When a water line break in East Hampton Village flooded several businesses a month ago, Gubbins Running Ahead, a sporting goods shop on Park Place, lost all of its inventory, including 7,000 pairs of athletic footwear.
Since then, the soaked shoes have been stored in shipping containers in the Reutershan parking lot awaiting an unknown fate as the owners of Gubbins and other affected businesses waded through paperwork in their efforts to assess the damage and work with insurance companies to recoup losses.
Last week, Geary Gubbins, who has run the sporting goods shop since 2013, parlayed his business’s misfortune into an act of generosity for a local nonprofit.
After learning that his insurance company would not be taking possession of the damaged shoes, he reached out to Mayor Jerry Larsen to let him know trucks would be arriving to remove the shipping containers from the parking lot.
“He asked what I was doing with the sneakers and if I had heard of Hamptons Community Outreach,” Mr. Gubbins said. “I hadn’t.”
Hamptons Community Outreach was founded by Marit Molin of Water Mill, who is its executive director. In 2021, she won the Distinguished Woman of the Year award in Suffolk County for her work with the organization, whose mission is “to bridge the opportunity gap experienced by underserved youth, families, and others across our community.”
Mr. Gubbins got in touch with the organization and began working with Alyssa Bahel, a Hamptons Community Outreach volunteer. On Saturday, Ms. Bahel took possession of thousands of sneakers with the goal of eventually distributing them to local families in need.
“We picked them up and brought them to a house in Southampton,” said Ms. Bahel. “They were all in bags, not paired, and super wet. We’ve been emptying the bags, laying them out, and volunteers are helping us with sorting and matching. It will be weeks of work, but we’re excited to help.” Servpro, a fire and water cleanup and restoration company, set up dehumidifiers and heaters to help dry out the footwear.
“It’s a mountain of sneakers,” said Keith Douglas, another volunteer. “We are tasked with finding matching pairs. We lift the tongue and find a matching size. If found, we zip-tie them and put them to the side.”
“Some may be salvageable, and some not,” said Mr. Gubbins. “It’s quite a burden on them, but they seemed up for the challenge.”
“We are so grateful to Gubbins for donating the sneakers,” Ms. Molin said via text. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity for us to help people in need. We are currently exploring how this can have the biggest impact for people on the East End.”
Mr. Gubbins hopes he will soon be able to start the process of reordering for the store with the goal of reopening by Memorial Day.
“I can’t imagine summer in the Hamptons without Gubbins,” he said.