East Hampton Main Street Fire Destroys J. Crew Building, Damages Rowdy Hall

The building at 14 Main Street in the Village of East Hampton that houses a J. Crew clothing store was devastated by a fire early Friday morning that spread to Rowdy Hall restaurant at 10 Main Street, which suffered exterior damage in the back and minor smoke damage inside. It was the first significant fire in the village business district in 30 years.

The East Hampton Fire Department's chiefs were called to J. Crew after an automatic fire alarm sounded at 3:19 a.m. First Assistant Chief Ken Wessberg was on his way when village police arrived to find the back of the store ablaze. The building was already engulfed in flames, Chief Richard Osterberg Jr. said. 

Firefighters extinguished the fire within a half-hour, a quick stop, the chief said, given the extent of the fire. The building at 14 Main Street is free-standing but is in very close proximity to its neighbors, as is the case all along Main Street. "It just started getting into the second floor of the building to the north," which is 10 Main Street, " . . . but we stopped it from going in there," he said. Optyx and Rowdy Hall and several other businesses share the same address; Rowdy Hall occupies the back part of the building. 

Nicole Castillo of Wordhampton, the publicist for Rowdy Hall and its sister establishments, Nick and Toni's, La Fondita, and Townline BBQ, said in an email Friday that Rowdy would not be open for the weekend. "However they don't want to release any predictions on when they will be able to reopen until Monday when they can assess the work that needs to be done," she wrote.

The J. Crew store appears unlikely to open for the summer 2015 season at that location. "The whole back of the store is burnt off, and the rest of the store sustained heavy smoke damage," Chief Osterberg said. Even though firefighters stopped the fire from spreading, the building is likely a total loss, he said. The building is owned by Robert Ratteni, who has several other properties in the village.

The fire is believed to have started outside of the building, though Chief Osterberg declined to say where exactly, noting that Ken Collum, the village fire marshal, is investigating the cause and origin. He said the fire did not appear suspicious.

Firefighters remained at the scene for about three hours to ensure there were no pockets of fire. Main Street was closed until about 6:15 a.m.

"We rolled all of our trucks, minus the brush truck, obviously," Chief Osterberg said. The alley behind the building has room for normal vehcile parking, but a fire engine could not fit, he said, so the engines stayed on Fithian Lane, and firefighters stretched hoses to reach the burning building. 

Amagansett Fire Department's rapid intervention team was sumoned in case interior firefighters had to be rescued, and the Springs Fire Department brought an engine and a tanker, initially to stand by at East Hampton's headquarters. The Springs engine was eventually needed at the scene of the fire, and then Sag Harbor Fire Department stood by with an engine. About 75 firefighters responded in all.

While the fire destroyed the first and second floors of the J. Crew building, Chief Osterberg said it was remarkable how the front of the building had sustained little damage. "There were no signs of any fire on the front of the building, no smoke on Main Street — it was all going in the other direction. You couldn't see anything, you couldn't smell anything," he said. 

Had the fire alarm not sounded, a lot more than one buidling could have been lost, the chief said. "If there was no alarm, it absolutely would have spread." 

It's been a long time since a bad fire on Main Street, Chief Osterberg said. "I don't remember a working fire in the business district in my lifetime," he said. 

Barbara Borsack, the deputy mayor, agreed. "We haven't had a real bad fire in the business district like that in a long time," she said just before dashing out the door to observe the damage. 

Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey