After nannying for 12 years with an educational focus on Early Childhood Education and Human Development, the pandemic hit. A go-getter and a doer, Cassie Nadaner decided that there had to be something she could do to help the small businesses that were affected by COVID while sitting home waiting to be able to return to work. After moving to Port Washington in June 2020 with her fiancé, Cassie was blown away by all the closed storefronts on Main Street and surrounding areas. She took it upon herself to start a neighborhood station “Port Washington TV” to keep the families who were stuck inside see their children’s performances, or keep up to date with information on school closures and remote learning, while also creating commercials and helping to market the small businesses in the neighborhood. Listen in and find out more about what Cassie did to turn Main Street into so much more.
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From Mother's Helper To A Go-Getter Entrepreneur With Cassie Nadaner
I'm super excited to be speaking to local Port Washington TV woman, Cassie Nadaner. We have been following each other all over the place. As a woman entrepreneur who has supported the women entrepreneurs in this town for so long, I am so happy to have a partner in crime with somebody else that has jumped in and is doing other things to support these local women here in our town. Cassie, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Thank you for having me. This is a wonderful opportunity and I'm so thankful for it.
You are usually the one doing the interviewing. You are going to have to tell me how I do after this.
This is almost bizarre for me because I'm like, "I don't have to think of much."
I'm on the other side now. Welcome to the other side.
Tell us how you came to Port Washington and how you started this business.
My boyfriend at that time and I, Chris, were bored in the pandemic. I was fortunate enough to be employed throughout the pandemic but working from home because I was a nanny. I had spent twelve years being a nanny. My educational background is in Human Development and Early Childhood Studies. Being a nanny was something I truly enjoyed. I loved the bonds that I made with the families. I was with a particular family in Rockville Centre for about four years. The pandemic hit and we were all unsure of what that meant, especially having somebody else outside of your immediate family coming into your house every day and going back home. Chris at that time was traveling on the railroad still. I had to stay home. I was so fortunate enough to be able to keep my job and continue to have an income.
We’ve got bored real fast. I'm one of those go-getters. I needed to do something. At that time, we were living in Bayside, Queens. I was helping someone in Bayside try to do the same thing that I then started doing here, which is promoting the businesses that were hurting. June of 2020 came and we decided to move from Bayside. We found Port Washington in our travels. We fell in love with Port Washington immediately. It dawned on us. It was the place we wanted to raise a family and stay full term long-term forever. We started renting in Port Washington. A month later, we’ve got engaged. We’ve got a COVID puppy. We were able to do as many of the craziest things as possible. Our lives were super changing.
I took everything that I was doing in Bayside and saw all these empty storefronts in Port Washington. By being on one of the many, I think there are fifteen Facebook groups for Port Washington. After seeing all these groups talking about, "How can we help the restaurants?" Everybody here was so supportive in supporting the local restaurants especially but there were so many other businesses that I was noticing firsthand that were struggling. After starting Port Washington TV and trying to build up these restaurants and businesses as best as I could, I did a piece for Painting With Flowers. I worked with Ayhan a couple of times. It was getting well-received.
Come the holiday time of 2020, I thought, "Let me put together an in-town Port Washington local gift guide so that people who were looking for presents for the holidays didn't have to go to big-box stores or leave our town, whether it be getting a gift certificate to a restaurant or shopping at Suite 275 and then going across the street to Painting With Flowers." On top of that, there were so many at-home COVID businesses, if you want to call them that, that started of the home that maybe don't have the money to rent a brick and mortar but they are still businesses. I compiled this list. It was a solid, few full pages and it was well-received.
Fast forward a couple of months later to February 2021, I thought it would be worth a try to open up a very temporary one-time pop-up shop in one of Ayhan's storefronts. He had a couple. He and I had gotten very close business-wise because I was helping him and he has helped everybody. I said, "What if I borrow one of your stores. I will have Chris, my fiancé, paint the store. He will make it look nice." I did and we were in for two weekends straight. I’ve got over 100-plus inquiries of small businesses that wanted to be a part of this pop-up store and I didn't have space for it. I joked around, "It was nothing I wanted to do. It wasn't in my career path."
Retail was something that I did after graduating college and throughout high school. Here I am fighting myself with this feel-good of, "I'm helping people here and they are benefiting but what am I going to do?" After a lot of careful consideration, I decided that the best thing would be to give it a try and rent a storefront and here came The Local Market. It has been very well-received. We are very excited to be here. We are hoping to not only generate someplace fun and unique for Port Washington and our customers but we are also hoping to be generating traffic for Port Washington and Main Street so that other businesses can thrive as well.
You are a doer. That's a summer personality too where you are like, "I have an idea. I'm just going to throw it together and see what happens." I love it because it's so after my own heart in every, which way in terms of the entrepreneurs. Do you find it amazing how many entrepreneurial companies there are in this? I know there are a lot of mostly women in your space, too. It's amazing how many women in this town have that entrepreneurial energy and drive.
