General: Suffolk Theater, an Art Deco beauty, was built in 1933 under the National Recover Act. It served the East End of Long Island until it closed in 1987. In 2005, Bob Castaldi and his wife Dianne purchased the building from the Town of Riverhead with a vision of re-opening the Theater to the public. As the Owner/General Contractor, Bob, who ran a building restoration company for 40 years, knew he held the keys to revitalizing downtown Riverhead, which had fallen to big box discount malls and multiples theaters not far away. Together, we explored the concept of converting the theater to cabaret style seating, which would reduce the number of seats, but allow for food and drinks to be served during show times and also provide opportunities for special events of all kinds. We also provided graphic design for fundraising and advertising.
Space: The building included former retail space on either side of the main lobby. The space to the west was converted to two levels of offices and the space to the east was converted to a kitchen service with access to the basement for food and accessory storage. The sloped floor of the auditorium was changed to a 5 section terrace using poured concrete over rigid insulation and radiant heat tubes, and designed to accommodate a number of different table and seating arrangements. The stage was raised slightly to improve sight lines and a full service bar was added to the back of the auditorium which allowed for the structural support columns required to reinforce the balcony section above. A bar was added at the balcony level and the bathrooms, once very minimal, were brought up to current standards.
Restoration: Although the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were in bad shape, the moldings, light fixtures and deco detailing was all there; it just needed restoration. With the help of local vendors, and the owner’s attention to every detail, all interior fixtures, finishes and colors were restored to original and trims and moldings were replicated to match where new construction was required at the two bars, the upper lounge and the bathrooms.
Grand Opening; On March 1st, 2013, after eight years of hard work, fundraising, legal battles with the Town Administration and a major recession, the building was opened in grand style with invited guests and actors in costume of the Thirties. The magic of this theater comes alive in every detail and is injected into the hearts of everyone who visits. A new L.E.D. marquee constantly announces events and news of the day. When the Suffolk Theater opened again, Main Street Riverhead was re-born. Shops, restaurants, galleries and other new businesses bring new life and new hope to a downtown lost in time.
“Every one of the craftsmen involved in this project worked with the same pride they would put into their own homes. Without that commitment, we could never have pulled this off. Thank you to each and every one of them”. Bob Castaldi