After 20 years of owning Land & Sea Fish Market in Setauket, owner Ray Ortiz is getting ready to close the business on Saturday and go back to school in a few weeks.
"In the beginning I said, 'If I'm here 20 years, I'll be happy,'" he said in an interview Thursday. "It just turns out I'm here 20 years."
Ortiz, who already has an associate's degree in business management from Suffolk Community College, said he faced a fork in the road: sign a new lease, which would have been at least a seven-year commitment – or try for something different.
Different won: he is planning to study nursing.
"I think I'll be good at it," he said. "I'm good with people."
He's signed up for fall classes at Suffolk Community College, and said he hopes to transfer to Stony Brook University.
Ortiz, 39, is donating much of the equipment he has acquired over the years. He said he might have attempted to sell the business rather than closing up shop altogether, but the timing wasn't right.
His favorite memory at Land & Sea was his first sale – $12.13 worth of flounder to a customer who walked in at 7 a.m. on the first day he was in business, he said. He said he will miss many, many customers who he came to know well over the years. But he's not going to miss super-hot summer days or super-cold winters working in the kitchen of the store, he said.
Ortiz said when he first started out in the business, he called it an "overwhelming, promising adventure." While at Suffolk the first time around, he said he questioned whether he would actually use anything he learned.
"Get yourself a small business," he said. "You use everything you ever learned."