I have met some of the most badass women that I am impressed and inspired by every day. From my neighbors to my actual vendors, to my retailers, I had no idea that there were so many go-getters and hustlers. It's truly amazing. I'm so fortunate, glad and honored to be able to provide a space for all of these businesses to have a true chance at selling their product.
By the way, this is a non-PG show. You can drop any bombs that you want. We are all about dropping bombs on this show. It's all good. Where do you see the storefront going from here? Did you sign a long-term lease?
We did, which was more nerve-wracking than signing a residential lease that we did here in Port Washington. It was scary. I have never done something like this before. I wouldn't be able to do it without the support that I have around me. We are in it for the long-term long haul. However long we can manage to stay around, we would like to stay around for. We have exciting things coming. I don't know if you are familiar or if everyone else is familiar with AR Workshop's old space, it's ginormous.
One of the things when Ayhan and I were talking, he wanted to make sure that I knew what I was doing before I went in there. I kept saying to him, "I don't know what else this space could truly be if not for an indoor market or a place where you can have classes." We took it upon ourselves to brainstorm, "What can this store actually be?" It started as just being vendors-only. It was supposed to be an empty store. I was putting no money and thought process into it. I was just having my vendors on Saturdays and Sundays. From there, it turned into, "Let's do the front half of the store, retail five days a week. We will have the market still on Saturday and Sunday." Now, we are hosting classes on Friday nights, Thursday nights. We are participating in Port Outdoors.
In the first week of June 2021, we are going to have our first local artists' gallery. It's going to be professionally curated. It's going through the call for artist's submission phase, where you can submit and hopefully get chosen to be on our walls. On Saturdays and Sundays, when you come into the retail store, you will be able to view the art. Especially with Port Washington having so many fantastic photographers and artists, this is a very artsy community. We are excited to give a free space for people to come in. If they are browsing Main Street and want to do something, come on in and take a look.
Are you looking for just local artists or artists from anywhere?
I think there's a big misconception on the word local. I have hit it a couple of times. For us, there are a lot of stores on Long Island, in New York or in the United States that sell products that are considered local. In our store specifically, we cater to New York only. We are at this stage where there are enough vendors and there's enough talent in a very close 10-mile radius that we don't need to go to Chicago to get macramé or wherever. We have so many people. I would say that 85% of our stuff is in the Port Washington, Manhasset-Roslyn area. There are some Hamptons artists. There are some New York City, Brooklyn artists. We will accept everything that is New York State-based. We hope to be able to stay that way for the indefinite future. We don't feel like there's a need to expand past New York.
I made a note to myself to reach out to one of the Foster women who is a headshot photographer. She is also a Fine Art Photographer and her stuff is beautiful. I'm going to speak to her. Her husband has an office right down the street from you. They are in town a lot and I feel like it could be fun for her. I will connect you two and have her reach out. I wanted to talk about something that you didn't touch on. The title of this as you saw when I sent it to you, it's Get Knocked Down, Get Back Up Again. I know a little bit more about your story about not being as easy as a transition as you made it seem in terms of the Port Washington TV. Can you share that story? I think it's important for people to hear that even if you get a little beat up, the thing to do is to get back up again. You had a situation and I wanted to see if you would be willing to share that.
When I was moving to Port Washington, I was working with somebody over in Bayside. I had said, "I can't do this in Bayside anymore. I am not only tied to my life now in Port Washington but I see this is such an opportunity to help my new town, my new resident." He was all on board. We originally started as Port Washington Live TV. He said to me, "This is your baby. You live here. I wouldn't have gone to this town if it weren't for you. I know nothing about Port Washington. I will stay in Bayside. You take over the Port Washington side of things." It was nerve-wracking because I'm a nanny. My experience is in childcare.
A lot of people ask me daily, "Is your background in film?" I'm like, "No." They were like, "Is it in business?" I'm like, "No. I have no film, television or radio professionalism whatsoever. This was just me trying to help." I was a good solid six months on my own in Port Washington. I started getting pressure from this person that I was in this business with to collect money. It was all about money. Here I was, doing this out of the goodness of my heart just trying to build back up businesses. I never asked anyone in town for a penny for myself.
He would get very upset that I'm doing all this work, helping all these businesses and showing zero for it. I kept saying, "We are in a different time. This is not a time." I said, "Not for nothing I'm moving into this town. This is my community now. I don't feel comfortable asking people for money when they can barely keep their lights on or provide. Here are all these restaurants I'm seeing or helping the frontline workers and doing the best they can to stay alive while also make such an impact, here I'm going to come in saying, 'You have to pay me for this advertisement if you want me to.'"
It was a sour ending to what was supposed to be something good. I had to go off on my own. There was way too much pressure to monetarily charge people this, that and the third, subscription this and sponsorship this. That's how people have to make their money. I get it. That wasn't my business. I'm not somebody who's collecting money off of people to do something that I don't even have a career and an educational background in. I was walking around town with a cell phone on a tripod. There was nothing refined about it, too.
