Many Shelter Island locals may consider themselves regulars at Stars Café in the Heights, starting their day off with a cup of coffee or the classic “Hangover Burrito” on a Saturday morning.
One group of morning regulars, however, are so loyal to this small business that they are described by co-owner Lydia Martinez as “part of the inventory.” The group call themselves “The Knitting Club,” and can be seen sitting and laughing in front of the Heights landmark nearly every morning, bright and early.
“It started with Stars,” said ME Adipietro, the only woman in the group. The original owners of the cafe, Cheryl and Pete Hannabury, brought together the originals of the gang and began the tradition of unconditional loyalty.
As the business passed through many different hands over the years, these self-described “crotchety old men” remained. (Crotchety is the correct word: They made a big deal about not being photographed or giving their names when a reporter stopped by last week.)
The eclectic group includes men of different political views, religions and nationalities. “It’s a spectrum you can’t invent,” said Ms. Martinez with a laugh. However, according to the group, politics, and heavy topics in general, are usually kept out of the conversation.
“It’s light conversation and a lot of laughter,” said Bob DeStefano, the designated spokesman and comedian of the group, “We try to laugh as much as we can,” he said. It’s a nice meeting place to find out what’s going on.”
Besides catching up with local news, the men spend their morning teasing each other. “It’s very funny to listen in,” Ms. Martinez said. “They make fun of each other while they enjoy their morning cup of coffee.”
The goal is to make everyone feel as bad as possible before leaving, Mr. DeStefano said.
The group was adamant about their dedication to Stars and to owners, Ms. Martinez and her husband, Pepe. Mr. Martinez described “The Knitting Club” as part of a “big family.”
When the cafe gets busy they often will pitch in to help an employee restock the coffee station. The men have become a Stars staple.
“That’s how we start the day,” said Ms. Martinez.
She can name nearly all of them off the top of her head — Darren Binder, Wayne Bourne, Eddie Brown, Dennis Clark, Toby Green, Tony Khouri, David Persson, Brett Polscheck and Father Peter DeSanctis.
Mr. and Mrs. Martinez are in the swing of the summer season. The cafe has been busy since March, and they expect business to keep picking up. Starting soon they plan to extend hours to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and open the organic juice bar and ice cream parlor downstairs. This summer they have introduced some new items and plan to expand their catering services, as well.
One thing that certainly won’t change about Stars is the undying support of “The Knitting Club,” who will continue to light up the outdoor tables with their laughter.