Okay, it’s less of a secret and more of a site in question. The new owners of the West Sayville Hoi Ming plan to revamp the site, making way for an undisclosed
Last year, the decades-old Hoi Ming, located at 469 Main Street, closed its doors, a true end of an era after over 50 years of operating.
Current owners Jim Kalimerise, Jason Mazzarone, Sheila and Nick Smith, plan to keep the space the same, with just some minor upkeep on the inside to allow for a new restaurant to come in and make it fresh again. Current capacity is about 97 people, Mazzarone said, promising that it will remain a small, hometown restaurant.
“John, Phil and Edmond [original Hoi Ming operators] did such a great job,” he said, sad to see them go. “They were there for 50 years and were unable to continue.”
The plan, he said, is to work with a local restaurant owner to eventually fill the building.
“We really want to keep it a local spot,” he stressed.
Still, the exact concept isn’t set in stone and negotiations with potential operators are still in the air. The big reveal, he added, will most likely come within the next couple of weeks or so.
According to the Town of Islip, no permits have been taken out on the structure. The CO, a town spokesperson said, states that the original structure was built around 1900 and the current zoning is Residence A, which means that the building predates town zoning and was at one point grandfathered in as a restaurant. There will be no change of use.
Mazzarone’s family owns Papa Mia’s ice house next door, which is another 40-year staple of the area. His grandfather, Frank Yozzo, took it over in the early 1970s and always rented from Hoi Ming owners John, Phil and Edmund.
“I’ve been going to Hoi Ming my whole life, my grandfather would bring me down there for lunch,” he said, recalling his childhood memories. “As soon as you walked through the doors, you didn’t feel like you were in Sayville anymore, you were kind of immersed into their culture and their food and their hospitality.”
While operating, the building was for sale, he added, explaining that the owners were ready to retire. But when the pandemic hit, they just didn’t want to reopen, he said, noting that they reached out to sell the property to him.
Mazzarone and his business partner Kalimerise, both Sayville locals, immediately purchased it. Together, they also own SoBol on Main Street in Sayville.
SoBol, he said, actually started out of the icehouse in 2012 before actually opening a storefront.
“The opportunity to, you know, keep the space with our family and make sure that longevity of the ice house can remain there” just made sense, he said.
He was just about 10 years old when his family took over the icehouse, first as a clam bar that also sold hotdogs and hamburgers. Over the years, it eventually changed into Italian ices. About 12 years ago, his mother, Sheila Smith, took it over and she’s owned it ever since. As for Hoi Ming, the bones of the building, Mazzarone said, are still good and not much is required to change.
“It’s mostly just a matter of going in and cleaning it up, pulling up old carpet and brightening it up a bit,” he explained noting that they are a week or two into the cleanup. “We also had to put a new roof on, which caused quite a stir amongst the Sayville locals, who thought we were tearing the building
Leading the renovation is local contractor Kevin Hill, owner of KHill Construction, who hopes to preserve the building to allow it to operate for another 100 years. The reno should take about another week or two. Then, when a restaurateur is chosen, it will be made to fit their needs hoping to restore the local treasure for another 100 years. “I’m thankful for the Sayville community,”
Hll said happy to do the job. “I’m booked for the next five months in just Sayville.”
The hope is for a mid-to-late March or early April launch.
“We really want to take advantage of the amazing South Shore summer season,” Mazzarone added.