Montauk, the ‘It’ Place, Gets Busy

"When people find us, they come in and say, ‘Wow' "
Bob Melet’s warehouse space on Shore Road in Montauk, Melet Mercantile, filled with carefully sourced vintage items, is a scavenger’s dream. Janis Hewitt Photo

    Since the New York and European media have outed Montauk as the “it” place to be, several new stores have opened and others are raising their visibility. One of those is Melet Mercantile. Owned by Bob Melet, it’s in a rambling warehouse on Shore Road. Although it is now entering its fourth year, not too many people knew about the shop — until now — and that’s only because Mr. Melet finally allowed an interview.
    His clientele is small and exclusive, he said, which “keeps it tighter. I have an amazing clientele. It’s an awkward spot but that’s what makes it more of a discovery. When people find us, they come in and say, ‘Wow.’ ”
    The space is cavernous, and the eye doesn’t know where to look first. Mr. Melet and Veronique Zanettin, a prop stylist and set designer who works there, encourage browsers to take their time with the inventory — mostly vintage items — a scavenger’s dream. There are rare books, racks of clothing, art, vinyl record albums, jewelry, textiles, framed photography, and cords of beads that can be used as necklaces or bracelets.
    “I love beads,” Mr. Melet said, as is evident from the ones that dangle from his neck. He scouts most of them on his many travels around the world. The beads he sells are from a Native American tribe that disappeared a long time ago. They come in colors of pale and dark blue, turquoise, white shell, and ivory. Some of them date back to the 1770s, including one Mr. Melet wears on his neck. He said it’s over 2,000 years old. One strand was found in the bottom of an old clay pot purportedly used by a tribe.
    On a back wall is a curved ramp with skateboards arranged by age from the 1940s to the 1980s. Next to them is a surfer’s pinball machine, the likes of which are no longer made. It goes for about $2,000, but you could have a tough time buying it, as Mr. Melet said it’s one of the few things in the store he might be reluctant to sell. He had another, similar, one, which sold just weeks after he acquired it. He still regrets selling it, he said, especially now that his 9-year-old daughter, Sunny, has taken up surfing.
    Another item he might not sell is a work by Willem de Kooning that is signed by the artist. “When you ask me if I have a hard time parting with things, that’s the one piece that comes to mind,” he said, nodding at the framed piece.
    Hanging on a north-facing wall is a signed Andy Warhol print and a surfboard that was owned by the artist Julian Schnabel, which Mr. Schnabel gave him in a nonchalant manner. “I was helping him move some things from under his porch, and this was one of them. He said, ‘Do you want that?’ And of course I said yes.” But don’t rush in to buy it, as it is the one item in the store that is definitely not for sale.
    Mr. Melet runs a showroom on Wooster Street in SoHo in Manhattan. His clients encouraged him to open a place out east, he said. “It was an easy transition.”
    His employees from the SoHo showroom are expected to arrive in Montauk today or tomorrow, meaning the business will soon be open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. After Labor Day, it will be open by appointment only through October.

T-Shirts and Crack Pie
    Also new in the hamlet is a store for Peter Moore’s Local Knit, a T-shirt business that he runs online. It features newly designed logos for longtime East Hampton and Montauk businesses, 21 in all. When he started it, Mr. Moore got in touch with the businesses he features and an agreement was reached that gives him the rights to use their names while they receive a percentage of sales. His business is in Summer Guest, a space next to Joelle Klein’s Share With on Main Street that she, well, shares with a brand-name company each summer.
    The storefront has given him more visibility, and he has been busy since he opened. “Memorial Day was a monster,” he said. “We’re reordering as quickly as we can.”
    He has added new products, such as children’s T-shirts. He features some of Ms. Klein’s items as well. New to his inventory are handmade bracelets from Germany and some from Turkey that close with miniature silver shackles, the type used on sailboats. “They really work for Montauk and the beach,” Mr. Moore said. Leather belts with clamshell or oyster shell buckles from Cape Cod are also offered.
    As far as the T-shirts are concerned, Mr. Moore said he has tried to stay with the more well-known establishments and has even had to turn down some that wanted his representation. “I have no more room for any more,” he said, standing in front of a display of shirts framed in driftwood on a white wall.
    The shop is now open Thursdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be open daily by the end of the month.
    For those with a sweet tooth, Momofuku has opened in a small space between Cynthia Rowley’s shop, the one with the grass growing from its roof, and Pizza Village. The pop-up is the sixth dessert bar owned by David Chang, a chef, and run by Christina Tosi, a pastry chef. It is easily accessible from a back entrance near the downtown beaches or by walking through Ms. Rowley’s clothing shop.
    It was the clothing designer’s idea to open a Momofuku there, said Joshua Corey, Ms. Tosi’s business partner and the location manager. “She thought it would liven up the business,” he said, sipping a cup of iced coffee.
    Customers belly up to the dessert bar for cookies, slushies, cake truffles, pie by the slice, including Ms. Tosi’s “crack pie,” which has an oatmeal crust and a gooey, butter custard-filled pudding that is said to be addictive, and a whole bunch of other goodies. The stand will be open daily in summer from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    And the Atlantic is now where Cromer’s used to be at 805 Montauk Highway. Owned by Scott Fleming, the grocery store offers fresh and precooked seafood, as well as steaks, chicken, fish tacos, and fresh flowers and produce. It will soon sell chicken, lobster, and seafood pot pies, breads, and soups.
    “I don’t think there’s a better soup on the East End,” Mr. Fleming said of the one his chef will be making. The Atlantic is open Thursdays through Mondays, with extended hours in summer.


Comments

I sampled the soup at the Atlantic, it is the best!