At about midday on Monday, I took a walk into the East Hampton Village business district just to get a little air before changing gears at the office. There was the beginning of an east wind, a bit of chill in the air. The elms lining Main Street were almost entirely denuded of their leaves.
Downstreet, as the old-timers call the downtown area, was bare in spots as well. As everyone knows, many shops are closed and the ones that remain open, with only a handful of exceptions, seem to be selling things of no particular interest or usefulness to ordinary people.
In past winters, readers have written in to suggest that, at the very least, the papered-over stores display work by South Fork artists to bring some color and visual interest to the bleak facades, which now are broken only by real estate for-rent signs.
The most bitter pill of all, at least as far as this community’s children are concerned, is the “closed for the season” banner across the window at Dylan’s Candy Bar near the movie theater. The New York-based store shut down just after Halloween.
Since school is out this week, my older daughter and a friend were hanging around the office, bored and with nothing to do, when I got back from my walk. After rejecting a couple of my suggestions, they perked up when I said they should make some signs, go to Waldbaum’s or CVS to buy some treats, and hand out free candy as a form of protest in front of Dylan’s. This they did, hand-lettering messages on cardboard and lining up another out-of-school kid for their mission.
I wasn’t there, but my wife reported that they had a hard time getting any takers for their candy among the few people who hurried along. My daughter and her comrades thought this was amusing; whether any passers-by caught the unspoken message I can’t know.
The nothingness of East Hampton Main Street in the off-season has become a self-fulfilling reality. Shops that cater only to a certain transient clientele scare off locals and others not interested in Juicy Couture and the like, and it grows ever more lonely.
Saturday is the second annual Support Local Business Day. I’m all for it. But except for books, hardware, skateboards, sneakers, and drug store items, there isn’t much I’d want to buy in this village anyway. And that’s a pity.