Supervisor Murray, Village Board celebrate grand opening on Covert Avenue
For the first time in many years, Covert Avenue in Stewart Manor has no vacant storefronts. On Saturday, Feb. 18, Stewart Manor Mayor James Kelly, Trustees Robert Fabio and James Lynch, and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Umi, an Asian fusion restaurant that opened for business on Jan. 31.
“We’re very excited about having a new restaurant,” said Kelly. “It’s been received very favorably by the residents. And, it’s another store that’s occupied on Covert.” Umi is located at 76 Covert, former home to Steward Spirits Shop, which closed its doors for business several years ago.
“[It adds] great ambiance to the avenue,” said Fabio, adding that “it already seems to be doing really well.” Indeed, as the town officials gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday afternoon, the restaurant saw a steady flow of lunch customers.
“I love the young man who’s starting out, puts his name on something, puts his money in something, and then this is what he gets,” said Lynch. “If he makes good, there’s good hope for Stewart Manor, Nassau County, the whole nine yards.”
Up against a tough economy, restaurant owner Steven Chin is armed with plenty of experience. Prior to opening Umi, Chin owned two restaurants in Manhattan, the first located at 56th Street and Lexington Avenue, and the second at 38th Street and Second Avenue. Both of those spaces, however, were prohibitive in affording Chin the ability to develop the restaurant he had always dreamed of. The storefronts were too small and the rents were too high.
“This is what I always envisioned it to be,” Chin said. “I just happened to find this space, large enough for me to put something like this together … I spent four years searching for a space like this,” searching all over Long Island, he added. Not only was the double storefront on Covert a boon for Chin, he was also seeking a tightknit community, where “word of mouth can help me to grow the business … word of mouth is the best advertisement I can get,” he said.
Toward that end, Chin is all about serving his clients. “We’re here to serve the people,” he said, adding that clients are “my boss … they are going to determine my survival. That’s how everybody should operate their restaurant.”
And while client relations are paramount for Chin, he is equally concerned about residents’ concerns, Kelly said. Chin had scrubbers installed in the air vents to help keep the smell of food from going out to the neighborhood, and “has been very accommodating with any [other] concerns that the residents may have,” such as garbage, the mayor said.
Kelly, Murray and Chin participated in a second ceremony inside the restaurant, after cutting the ribbon on Feb. 18. Soichi Kuwano, a representative of Ozeki Sake, part of Japan Food Corp., led the trio in a 400-year-old Japanese tradition to bestow prosperity and happiness upon the new business. Donned in Japanese jackets and armed with wooden mallets, they banged on a sake barrel until it popped open.
“I wish you the best of luck,” Murray said, adding that she loves “to learn something new every day,” referring to the ancient tradition.
The old-school tradition is in stark contrast to the modern, “city chic” ambiance of Umi, which boasts a sushi bar that creates rolls that can be easily mistaken for works of art, as well as a full kitchen menu, including many hibachi items. Asked whether Umi has a signature dish, Chin recommends the special rolls, such as the red lobster roll, and the Chilean sea bass from the kitchen. Going forward, Chin hopes to offer biweekly specials from both the sushi bar and the kitchen. Given the crowds the restaurant has drawn the past few weekends, Chin recommends reservations for Friday and Saturday nights.