USA, NY: Southpaw Brewing Company set to open in Yaphank in April
James Economou was coaching the Campbell University football team in North Carolina when the pandemic hit in 2020, the Patch reported on February 10.
Having players released and then called back to play several times became a hassle, prompting him to think his life's circumstances over.
His family also came into play.
"My sister had a child and I wanted to be closer to family," he said, noting it's common as folks enter their later parts of life. "I just felt that I wanted to be around family, and I'm very team- and family-oriented."
He wanted to be back on Long Island and close to home.
Economou's family has been involved with construction for years, and when he was working with his cousin, Thomas Neidhart of Southpaw Construction, they got to talking one day about the brewery business.
"I was like, 'Hey, man, we should do this brewery,'" he recalled.
The pair were looking originally in the Riverhead area.
"Honestly, it's heavily saturated now with a lot of breweries," Economou said. "To be a new kid on the block out there is a little bit more difficult."
Economou, who lives on the north shore, was driving one day on William Floyd Parkway when he saw a construction crew clearing "the first patch of grass" from the area where Walmart now stands at the Brio on the Boulevard in Yaphank.
He ended up approaching one of the workers, who told him the site would be cleared for Walmart.
At the time, there was a hotel, an assisted living facility, and housing units. The worker explained that there would be pads for more retail and restaurant use in the future in the middle of the complex.
It seemed pretty cool to Economou, so he called the management company but it was months before he heard back.
When he heard back and all about what was planned he thought, "This should be perfect."
The Southpaw Brewing Company was evolving from a concept into reality. The locale will feature not only brews, but craft cocktails, brick oven-fired gourmet pizza, and apps aplenty.
So where did the name come from?
It's a nod to the business of his cousin, who is a "lefty," like the term used in boxing.
"It was kind of like a family thing; everyone kind of came up with the name," he said, adding that, his mother was also included in the process.
While watching a recent television program, Economou learned that the founders of Domino's pizza used a similar model by placing all the locations next to college campuses, and though a different operation, the idea for Southpaw will be the same.
It's near housing and hotels, not to mention the highly-trafficked East Wind Conference and Convention Center in Wading River.
Southpaw will give people what they want, "that's kind of new and not the typical deal that you get at a brewery or winery," Economou said.
The brewery will use a rotator pizza oven from Marra Fornia, a company that will be featured at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix for the Super Bowl on Sunday. Patrons can expect about 13 different pies like burrata and arugula, Sopressata and honey, buffalo chicken, Jalapeño popper, as well as more classic pies like sausage and pepper.
There will also be gluten-free pizza in the house.
There are plans for brunch, which would include breakfast pizzas, possibly even a chicken and waffle pizza.
"You can expect a lot of interesting things because you can make any type of pizza, any type of meal you really want," Economou said.
Patrons can also expect entree-inspired appetizers like duck wantons, short rib nachos, and jumbo mozzarella sticks.
"You're going to basically get a meal, but it's going to be more of a shareable appetizer option versus just like an entree and a single plate for an individual," he said.
There will also be burger and chicken sandwich options, as well as salads available.
Southpaw will have more of a restaurant feel than a traditional brewery no waiting in line at food trucks or for beepers to go off.
The inspiration for Southpaw came from Economou's past living out of state and traveling the United States playing and coaching football. His first introduction to the lot was as a college student in New Haven, CT.
New Haven had a different feel from traditional Italian pizzerias, they had more of a bar or brewery vibe.
But at his last "stop" in North Carolina, there was a place called Aviator Pizza, which had a pizza shop and brewing company that was "so popular with the residents over in that area that I just liked it as a great idea," he said.
"It's just a mix between those two places," he added.
The plan in mind is for Southpaw to stand out from the crowd of breweries that have taken over Long Island.
No soft pretzels or hot pockets, but "real food."
"We'll have service, but it's going to be an organic type of service you're not going to always have a waiter or waitress, like, in your face as you're hanging out," he said. "I want it to be a hangout, and I want people to enjoy themselves, but I also want them to have the convenience of when they're in a restaurant."
As things stand, Southpaw is expected to open in April.
Economou has been documenting the construction phase on Instagram.
The brewery's framing was just fashioned with sheetrock on February 10.
"It's really starting to take shape, but we have some really cool things that we have coming that's going to be in this location," he said, adding that there are a few surprises in store. "I want them to be wowed for the first time when they see it. We will have some interesting things."
Economou, who coached teams with Loyola and Fordham universities, will soon set his focus from his construction to his restaurant team family and extended family.
"You know, once we open up, I'll transition from doing this to operating the brewery," he said.
Giving credit where its due, Economou, noted Neidhart and his two sons, as well as business partner, Matt Rappa, thought the expense of the "surprises" at the brewery were worth it.
"Because we believe people will appreciate it in the long run," he said.
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