Q: Have you always been on the North Fork? A: I’ve been coming out to the North Fork since I was a kid. I was a Nassau County guy and just kept moving east.
We were summer people out here for many years, eventually buying a beach house in Greenport 25 years ago. We bought the Peconic Retreat a few years later—I had been in the medical device manufacturing industry prior to that, but the companies all started leaving Long Island. So it became time to find my own business.
Q: How did you find Peconic Retreat? It’s not exactly medical device manufacturing.
A: I looked at a lot of opportunities—the bowling alley in Mattituck, there was a hardware store and the Square in Greenport, but then I was offered the Peconic Retreat and it really got my attention.
I knew I could run the business part, but what about the emotional part, dealing with the elderly? Once I was comfortable with that, I went for it.
Q: What’s the Peconic Retreat like?
A: Our facility is assisted living; it’s not a nursing home. For various reasons our residents can’t live on their own, but it’s not the level of treatment a nursing home provides. We take care of their meals, monitor their medications, help with personal care needs, organize activities.
We’re one of the smallest facilities of this type. We have 10 residents, so it’s homey, and you really get to know everyone, they get very personalized attention.
For the first 15 or so years I commuted here from Bay Shore; we moved out to Cutchogue full time eight years ago. One of the reasons we moved here when we did was our children were starting school and we wanted our kids to have the continuity of always being in the same school system.
Q: Is that when you got involved in the community in all the ways you are now?
A: No. At some point when you’re dealing with the elderly and end of life issues, it can be draining. So I got involved with the Chamber of Commerce almost 20 years ago and helped with the revitalization of downtown Cutchogue.
The president of the C of C back then was Dick Noncarrow –he was the manager of the Suffolk County National Bank Cutchogue Branch at the time—anyway, he invited me to a dinner meeting, and when I showed, he told me I was the guest speaker. Fortunately I have the gift gab so I just ad libbed as we went along. It all snowballed from there.
Q: Why is it fair to call you the ‘Mayor’ of Cutchogue?
A: Whenever there’s a Cutchogue question they say ‘go ask Joe’. People call me if a street light’s out, or a few years ago when a car crashed into one, the police came out to the Peconic Retreat and told me one of my lights was knocked over.
I’m like an ombudsman—I called the DPW and the town, worked out getting a replacement. Things like that.
I’m always around. Whenever there’s a new business I stop in, welcome them. It’s my community, it’s where I live, it’s where I work. I want to give back.
I organize the decorating of the light poles at Christmas with help from my wife and neighbors. Every community on the North Fork had a parade, but not Cutchogue. So we decided to do the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Last year we celebrated our 10th anniversary.
To be clear, I don’t do all this on my own--the generosity of the local business fuel all this. Some donate to the decorations, some to the parade, some provide meeting space and other services.
Since I did the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the East End Seaport Museum, which does the Maritime Festival, asked if I would help with that parade. Of course I said yes. I have to learn to say no. I’m also involved in the North Fork Promotion Council, as vice president.
My plate is overflowing. Retirement is starting to look tempting.
Q: What do love about the North Fork?
A: I love the rural-ness. The farmland, the closeness of the people. You get to know a lot of the families through your kids, your church, the businesses. You walk down the street and you’re going to meet someone you know.
The water, there’s just so much. And New York City’s very accessible; one of the greatest cities in the world.
The area’s like most of Long island was when I was a kid, but isn’t any more—kids ride their bikes, everyone feels safe.
On the platform that's Joe with the mic in front of the balloons. In the cover portrait Joe's with his kids, Kimberly and Joseph.