By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The toys were piling up as fast as the pizza slices were disappearing at the Yellow Hook Grille restaurant in Bay Ridge Monday night as the Merchants of Third Avenue business group held a Christmas party-toy drive.
The Merchants, an organization representing more than 250 store owners on the busy shopping avenue, asked party guests to bring an unwrapped toy to the bash to be donated to the children of enlisted personnel stationed at the Fort Hamilton Army Base.
By the end of the night, the back corner of the Yellow Hook Grille had a mountain of toys.
Guests also brought monetary donations for the Merchant’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, according to Charles Otey, who chaired the reception committee. “We raised $600 for our Sandy Fund,” he said.
The Merchants donate toys to Fort Hamilton ever year. Otey said. “We are not strictly a business organization. We are a civic organization, too. We care about Bay Ridge as a whole and the fort is an important part of Bay Ridge,” he said.
Two of the Merchants’ members, Jason McDermott and Jim Whiffin, owners of The Pour House bar on Third Avenue, are leading the group’s hurricane relief effort. The two have made numerous trips to hurricane-stricken areas of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island to deliver food and supplies to residents.
Robert Long, owner of Yellow Hook Grille, allowed his bar-restaurant to be used as a staging area for relief workers during the first few days after the super-storm.
The Merchants celebrated a successful year, Otey said. The group sponsored a festival on the avenue as well as a Summer Stroll event in July and August in which an eight-block stretch of the avenue was closed to vehicular traffic to allow pedestrians to walk and enjoy strolling musicians and sidewalk poetry readings.
The events helped bring attention to the avenue as a great place to shop and dine, Otey said.
Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, congratulated the Merchants on its success in representing and advocating on behalf of the needs of store owners. “I wish I could clone you guys and take you around other parts of Brooklyn to show how it’s done,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Bay Ridge-Staten Island). State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) all congratulated the Merchants on a successful year.
A Christmas party wouldn’t be complete without a visit from Santa Claus and this night was no exception. Santa, also known as Marc Hibsher, advertising executive for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, made his appearance, emerging from the restaurant’s kitchen to big cheers from the crowd.
But Santa had to share the spotlight. Natalie Grace Quaglione, the 14-month-old daughter of John Quaglione and Kerry Izzo Quaglione of Bay Ridge, was the belle of the ball, serving as Santa’s little helper.