The Village of Manorhaven Village Hall (Photo by Julie Prisco)

The End Of An Oven

The Village of Manorhaven responds to residents concerned with a local Italian specialty shop

For the past few weeks, social media has been abuzz about Serra Provisions, a local Italian specialty shop in Port Washington.

Serra Provisions is located in the Village of Manorhaven on 7 Sintink Dr. East. The Italian eatery opened its location in Port in 2021. The establishment is set up as a ‘grab and go’ eatery. Patrons can come in to pick up pastas, sandwiches, salads, soups, and more. Picnic tables are set up outside where customers can enjoy the food they purchased from Serra Provisions.

Serra Provisions quickly gained popularity among residents in the area because of its delicious food and easygoing ordering style. The establishment began serving artisan pizzas, which eventually caught the attention of the Village of Manorhaven because a wood-burning pizza oven was not in the business’s original plans. While the original plans included small-batch cooking with an electric oven, the wood-burning oven was not.

Due to village codes and approvals needed to have a functioning wood-burning oven, Serra Provisions was at risk of having to shut down their oven. This caused local fans of the establishment to take to social media and share their disappointment with the village.

Unfortunately, the situation grew and grew due to social media’s ability to make things go viral quickly. The discourse about Serra Provisions, the oven and the Village had to be addressed at the most recent Manorhaven Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, April 24.

The Village of Manorhaven Mayor John Popeleski opened the public comment session about Serra Provisions. He stated that before he was mayor, he sat on the Board of Trustees and was there when Serra Provisions initially came to the board looking for approval.

The Village provided residents with the transcript of the meeting where the owner of Serra Provisions, Jesse Olson, stated, “There’s no gas kitchen; there’s very minimal cooking. No hoods required, etc. It’s mainly just small-batch cooking with electric conduction burners, etcetera.”

According to a statement made by Serra Provisions on April 24, Serra Provisions isn’t denying that the wood-burning oven wasn’t part of the original plan. “We have always had some level of cooking in our fillings, but we didn’t decide to transition our plan from an electric oven to a wood-burning oven until we had been open for several months and realized that it would better fit our family’s vision for the shop.”

Serra Provisions goes on to say, “We did not neglect to inform the village out of ill intent. It was a massive oversight on our end. We worked with the Nassau County Fire Chief Marshal, which we believed at the time was the appropriate path forward. They inspected our establishment and signed off on our entire build-out. So no worries folks, we are not a fire hazard. We are also fully insured.”

Upon discovering that the Village needed to be involved in the details about the wood-burning oven, Serra Provisions reached out to determine what needed to be done to rectify the situation.

Serra Provisions is currently open at 7 Sintink Dr. (Photo by Julie Prisco)

While Serra Provisions stated they never heard back and still don’t know what they need, the Village states that they have shared the information from the Village Building Department on what needs to be done.

The Village has received a lot of backlash from the community due to the miscommunication and misinformation being spread on social media. Residents on Facebook were making claims that the Village of Manorhaven is against small businesses, which, the village made clear, isn’t true.

“In the last eight months, we have a breakfast and lunch place going in, we have the gym that just opened, we have the facial place that just opened. We are getting a mom and pop printing company,” said Mayor Popeleski.

For this situation with Serra Provisions, Mayor Popeleski said, “The board of trustees and myself as the mayor, we’re not even involved. This is something that’s being handled through our building department. Village Codes along with Town and County Codes are there for the safety of the village residents and for the public. We’re not here to hurt anybody. We are here to help.”

A letter to the community from Mayor Popeleski says, “If the proprietors file the appropriate paperwork, the village will certainly review and process it accordingly.”

In their statement, Serra Provisions says, “We have been going through this for far too long. We are residents in this village as well as business owners and simply want to put this behind us and focus on the future. Removing the oven seems like the fastest way to do that.”

In mid-April, Serra Provisions stopped using the wood-burning oven.

The Port Washington News spoke with Jesse Olson of Serra Provisions. He said that “I am choosing to take the oven out. The criteria to keep it is ever changing.”

Olson shared that the oven weighs about 5,000 pounds, so removing it from the facility would be challenging. They are considering removing the chimney part and plugging the hole so its just a piece of furniture. “Then it also makes it much easier down the road if something changes and we get back in the race, then I can just re-flue the chimney.”

Serra Provisions shared they are also considering looking for a new space in Port Washington. While the Olsons love Port and the community has been supportive, the stress of the situation has caused anxiety in their lives. “The overwhelming support from the community has been kind of reinvigorating and re-inspiring to bring it back somewhere else where we are welcome and appreciated,” said Jesse.

In the statement, Serra Provisions says, “Unfortunately, the baseless citations and lack of clear direction have us questioning the integrity of the administration, which was not something we anticipated when starting our small business. Until there is a shift in local leadership, we do not envision that any further proceedings will be fair and objective, nor do we have the financial capacity to jump through any more hoops.”

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