Original post: When Milk & Sugar Café opened in Bay Shore nearly 18 years ago, all owners Gina and Lenny Jaworowski had to offer was coffee and pastries. And the right atmosphere.
Good timing helped, too.
The show Friends was still hugely popular, and the twenty- and thirty-somethings loved sitting on the couches, their own version of Central Perk here in Suffolk County.
The next year, the newlyweds introduced lunch. Dinner came three years after opening.
“Within six years we had breakfast, lunch and dinner down pat,” Gina said.
Somewhere along the way, the magic happened. Milk & Sugar was the place to be, whether it was to sip and hang on the couch, throw a baby shower or enjoy a delicious home-style meatloaf and a beer on a Friday.
And this was a very different Bay Shore than what we see today. Milk & Sugar opened before the turnaround. Even the Boulton Center, which opened in 2003, came after. Probably over two dozen restaurants have since followed.
“I think the town was just so amazed that we had this ability to pull from all age groups,” recalled Gina, who was 24 when Milk & Sugar opened at 49 West Main Street. “We were the hot spot.”
Now she and her husband want the feeling back.
“We want to be the hot spot again,” she said. “And it’s like anything, whether in the restaurant business or in your life, you have to change and start fresh and reinvent and think of new approaches.”
To that end, Milk & Sugar will be closing its doors next month for an overhaul.
It will reopen after Christmas as Barn Door 49, featuring sliding barn doors at its front, a rustic but modern interior and seasonal ingredients, many of which will be sourced from Long Island farms and waters.
Having had a front row seat to Bay Shore’s turnaround, the Jaworowskis said they weren’t ready to shut down — even though they felt Milk & Sugar’s time had past.
“Now Main Street is so full of traffic it’s hard to get through on a Friday night,” Gina said.
She and her husband feel lucky that they found such welcoming and supportive people in a place they moved to mainly because it was affordable.
“The friends and relationships that nearly two decades have given us is just amazing,” Gina said. “We could have never done it without the support of the chamber, our friends and all the other local businesses. And I hope the community is impressed with what we will bring.”
Aside from Milk & Sugar Café, the Jaworowskis still will operate the The Victorian Room across Main Street for private parties, Big Bubba’s Backyard BBQ caterers, and the newly launched Patty Cake gourmet cupcakes truck that debuted this summer.
“So if you miss us too much [while Milk & Sugar is closed] you can always find us,” Gina said smiling.
While exciting, the move is a bittersweet one for the family. It wasn’t an easy call to make, and there were some tears along the way — and, of course, the pangs of nostalgia.
The couple that met in the 1990s — when Gina waitressed at Carleton on the Park in Eisenhower Park, where Lenny cooked — now has had two kids. Leonardo is 10 years old and attends Bay Shore schools. Lola, 9, goes to St. Patrick’s School.
“We’re not quitters,” Gina said. “This community has such drive, such strength — just look at everything here now — and we don’t want to miss out. And I want [the community] to continue to watch my children grow.”
With Barn Door 49, the idea is to keep thriving in Bay Shore for another two decades.
“There’s no other place we’d ever want to do this than in Bay Shore, a place that’s brought such blessing and support,” she said. “We just need to move forward.
“But we’ll alway be Milk & Sugar people.”