Justin Burkle has a thing for swordfish. Their elusiveness, he says, sets them apart. It’s why the items in his apparel line, East Ender NY, have swordfish on them: It sets them apart from the traditional touristy T-shirts decorated with the Montauk Lighthouse or, say, your average shark. (Of course, being a Montauker, he has indeed put the recently designated National Historic Landmark on some of his wares.)
Mr. Burkle makes beach towels, hats, men’s T-shirts, polo shirts, and ties swimming with swordfish. They fairly scream “Father’s Day!,” and Dad would probably actually wear them.
While selling his goods at craft fairs, which he does in addition to selling wholesale to stores, he noticed it was the women who did all the buying. And so he recently added a line of women’s tank tops, too. “I figured I better have something for them,” Mr. Burkle said, standing on the bow of his family’s boat at Uihlein’s Marina, with samples of clothing draped across the captain’s chair.
Before he started the line in 2009, Mr. Burkle was a natural-gas broker in New York City. He summered in Montauk for many years at his parents’ house. Once his job tanked, he said, he moved in with them. “The industry just isn’t there anymore,” he said.
He got a job at the Harvest on Fort Pond and has worked there for the last six years. But a few years ago he realized the time was right to follow through with an idea he had had for a clothing line that would represent everything that’s best about the South Fork. “I thought, ‘What the hell! Why don’t I start my own thing; why don’t I catch the American dream?’ ”
The line is sold at the Salt Box and Kai Lani’s in Montauk, Gone Local in Amagansett, Main Beach Surf and Sport in Wainscott, White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays, and at eastenderny.com. Prices range from $18 to $60.
Another Montauk entrepreneur who is avoiding the obvious is Peter Moore.
Mr. Moore has started his own apparel line, Local Knit, putting the logos of already established East End businesses onto garment-dyed T-shirts. Having started in Montauk, he has plans to soon branch out farther west.
Also a longtime visitor to the hamlet, Mr. Moore graduated from Boston College and then worked at a private equity firm researching companies. It was good experience for someone interested in launching his own venture. “I always had an interest in apparel and creating,” he said, sitting on a weathered bench by the harbor.
Mr. Moore approached restaurants, fishing boats, stores, and bars to offer them a deal: He would sell the shirts with their logos (some of them restyled) online, and all they had to do was sign on the dotted line, granting their approval. The legal form also stipulates that Mr. Moore cannot create anything without their permission; the business owner gets final approval on everything without any financial commitment.
Local Knit made its debut this year after he searched online to buy a Montauk T-shirt and couldn’t find anything he liked. He did some research on a variety of popular Montauk businesses, read up on them, and met with the owners. Most, he said, were very receptive. With a New York designer, he came up with new logos for some of the T-shirts, which cost $24, and used the existing logo, as requested, for others.
Gosman’s, the Montauket, the Lazybones, the Montauk Bake Shop, Herb’s Market, Paulie’s Tackle, the Harvest, and others signed on. The business owners receive a royalty of sorts for each shirt Mr. Moore sells on his Web site (which also features information on the businesses, vintage photos, and recipes). The entrepreneur might branch out into stores, but, for now, he’s sticking to the online model at localknit.com.
“Who knows? Maybe people will see the Web site and decide next time they’re in Montauk to stop by the businesses that they saw,” he said.