Any North Forker who’s strayed from home will have an occasional twang of nostalgia for their hometown — whether it’s memories with friends on the sandy beaches alongside the Peconic Bay, waiting in line for ice cream at the Magic Fountain in Mattituck, riding through cornfields in their high August splendor or wandering Greenport with the salt in the air, there are some things about this place that you just couldn’t find if you went somewhere else.
Maria Vizzi and Carolina Paulino, founders of The North Fork Box, are delivering pieces of the North Fork to people all over with their new service.
Last fall, they launched the company with a seasonal box filled with North Fork keepsakes, clothing, works by local authors and musicians and gift certificates for uniquely North Fork experiences, and this year they’ve expanded their offerings, with a Valentine’s Day box in February, boxes designed for college students away from home, a new military box in the works for North Forkers currently in the service, and a Baby Box due to launch in early May.
The entrepreneurs have been building relationships with other local businesses, some of which are new, and some of which are well-established. But what they all share is a passion both for what they do, and for this place they call home.
“It’s a very hands-on business,” said Ms. Vizzi during an interview with The Beacon at The Love Lane Kitchen in late April, along with some of the other entrepreneurs whose products are featured in The North Fork Box. “We get to meet the most wonderful people, and we can feel the impact it’s having on their business. We could just buy stuff from China, but it has to have a win-win component with local businesses.”
One of those partnerships is with Mattituck sisters Elizabeth Doroski and Stacy Wickham Martin, the founders of Northforkin’, a brand devoted both to what they love about their home, and to the ridiculousness of how busy the last few seasons here have been.
Ms. Doroski, a dentist by day, got the idea for the product line after waiting in line for an hour to buy ice cream at The Magic Fountain one summer weekend in 2014.
“This is forkin’ ridiculous,” she remembers thinking, an idea that grew in her mind over the ensuing years, until, last summer, she caught her sister’s entrepreneurial ear.
Their products, headlined by their mascot, Annie the Lobster, include sweatshirts, t-shirts, tote bags, a new baby onesie and hats.
Ms. Martin, a photographer, designed the website for the products, and is devoted to marketing them on Instagram, which is where Ms. Paolino and Ms. Vizi found their products.
Instagram is also how Meg Howard first found the North Fork Box. Ms. Howard, a lawyer by day, devotes her passion to her motherhood and lifestyle blog, nofomomma.com.
Ms. Howard will be the guest curator of The North Fork Box’s Baby Box.
“When you go to baby showers, it’s nice to bring a gift that’s very homegrown stuff, not what everyone else is bringing,” said Ms. Howard. “Also, there’s a little bit for mom, because mom might need the most love.”
“We all showcase one another,” she said of the various businesses that have gotten involved in the project. “There’s not a feeling of competition.”
The Baby Box will hold a launch party at Special Tea in Greenport on Saturday, May 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. You can RSVP to attend at The North Fork Box’s website.
Ms. Vizzi wants North Forkers to think of the box as a great gift for someone who loves the North Fork, even if they have to love this place from afar.
She’s been working with Major William Grigonis of the North Fork NJROTC on a new Military Box that will be donated to about 100 service members from the North Fork who are currently away from home. The North Fork Box is currently looking for local entrepreneurs who are interested in contributing to the project. Call Lorrie Sapporita of Sapporita Sweets at 516.457-5875 or Maria at 631.333.2271 if you would like to donate to the Military Box.
There will be a one-hour fundraiser for the project on May 18 from 4 to 5 p.m. at Greenport Harbor Brewery in Peconic, with a free beer for all attendees. They’ll be stuffing the boxes on May 24 in the ROTC room at Greenport High School.
The North Fork Box also features local authors, including children’s books “N is for North Fork,” by Katelyn Knapp and “Adventures Through The North Fork,” by Danielle Rodger, and downloadable tracks by North Fork singer-songwriter Julia King.
Ms. Vizzi spent summers either in Peconic or with her grandparents in Sicily as a child, a far cry from her winter digs in the Bronx, where her parents barely let her out of their sight.
Her childhood here was filled with adventures in the natural world and alongside the bay and the Sound, fishing and spending time with her family. After her family gave up her childhood summer home, about a year ago she and her husband were able to buy another house in East Marion, where they stay as often as they can.
“Those were the best times of my life,” she said of her childhood days in East Marion.
The North Fork Box has now been in business for six months, and Ms. Vizzi is filled with ideas for how to expand what they can do.
“The initial idea was to only do this quarterly, with the seasons, but I got antsy,” she said. In addition to the Valentine’s Day Box, the Military Box, the College Box and the Baby Box, she also has ideas for a Bridal Box and a hotel amenity box in the works.
You can find more information about The North Fork Box online at www.thenorthforkbox.com.