Never mind Small Business Saturday, that once-a-year shopping day in November. In many Long Island villages, small businesses are often the very fabric of the community.
And recently, a North Shore village paid tribute to the way its downtown serves as a backdrop for the community as a whole.
On any given Friday afternoon during the school year, most of the foot traffic on Port Washington’s main street is generated by middle and high school kids.
It’s your big Friday time, a time to meet up with friends for ramen, pizza, or yogurt, and the list goes on. Maybe grab a bagel or sandwich at one of the malls. Or maybe they’ll head down to the town pier and enjoy some ice cream, and if time and weather permit, stick around for an outdoor concert and a sunset over Manhasset Bay.
Collectively, these moments were part of the theme for this year’s prom, or Gambol, as it’s known in Port Washington.
“This is the last moment of their lives in high school,” said Dawn Andrew, who chaired Gambol this year. “I wanted them to remember all the good things about the city before moving on.”
This year’s theme was previously called “Moon on the Bay,” complete with replicas of afternoons at the North Hempstead Town Dock on Manhasset Bay, as well as some of the kid’s favorite spots: Douglas & James Ice Cream, Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices & Ice Cream, Gino’s, The Original Carlo’s Pizza, Cactus Café and others.
The vision was made possible with the help of local sponsoring organizations and businesses.
Carl Guilbaud, event producer and creative designer for Geo Events, which has a location in Hicksville, brought the vision to life.
“I love proms,” Guilbaud said. “That’s how I got into this industry.”
He had a connection to families in Port Washington, having been hired for coming-of-age celebrations like bar and bat mitzvahs in the community.
For Gambol, “I wanted to create this immersive, nostalgic experience,” Guilbaud said.
Except for the first two years of the pandemic, the Gambol has long been held at Castle Gould, a 100,000-square-foot limestone mansion built in 1904 in Sands Point Preserve that was modeled on Ireland’s Kilkenny Castle. Not many kids can say they attended a castle prom, but rather than focus on the glitz and glamor that come to mind when thinking of Gold Coast mansions, Andrew infused this year’s festivities with an appreciation for the places that served as the backdrop for the graduation. roots of the elders.
Guilbaud took the dedicated vacant space within the castle and brought Andrew’s vision to life. It featured a screen with a time-lapse sunset over Manhasset Bay so kids could take photos for their Instagram stories.
After two years of living through a pandemic, Andrew wanted to give prom meaning. He considers, for example, the bay and its sunsets. “The children grew up in the bay. Their parents took them there in strollers,” he said.
And everywhere there was a tribute to small businesses, including the traditional casino, which was named in memory of Jimmy “Shoes” Kallenberg.
Kallenberg, who died in 2021, in many ways epitomized small business in the community. A lifelong resident of Port Washington, for decades he and his family ran what eventually became Jimmy’s Shoes, where families in town routinely purchased footwear for their children. He gave back to the community by serving in organizations like Port Washington Youth Activities and the Chamber of Commerce, and becoming Executive Director of the Port Washington Business Improvement District. For nearly two decades, he ran the casino tables at Gambol as one of many event volunteers.
Approximately 50 companies and organizations contributed to Gambol, including the Peter & Jeri Dejana Foundation, Gambol’s platinum sponsor.
That support and other donations increased Gambol’s inclusion, so everyone was able to attend regardless of their ability to buy a ticket or buy a prom dress; there were many dresses donated for people to choose from.
On Long Island, a coalition of business and community groups is also promoting the importance of small businesses. The group includes rRepresentatives from more than a dozen chambers of commerce, Vision Long Island, the Long Island Main Street Alliance, small business owners and civic leaders. Your message? Long Islanders don’t have to travel and can stay closer to home to support local businesses in their communities, where there are festivals, live music nights, outdoor art shows, cultural attractions, and other family activities.
Meanwhile, in Port Washington, as far as Gambol, who recently enjoyed in his 70sthe year, companies were eager to participate.
“Falconer Florist has been serving the community for 102 years,” said Fred Falconer, owner of the florist. “As a graduate of Schreiber High School and a supporter of all traditions in Port Washington, supporting the Gambol is one of the many time-honored traditions we support.”
“It’s giving back to kids,” said Amy Luria-Nissenbaum, owner of Luria Design & Style, who worked on the floor plan. “It’s a good farewell to the district and the city.”
“The seniors had a lot of fun watching the kids and parents celebrate,” Guilbaud said.
This year’s Gambol “was a good introduction for companies that didn’t know about it,” said Andrew. “There are a lot of new businesses in town.”
And there are new owners in the midst of a post-quarantine time, who have not had the opportunity to learn about all the traditions of a community.
“This city and its residents support us in many ways; we literally wouldn’t be here without them,” said Dr. Neal Vohora, owner of Beacon Pharmacy and Hunold Pharmacy + Gift Shop in Port Washington. “We are honored to support local initiatives like Gambol, and were happy to see such a great event for our seniors. We can’t wait to see next year’s Gambol.”
And Vohora said he and his team “were not aware of the Gambol sponsorship opportunity previously. When we saw this year’s brochure, we knew we had to get involved. We see it as a small way to give back to the community.”
Andrew said that kind of support is what helps drive the sense of community that he built into this year’s prom theme, which had an attendance rate of close to 100%.
“It was filled with everything the students loved about Port Washington,” he said. “If that’s the ultimate takeaway from their high school experience and they have a really positive memory coming out of Gambol, then the mission is accomplished.”