Q: Tell me about Front Street Station; it has an interesting history I hear. A: Well, it’s an eclectic little place. It was originally half the size, just the area with the bar and these tables, called The Park Diner, and it was across the street until the 1960s. When the Post Office bought that property the diner was moved across the street.
The diner (which is now the bar section) is railroad-car style, built by the Pullman Company. It still has the pocket doors that pull across, all kinds of cool details. The woodwork, the ceiling—it’s all original.
The atrium part—the bigger dining room--was added in the early 1970s, it’s a really fun room because you get to be outside without really being outside, so you can enjoy it in the winter too, during a snowstorm, whatever.
Q: How did Front Street Station become yours?
A: The opportunity for Front Street Station came along totally by accident. I used to have a restaurant in Mattituck called Dolittle’s, where CJ’s is now. After it closed, I heard of an opportunity to work at Front Street.
I never really did the Greenport thing before I did the Front Street thing, didn’t really know anything about it. I was working there five weeks, and the owners let me know they were thinking of selling, and we started negotiations. I closed on it nearly a year to the day I closed down Dolittle’s. It’s been three years March 25, and we’re going strong.
Q: Does Front Street Station have a signature dish or two?
A: The menu is as eclectic as the place. Light fare to burgers to grass-fed filet mignon and everything in between. There’s something for everybody; whether you’re a gluten-free person, a salad person, a steak lover, whatever—our signature is that we offer meals that make everyone happy.
Q: Have you always been in restaurants?
A: I’ve always somehow or another been in the restaurant business, though I have a bachelor’s in criminology. Dad and I always seemed to do it together. We worked at Little Joe’s together in Aquebogue, then at the Meetinghouse Creek Inn, then we did Dolittle’s, now we’re doing Front Street.
In between those we were always doing our own thing.
Q: How did you come to the North Fork?
A: I grew up in Mattituck. But I left—I couldn’t wait to leave, the North Fork hadn’t been discovered yet, so it was really boring with nothing to do. Then I came back for some family things, bought the house I grew up in, and then my dad and I ran Dolittles and then I bought this place. We’ve come full circle.
Q: So you appreciate the North Fork being discovered?
A: It’s a Catch-22. Now we’ve been discovered there’s much more going on; but being discovered came with restrictions too—it was freer back then. Still, some things don’t change.
Everyone comes together, people know you. And people help each other. There’s a lot of community spirit.
Q: Is Front Street Station involved in the community in any particular way?
A: Yes; we host the Paul Drum Pirate and Mermaid Breakfast at the Maritime Festival.
My son, Paul, has Down syndrome, and he’s the spirit of Front Street. He works here on Mondays.
From interacting with the community, he has inspired a program, the Paul Drum Nautical Education Program at the East End Seaport Museum.
It’s a free morning program for kids 8-12 years old running eight weeks in the summer. There’s all kinds of classes; everything from Cornell bringing touch tanks to blacksmithing. The Coast Guard taught water safety; the kids learned everything aquaculture, nautical.
It’s all funded through the breakfast. Last year was the first summer. We want kids to experience it when they’re young so they appreciate it into adulthood.
Greenport has really embraced Paulie. The first year, David Nyce made Paulie Mayor for the Day, and this past year Chief Flatlely made him police chief for the Day in conjunction with Supervisor Russell making September 27, 2015 Paul Drum Day in Southold Town.
Q: Wow that sounds great. What’s the breakfast like?
It’s Maritime Sunday, it’s a buffet breakfast.
Front Street Station absorbs the cost of the food and supplies, and everyone comes in dressed up as pirates and mermaids. We have a face painter, activities, it’s a lot of fun. We sell tickets—this year we had over 100 tickets sold—Mr. Russell, Mr. Krupski, Ms. Dougherty, the community really comes out. Again, all the proceeds go to the Paul Drum fund.
We try to be more than the restaurant; we try to be part of the community.
Q: Anything else people should know about Front Street Station?
A: We offer free delivery and we’re open everyday all year long. Also, on Mothers’ Day, Valentine’s Day we do free roses to the ladies.