- Posted November 29, 2013 by
flanders, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Duck Inside for Souvenirs
The Big Duck was the brainchild of Long Island duck farmer Martin Mauer and his wife Jeule. Before the surge of wine vineyards, Long Island’s east end was once home to duck and potato farms. Inspiration struck in 1931 when the couple was vacationing in California and took time out for coffee, served in a coffee shop that resembled a gargantuan coffee pot. Visions of selling their wares from a whimsical shop that resembled an oversized duck began to dance in their heads. The Mauers subsequently hired a carpenter and two stage show set designers to transform their musings into reality and create the venue that would serve as the shop for vending their own farm-raised Peking ducks. The completed duck stood 20 feet tall and spanned 30 feet from beak to tail. A pair of Ford Model-T taillights was placed for the giant duck’s eyes, which would glow a bright crimson after the sun went down.
Operating under the trademarked business name of The Big Duck Ranch, the Mauers sold ducks out of the unique shop, which was situated on West Main Street in Riverhead, until 1936, at which time the Big Duck migrated to Route 24 in Flanders. The shop was a resounding hit in the Flanders community, to the point where escalating admiration for the endearing structure prompted mass support to save the Big Duck when, in 1987, the land on which it roosted was slated for development. By this time, the Big Duck was under the ownership of Kia and Pouran Eshghi, who donated the shop to Suffolk County later that year. Once again, the duck was relocated to its final and present nest further east on Route 24 at the entrance to Sears Bellows County Park.
Today, the Big Duck is a visitors’ draw, operating as a gift shop that offers an eclectic array of duck-themed trinkets, clothing and other memorabilia as well as a few Long Island specialty items. The building also serves as an information center for the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. On the first Thursday after every Thanksgiving, the colossal bird dons swags of ornament-studded garland and is illuminated with twinkling lights for the holiday season, a ceremony that attracts a flock of Big Duck devotees. Visitors to Long Island’s east end will not want to miss an opportunity to duck into this shop for souvenirs and photographic opportunities. The Big Duck is an iconic structure that represents a Long Island era gone by and continues to delight tourists who flock to marvel at Flanders’ own captivating bird.