When it came time to buy my baby’s christening outfit, I knew I was going to go to the same place where my mother-in-law bought their daddy’s outfit for his big day: The Colony Shop.
I couldn’t wait.
As soon as I booked it, I ran into the store the next day and asked co-owner Lori Belmonte for her assistance in choosing the perfect outfit. She helped me pick out everything, from the dress to the socks. There aren’t many small businesses around anymore that allow for multi-generational traditions.
But that’s not all.
Lori, who co-owns The Colony Shop with her aunt, Lorice “Lari” Fiala — the daughter of the shop’s founder, Eloise Staudinger — has helped me with so many other things, from my son’s first birthday crown to a last-minute gift for a friend.
I think the best part is they understand the lost art of gift-wrapping for customers.
So many people I meet from Patchogue or the surrounding areas have a story similar to mine about The Colony Shop.
For decades, and long before Internet shopping was even a thought — even those years when color TV was a luxury item — The Colony Shop was simply the place to go when local parents needed clothing for their kids.
Along the way, and often under the radar, it’s been so much more than a store.
It helped build the Patchogue Village you see today, and in so many ways.
Consider that Eloise Staudinger, who died on April 17, 2010, spearheaded much of the beautification projects in Patchogue’s history. Each year for decades she helped this village put its best foot forward — even during the not-so-great times.
With that history and legacy of community service in mind, I looked around the shop on Wednesday night during the store’s 70th anniversary party.
The place was full of people that serve on different volunteer committees with The Colony Shop owners.
Everyone knows them from the different organizations they’re involved with. Local politicians, neighboring business owners and friends came by to congratulate them on being successful in the village for so long.
“They do so much for our community, so I’m glad I’m able to celebrate with them,” said Dawn Turnbull of Bridgehampton National Bank.
What Lari and Lori teach us is that, in the long run, giving back is an essential part of being a successful business owner.
Between the both of them, they seem to have their hands in almost every volunteer group in town. From the Business Promotions Committee with the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce to the Greater Patchogue Foundation, they raise their hands for everything.
They work full days at the shop and then attend many meetings to help orchestrate events around town — like family fun night, sidewalk sales, the fall festival, Halloween happenings and many others.
I sit across the table from Lari and Lori at a lot of these meetings. As a new kid on the block, it’s really inspiring to watch. They could go home at the end of their work days, but they don’t. They stay around and figure out ways to get more people to come down to Patchogue.
“We all do a lot here in Patchogue,” Karen Ferb said on Wednesday night. “That’s what makes this town so great.”
I have no doubt that the spirit of Patchogue Village that Ferb described, and many others talk about, owes so much to the women of The Colony Shop.
Tiffany Rivera is a greaterpatchogue.com contributor and the founder of Patchogue Moms on Facebook. She lives in East Patchogue and works in Patchogue Village.
Photo: Lori Belmonte (right) fights back tears during Lorice Fiala’s speech Wednesday night, during which Lari spoke of her mother, Eloise Staudinger. (Tiffany Rivera)