To go up to people and say, "This is going to be X amount of dollars but I'm going to hope that my microphone doesn't crap out on you," that to me didn't sit right. The person I was working with got very angry at that approach and said some horrible things. I think that we are supposed to be lifting people. Especially as a woman, I want to feel empowered. I don't want to feel knocked down, especially by a man. It was a very hard thing to deal with because here you put your energy, heart and soul into something, you are being completely 100% selfless and getting reprimanded for it for trying to do good.
One day I woke up and I had the nastiest text message. I was locked out of all of my email, Facebook and Instagram accounts. I had this person walking around my town, telling people that I had stopped doing what I'm doing because I'm following my dream career in real estate. Meanwhile, I have done just about everything so far but real estate is never going to be one of them. I give so much credit to realtors but that's never anything that has crossed my mind. I was very upset and hurt. Hearing that not only is someone going around saying false things about me but at least people were asking, "Where's Cassie? What happened to Cassie? Who are you?" People had never seen this man before.
All of a sudden here, he was standing in the middle of a cemetery in one of his Port Washington Live TV pieces and people were confused. I said, "Instead of addressing it and making a big thing about it, let me just change the name and see if I can get away with that." I did for a little bit. I had to address the elephant in the room. People still to this day don't understand the difference between the two channels. I did what I felt was best to help Port Washington and the community but it was horrible. It’s a very terrible, trying experience.
Is he still doing that in Port Washington?
Every once in a while, I will get a call from my mom who will be like, "He tried to do something at the post office. It was horrible and ridiculous." I'm like, "Don't even give it any light." I don't think anybody knows who he is. I don't think he has any sincerity to what he would be doing here. He's not a Port Washington resident. He knows nobody here. Nobody knows who he is. It turned into more of a pissing contest with him and I wasn't about that. He was going around trying to lie about where I was but at the same time, collect money from our businesses. It put me in a weird position because here I am being like, "Don't give him your money. Please, don't." Professionally, I tried to walk away from the whole thing and it was a nightmare.
I don't know what he's doing now. I wish him nothing but the best but please, stay away from me. It's hard. I think that there are a lot of, I don't want to say men because I'm not gearing towards one sex over the other. It's intimidating. Here I was, fresh meat essentially, having no training or experience and here came this man who claimed to have all this experience in the world and this film background. It's amazing how much you can let someone talk down to you or make you feel horrible for trying to do a good thing.
Good for you for pivoting, shifting gears and figuring out a way to continue to do something that was of service to this community and not let him beat you down. Kudos, it's a hard thing to do given that this is not your background and where you are educated. Are you still doing the TV stuff or mostly focused now on the market?
I would give you the most honest answer that I can give you and that is I am 100% focused on the market. With that in mind, I don't say no to anybody who approaches me and says, "Could you? I know the school board elections come up." Any time someone needs help or a new business is coming into town, I know Andy's Pizzeria, and then I also reached out to Crazy Cakes or that Versus Sports Bar, "As soon as you guys want me, I'm going to come. I will come with my old crew. We will do a nice little review for you and help." I still do have that following and worked hard to get it. I will do anything for anybody. I use it for The Local Market. I would be a silly businesswoman if I didn't take advantage of cross-promoting there but it helps. I have a wonderful editor who's a college intern. This is her career and profession. I'm happy to give her work and help her with her grad program. She's fantastic. She's the one who edits and does all of our videos. I still like giving her work and helping. I'm all about helping whoever I can help.
The local artists' gallery is opening on June 4th, 2021. What's the address on Main Street?
273 Main Street next to Suite 275 and down the block from Shields. We are also excited. We are participating in our first Port Outdoors, which everyone is asking me a million questions that I don't have the answers to but just show up and we will make it happen. We are going to do our indoor market but we are going to put it outdoors and hope that no one rolls down the hill because I'm on a little bit of a hill. I believe you are going to be joining us.
I will be there.
We are so excited to have you. Except for one, it's going to be an all-women crowd for us. Some of the strongest women makers are going to be there. We are going to have a good time and see how it goes. People can get information about the art show there. We will have a booth for our call fooing.
It's truly amazing and inspirational that you walked into a town and you saw the problem. That's what I love about entrepreneurial spirits. You jumped right in, wanting to help out and figure out a solution. Thank you for doing what you do for this town. It is amazing. You weren't here when I started doing this thing called CoTable. We should talk about that because it's still a great idea. If you are not doing those artists' galleries in the back and interested in having a little bit of a coworking space back there, when you don't have the vendors in the backroom, we should chat because there are a lot of people in this town that are always looking for a place to go and sit with a laptop.
That was the great thing about doing the art gallery is that we are not limiting that. That's just going to be a decoration on a wall. That's going to be, while you are walking through my store and you say, "What's back there? I'm going to go check that out." Also, for my vendors, it's a nice atmosphere to have your stands set up. We are going to do classes on Friday nights. We are more than happy anytime anybody needs a place to do something with their small business, have a meeting or drink a coffee with your laptop. Do whatever you’ve got to do. As long as it's to help these small businesses, we are happy to do so.
Cassie, thank you so much for being here. This has been great. I love your journey. I love what you are all about. Thank you for supporting Port.
Thank you so much, Hayley.
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