Steven Ringel assumed the role of executive director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 1, succeeding Marina Van.
A native of Hollywood, Mr. Ringel spent the last three and a half years in Nashville, where he worked on the television series “Nashville” and for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, directing its corporate sponsorship program.
His background includes event production — music, art, and wine festivals, for instance — and he has founded and organized farmers markets.
“My wife and I grew up in Southern California,” he said. “I missed the ocean, my family is from New York, and we wanted to be near New York City.” He and his wife wanted their son, Dylan, who is 7, to “live in a really beautiful community where he could experience the seasons,” he said, “yet be near New York City for the culture. East Hampton fit all those parameters.”
He contacted Ms. Van and relayed his experiences with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. “There was a lot of overlap in what I was doing for them, and it was really kismet, the right timing,” he said. “When I was coming, she was getting ready to leave. She thought this was a really good match and introduced me to the board.”
He has several ideas for East Hampton, ranging from traditional to cutting edge. In the latter category, he said, he would like the chamber to develop a smartphone app with which users could access event information and discounts offered by member businesses, and chamber members could communicate with one another. On Monday, he met with East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. at Village Hall, where they discussed a festival to be held in the spring, before the summer visitors typically arrive.
“I created one of the first apps in the country for a chamber of commerce,” Mr. Ringel said. “That’s something I would like to introduce to East Hampton, where people within the community could just check an app and see what’s open, what events are coming up — a one-stop shop of events, community information, and local politics, as well as giving a direct method for local merchants to reach out to the community with special discounts on an instant basis, especially through the winter months when there isn’t an easy way to communicate or even know if they’re open. I’d like to get that up and running so there can be clear, easy communication other than through a website.”
Improving business in the winter months is a key objective. “There are more people living in East Hampton year round than people realize,” he said. “The businesses don’t think they’re there, and the people don’t think they’re open.” The challenge, he said, was “how the chamber can help bring locals downtown to encourage businesses to stay open, and how to communicate to the greater Long Island and New York areas that there are businesses open, and that East Hampton is a beautiful place to be in the winter. It’s a winter wonderland — right now, it’s gorgeous. A lot of businesses and restaurants are open. I’m going to encourage more to try.”
Festivals and marketplaces “create community,” he said. “That’s what stimulates a local economy. If we can bring people downtown for exciting events, that will hopefully help stimulate a local economy and a local community, and make them more vibrant.”