When it comes to commercial real estate on the South Fork, rumors abound. Come winter, with many shops closed, tongues wag about which are coming and which are going. Don’t necessarily listen to the scuttlebutt.
“Wintertime in the Hamptons is so quiet that if a store or restaurant closes for a day, the rumor is it’s closing for good,” said Hal Zwick, an agent who specializes in commercial properties at Town and Country Real Estate. “It’s almost like telephone: By the time it gets to the fifth person, it’s totally wrong.”
An example is the buzz that the Elie Tahari store at one of the East Hampton Village shopping district’s prime locations is moving. Not so, according to Mr. Zwick. Mr. Tahari “owns six or seven buildings in the village,” including 1 Main Street, which houses his own fare and which he purchased in 2006 or 2007. There was some talk about the fashion mogul and his ex-wife selling a house, