A confluence of events on the retail scene has many people in and around East Hampton talking about what exactly is the nature of this community. Outrage was swift after word came that Hampton Chutney, a beloved Amagansett takeout spot, was being forced out, unable to pay nearly triple its rent. The landlords, the Randy Lerner family, also of Amagansett, seemed not to need the money, so what was afoot? Speculation centered on the Lerners’ other tenants, mostly high-end retail shops whose owners might not care for the kind of foot traffic that Hampton Chutney was good at generating. Picnics on the grass and children running around not the tone some would like when slinging expensive apparel and home décor.
Shocked, too, were visitors to East Hampton Village this Memorial Day weekend, who had not known before that a favorite ice cream place had been forced out by the high cost of doing business. Scoop du Jour on Newtown Lane had long been part of village culture, with lines of people there late into the night on a summer evening. “Rents are crazy, and expenses are high,” Scoop’s owner said. A drop in customers during the pandemic was the final straw.
In both instances, there has been a ray of hope from community members who have said they would help both Scoop du Jour and Hampton Chutney find new homes. Separately, a private foundation is taking shape to acquire real estate to offer manageably priced leases to the sorts of businesses that people actually need. This is not necessarily a rejection of the Guccis of the world but an acknowledgement that a vibrant community in which to live or visit must provide a range of services — and pleasures. Those dosas and dripping mint chip cones are more than just fun food; they are part of our essential sense of place and worth saving.