Read the CBS story here.
SAYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – In Sayville, Long Island, a Main Street spice shop has unlikely owners.
Lauri La Piana, a stenographer, and her husband Matthew, an architect, opened Sayville N Spice on the ground floor of the historic building that houses their offices. Built in 1917, it was once the site of Thornhill’s Pharmacy.
“I couldn’t see it go vacant for another year,” Matthew said.
Noting the rise in popularity of cooking at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, he got the idea to stock the empty storefront with seasonings and specialty kitchen items.
The shop’s inventory and décor continue to evolve, but for the La Pianas, in with the new doesn’t mean out with the old.
“As a preservation architect, I was careful not to bastardize this building. I don’t even have my own sign up,” Matthew said.
Instead, the entrance to Sayville N Spice bears distinctive neon Thornhills’s Pharmacy lettering from the 1950s, a beloved local fixture.
With limited visibility, Lauri and Matthew take a grassroots approach to promoting their business—they beckon to curious passersby and invite them inside for a tour.
“People come in here and say, ‘We remember coming here to the pharmacy, and we can’t believe what it’s transformed to be,'” Lauri said. “It’s really important to us for the community to be involved.”
“They’re just very, very welcoming,” Matthew said.
Matthew and Lauri enjoy introducing the store’s offerings to culinary professionals and beginners alike.
Their top sellers include curry powder and the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar, sold by the ounce. The 250 varieties of hot sauce on display range from mild to mouth-scorching. The spiciest offerings bear a Scoville heat rating of 6 million—higher than U.S.-grade pepper spray.
Matthew is a food lover who grew up visiting his grandfather’s Italian deli in Corona, Queens. But he is foremost an architect, approaching his new project with design expertise. He takes pride in the preservation of the shop’s original ceiling. He uses repurposed wood to assemble shelving by hand and build crates for personalized gift boxes.
He and Lauri maintain their full-time jobs while running the spice store and raising their three-year-old son Maximus.
“I’m pretty good at not sleeping, I guess,” Matthew said.
For him, the community spirit of the place is invigorating.
“I get excited every day about jumping up and seeing what today will bring,” he said.