The shopping center might have ended up like so many other malls - losing customers, teetering on the edge of oblivion - were it not for the foresight of Frank Castagna, Castagna Realty's chairman.
In the 1980s, Castagna concluded Americana could be more successful if it catered to the wealthy residents on Long Island's North Shore.
lived in this area for 60 years, so I knew we had customers who wanted luxury products and no one else here was serving them," Castagna
The trick was persuading locals to shop in the area rather than head to Madison Avenue boutiques or jet to Paris.
took heart from Hirshleifers
, a family-run store in the mall already doing a brisk business selling Armani and Chanel
As old leases expired, Castagna
wooed top-tier retailers and Hirshleifers
In 1996, Castagna, a board member of a half dozen Long Island nonprofits, started Champions for Charity, which is held the first week of every December; customers direct 25 percent of the price of their purchases to local causes.
Yet at 86, Castagna
still spends part of each workday walking around stores to gauge what's selling.
Behind the scenes, Castagna
continues to tweak the formula.
Americana Manhasset owner Frank Castagna was discussing his proposal that Hirshleifers build a second floor above its existing 14,000-square-foot store.
"There are plans for considerably more space, 10,000 square feet," he
"There were some very difficult times during that period," Castagna
"I see no problem filling the space" Castagna
is proposing, Lori said.
"The second floor could happen in the next three to five years," Castagna
ith the ongoing and very generous support from Americana Manhasset President Deirdre CostaMajor and its Owner, Frank Castagna, Gabrielle's Angel Foundation looks forward to future events with an organization whose philanthropic reach knows no bounds.
gives high-end shoppers what they want,
As the owner of two of Long Island's
premier places to shop, Frank Castagna
has made a huge mark on the area's retail landscape.
The son of a successful general contractor, Castagna
began building the Americana shopping center
in Manhasset in 1955 and it since has bec6me an internationally recognized destination for luxury shopping.
also helped build North Shore University Hospital
, New York City police department headquarters and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
But while his
legacy lies with the Americana
and the Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale, Castagna's charity work may be his
most lasting contribution.
Awarded an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters from Long Island University, Castagna serves on the board of directors of Old Westbury Gardens, Honors College at Hofstra University and the American Jewish Committee.
Last week the Sid Jacobson JCC honored Castagna for making the community a better place to live, work and play.
At the Americana
in Manhasset, Frank Castagna's
high-end shopping strategy is paying off.
The suit is a gray pinstripe by Polo Ralph Lauren
The blue and silver tie, Chanel
And the distinctive silver watch with the deep blue dial?
" says Frank Castagna
, forgoing the proper French elocution to pronounce the "r" at the end.
impeccable attire for a day at the office suits Castagna's status as the owner of the Americana Manhasset
shopping center, a pinnacle of luxury retailing in America.
disarming way of speaking suits Castagna's background as the man who spent 50 years creating this shopping destination out of a strip mall that once housed a supermarket, a drugstore and a movie theater.
international wardrobe and approachable manners, Castagna
is a man with a deep understanding of a certain local shopper and what that shopper wants.
It's taken five decades of winnowing out shops that didn't fit the image and putting just the right ones in their places, but Castagna, 77, says he has finally assembled the mix of coveted labels he's always envisioned.
"It has a cohesive energy to it, and it says what we want it to say," he
has succeeded in linking the center to the surrounding Gold Coast community, tapping into the charity/socialite/hard-core shopping circuit of Long Island
He is on the boards of some of the Island's leading charities, and the Americana is a frequent site for charity events and other parties.
staff make sure of it.
That was hardly the ambience of the property on Northern Boulevard at Searingtown Road when Frank Castagna
family's general contracting company in 1956.
vision, even then, was to turn the nondescript collection of stores into the Fifth Avenue of Long Island
To survive, Castagna
signed long-term leases with a discount store, supermarket and other tenants that didn't fit the plan.
As those leases expired, Castagna Realty
, the owner of the shopping center, turned down potentially lucrative tenants to focus instead on luxury.
"We realized we had to be strong in one area," Castagna
In the '80s, he
brought in architect Peter Marino to give the center an upscale look with limestone facades, granite sidewalks and seasonal landscaping.
All this was designed to appeal to the high-end demographic of the North Shore
, where the top 10 ZIP codes that shop the Americana
have an average household income of $154,718, and where country clubs, golf courses and yacht harbors keep residents near home most of the year.
Even so, 8 percent of the shoppers come from Manhattan, drawn by the easy proximity of their favorite shops.
"If they have a car and driver
, they're here," Castagna
Merging commerce, altruism
was among the first to link retailing to charity, now a common strategy at department stores.
In 1996, Castagna
started Champions for Charity, an event held the first week of every December in which customers direct 25 percent of the price of their purchases to various local causes.
is always there," Levine said.
is also a friend and donor to politicians from the governor on down.
"Enough to land a few victories," Castagna
Every season, the Americana owner, Frank Castagna, and its creative director, Deirdre Costa Major, try to stay ahead, attending fashion shows in New York, Milan and Paris to search for retailers their shoppers will like - cutting-edge, but not too edgy.