OK, first things first, we feel compelled to keep reminding everyone, the Hampton Bee is STILL on maternity leave (those newborn twins a.k.a. future taxpayers of America have not gone anywhere), so our Daily Bee updates have not yet resumed. We could continue our rant about this country’s woeful maternity-leave policies, but we’ll let our many, many presidential candidates tackle the issue. Hmm. Something tells us we might be waiting awhile for that to happen.
But meanwhile…as befitting the Hampton Bee’s mission, we’re teaching the newborns to patronize independent small businesses, which generally need community support more than major chains or big-box stores. And indeed, the Hamptons — particularly the township of East Hampton — has done a terrific job of keeping giant retailers and franchises out of the East End, with maybe the exception of famous fashion houses and the 7-Eleven in Montauk…but hey, who doesn’t love $22,500 alligator bags and slurpees (perhaps not together.)
So on a recent weekday afternoon, we decided to take a stroll in Amagansett Square, which is sort of like a mini-Disneyland of small businesses, minus the insane lines. The square’s website describes the tree-lined outdoor shopping area, currently overflowing with blooming hydrangeas, as “quaint” and “cozy,” and we dare say we agree. (If you don’t believe us, watch this video by our friends at Made By Sea.) It’s super family-friendly, with a large green common and a pavilion where children can romp. Movies are sometimes shown on summer nights, such as recent screenings of “The Princess Bride” and “Goonies.”
Currently, there are about a dozen or so independent shops and eateries to check out. We recommend a visit if you find yourself on the East End. Here’s our rundown.
Not an exaggeration in the slightest to say coffee nirvana is going on at Jack’s Stir Brew. In fact, we knew there was something cosmic happening the first time we ordered what we THOUGHT was our unusual coffeehouse order (half-decaf, half-regular, with half and half) and were told that exact same thing is called the “Half Lou” on Jack’s special menu. We’ve also heard that the “Mad Max,” which features a shot of espresso, is nothing short of transcendent. Be wary of crowds on summer weekends, though on the plus side you may get to chat with Alec Baldwin while waiting.
2. Beach Stop by Henry Lehr
Do you need some “island casual” clothing, accessories or beach bags? Well, look no further. Beach Stop features summery goods by designer Henry Lehr of Soho fame (daughter Christina Lehr is also following in her family’s footsteps). This white-washed boutique is an excellent place to stop if you need something flow-y. Because who doesn’t need something flow-y.
OK, if you’re headed directly to the beach, you probably don’t need to pick up some mid-century modern furniture on the way…but if you’re browsing for home decor for your casually elegant beach house, Sylvester & Co. is definitely worth a stop. If you’re a design fan, like we are, be prepared to chant “we are not worthy, we are not worthy” as you enter.
4. Mandala Yoga Center
Ohm. Ohm. Ohm. A nice little sanctuary (not too) far from the maddening crowd, the Mandala Yoga Center offers classes for all levels of expertise. The studio also says it’s “non-judgmental,” which we’d appreciate the next time we try the three-legged downward-facing dog pose. Check out the center’s summer schedule (which includes an all-night full-moon “healing gong“).
Now, amidst all this high-end Hampton frou-frou, wouldn’t it be nice to find a good old-fashioned barber shop, where a man can be a man for pete’s sake and get a haircut for less than the cost of a bottle of Provencale rosé? Oh wait — here’s such a place now. Hidden toward the parking lot, the father-son duo who run Vinnie & Nick’s Barber Shop will give you a buzz and get you back outside before you can say “Does that foreign currency taped to the wall feature the likeness of Saddam Hussein?” (It does.) Vinnie Mazzeo started the business in 1975, and son Nick joined in 1999.
We’re suckers for boho chic summer dresses (really now, who isn’t?) so this little boutique always manages to tempt. Owner Lorraine Otto also designs Miankoma’s artisan crafts, which one can also find at her Etsy store. If you’re a frequent Hamptons visitor (or resident), you might recognize the shop’s unusual name from Miankoma Lane in Amagansett…”Miankoma” apparently means assembly place in either the Montaukett or Delaware Indian language.
Fun trivia: Founder Lori Leven used to run a tattoo shop in the East Village, back when tattooing was illegal in New York (who knew!). Love Adorned features offbeat jewelry and quirky accessories and home decor. Says one Yelp reviewer: “Bought a cactus here for my kid’s friend once, also got a beautiful pair of knitted socks, but really wanted the carved amethyst skull.” That about sums it up.
8. Meeting House
Not gonna lie: We love happy hour. And we’ve enjoyed the excellent wines at Meeting House’s soothing bar (at which it is easiest to get a spot in the off-season). The contemporary American cuisine isn’t bad either. Here’s a snap of a recent entree: Local pan-roasted striped bass, garden vegetable ratatouille, roasted red pepper rouille, with zucchini herb sauce. Yum!
This family-owned music store can teach you to play guitar (and pretty much any other musical instrument). Is your beach house missing, say, an amp? Buy or rent it at Crossroads Music. The store also hosts a number of fun events, from Tiny Room Shows to Sunday jams. Check its Facebook page to see latest schedule, or contact owner Michael Clark at 631.907.4838.
Sandwiched between Love Adorned and Mandala Yoga Studio is Rube, a breezy boutique that can sell you a dreamy sundress (well, a $300 dream) and accessories to go with it. There’s also a corner dedicated to Pink Chicken, a line of children’s clothing designed by Hamptons mom Stacey Fraser.
Nothing pleases us more to see how much surf culture has taken off on the East Coast….and we don’t even surf. We do, however, like the cool clothing that comes with surfing, and you can find a lot of it at Pilgrim Surf and Supply, along with other surfing staples, from wetsuits to boards hand-shaped by experts. This is a second location for Pilgrim; owner Chris Gentile’s other shop is situated along Brooklyn’s urban coastline.
12. Bass Shoe Outlet
OK, not exactly a small business, but Bass was started by entrepreneur George Henry Bass in 1876. So there’s that. And in 1936, the company decided to put its own spin on a Norwegian farm shoe and invented the penny loafer. There’s always a sale at the Amagansett outlet, so take a spin if you need back-to-school supplies. Like penny loafers.
13. The Salon and Day Spa
If you desire a “Calgon, take me away” moment, then head to the aptly named Salon & Day Spa, where you can get everything from a French pedicure to a keratin smoothing treatment (not sure what that is, but it sounds delightful) at fairly reasonable prices, considering this is the Hamptons. Or if now is the time to pierce your ears, you can do that, too. Owner Annie Barton has run the salon since 2001.
We’re suckers for the No. 2 dosa, which has calamata olives, arugula and goat cheese and we’ll take the mango chutney, please. The visionaries behind Hampton Chutney, which also has locations in Manhattan, are Gary and Isabel MacGurn. The couple met at an ashram in South India and have been making delicious crispy crepes since 1997. Namaste, MacGurns, namaste.
The Hampton Bee is on maternity leave. Please continue to send pitches our way at firstname.lastname@example.org.