, and stucco with rustic brackets; 20-foot ballroom ceilings; a vintage bar from the 1800s; late roofs and a two-story lobby featuring limestone, terracotta, wrought iron and rustic woods.

The renovations allowed for additions services offered at the Manor, including a food stylist, a sushi chef and pastry chef.

“We want to stay current with the latest trends in the culinary field. Presentation is a huge part of that,” the vice president said.

In addition to weddings, Mountanous hopes to also host bar and bat mitzvahs, Sweet 16’s, quinceeaneras and anniversaries.

All events are hosted on the first floor of the Manor, while the second floor is reserved for bridal suites.