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Cork n' Board Owner Reflects on Serving Final Meals to 'Family'

The restaurant closes after 30 years in Malverne.

“Family.” That’s what Tom Brigagliano considered the loyal diners he has served over the past 25 years as a partner and then owner of the Cork n’ Board in Malverne.

As the restaurant closed its doors this Sunday after over three decades of doing business in the village, Brigagliano said it’s these people he will miss the most.  

Brigagliano, a resident of West Hempstead and father of two, started working at the Cork n’Board when he was only 20. By the mid-1980s he was elevated to the position of partner and then took over the business in 1995 when the original owner moved to Arizona.

During this time, he’s watched his own children grow up as well as those in the community.

He’s hosted baby showers, baptisms, communions, wedding receptions and retirement parties in the rustic restaurant, many times for the same local families.  

Still, he was hoping to avoid any fuss or festivities over the past week when he quietly announced the restaurant was going out of business and he prepared to close on Feb. 20.

When he spoke with Patch only days before the closing he explained his reasons for trying to operate business as usual in the restaurant’s final days.  

“It’s emotional for the people who work here. They’ve been here for 15 to 20 years,” he said.

While business has been slower than usual lately, Brigagliano said the breaking point was when his landlord, who also owns Nordon Drugs and Difference Chinese restaurant on the same block, raised his rent. According to Brigagliano, the landlord nearly tripled the Cork n’ Board’s rent. He says he had a month to decide whether to stay and pay the higher price tag or leave.  

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “We would have liked to go out on our own terms.”

Upon hearing about the landlord’s demands, some residents have speculated whether or not his intent was to push out the Cork n’ Board and are now wondering what will take it’s place.  (The landlord was not available for comment.)  

Brigagliano thinks at the rate he was presented, he expects the building to sit vacant for quite a while. Still, he prefers to focus on the positives, mainly the memories he will take away with him from his many years serving his loyal patrons in Malverne.

“I don’t consider them customers,” he said. “They’re friends, part of the family.”  

Looking back, he recalls some of the wonderful events the restaurant hosted including three years of holding a “Dinner in the Dark” for the Coalition for the Blind and various dinners for the Town of Hempstead’s ANCHOR (Answering the Needs of Citizens with Handicaps through Organized Recreation) program, where participants received awards for bowling.

“To see those kids’ faces when they were handed their trophies meant a lot,” he said.

Over the years, he also supported local groups by donating gift certificates for raffles and hosting many community organizations. In fact, on Thursday, the Malverne Civic Association held one of its “Meet & Greet” events at the restaurant’s pub., where Mayor Patricia Norris McDonald stopped by to present Brigagliano with a village citation. (Click here for photos from the event.)

“The merchants are the pillars of the community,” he said, stressing the need for residents to remember to patronize these businesses. “You really need to shop local.”  

So what’s next for Brigagliano? When asked if he plans to open another restaurant elsewhere, he said for now, he’s focusing on taking some time off to relax.

Between the restaurant and his day job in finance, he was putting in 80 to 90 work weeks.  

“A place like this – where you see the owner standing at the front door – is a thing of the past,” he said. “I just want to thank all of our loyal customers. It was a privilege to serve the Cork n’ Board family.”

Allison February 23, 2011 at 12:29 AM
What a shame! We had my daughters Christening there and the food and staff were excellent! Now what is going to go in there??? This landlord made the wrong choice by raising the rent so high. He will probably sit on this for a long time. I hope the other stores can handle the rent increase.
jake Lang February 23, 2011 at 01:46 AM
We will miss you Tommy, Debbie, Roy, and all! You have hosted SO many of our family events and treated me like family when I worked for you. Hope I can still get your recipe for Chicken ANthony...maybe catering on the weekends? Best of luck, Rob & Lori Lang (Hunt) & family
Patricia February 23, 2011 at 12:09 PM
What a sad state of affairs. I didn't eat at Cork n Board often but when I did, I enjoyed the food, the atmosphere AND the people who made the experience so pleasant and wonderful. I am glad to hear that Tom will be able to relax after so many years of making people smile but you sure are gonna be missed. Whenever I had company from out of town, I liked having that one "family" place to take them to. No where shall I go? Best of luck to all and the landlord???.........mistake..BIG mistake. It just irks me to know that some people think MONEY is so darn important. People are what's important.
Theordore Schmidt February 23, 2011 at 11:08 PM
When the owner Tommy refers to family he is not only talking about the customers but his staff. The staff was dedicated to giving each customer the personal touch. The Cork-n-Board maybe gone but the friendships that were made will last a life time....
Ted BBG February 23, 2011 at 11:29 PM
It's a shame. This landloard tried to take advantage of a successful community business and wound up with nothing. The community is the ones who will suffer. It's not often you see small family businesses run with the pride and professionalism that Tom and the Cork had but then to see this landloard trying to take advantage of their success by trying to soak them on the rent. He does not know what he lost. Best of luck Briggs
walter February 24, 2011 at 05:47 AM
We will miss Tom, Debbie, Roy and the gang. We have been going to C & B for over 25 years and celebrated many happy and sad occasions there. WE hope Tom resurfaces somewhere nearby. Wished the landlord had used some common sense with respect to the rents.
Angie February 24, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Cork & Board has been like a second home to my family for the past 25 years. Growing up in Malverne we would often go there to celebrate a special occasion or simply for no reason at all, we loved that place. When I was living overseas my parents would pick me up from the airport and we'd go straight to C & B for dinner. The food was always great, service was excellent and you always left full! Tom, Debbie and Roy you'll be missed and I wish you all the best! Maybe there will be a C & B II in the future? Cheers, Angie & Nick
Bobby Hinseltinsbhurg February 26, 2011 at 01:12 AM
the cork and board was like home whenever you felt said your feeling would change when you get there. forever the laughs that were made there will stay in our hearts forever.......
Lorraine bracher March 09, 2011 at 06:26 AM
The Cork-n-Board will always hold a place of reverence in the hearts of our family...our dear son Scott held a surprise dinner gathering our family relatives and friends together for a last time before our move to Florida. It was the last time we were all together. We have since lost him, my mom, and a few of our dear friends. We will never forget how we laughed and celebrated that wonderful night. As always, the food and personal service of the Cork made everything extra special. It was the only restaurant we ever patronized that knew our favorite table and Greek salad. We wish you the best! Lorraine & Greg Bracher

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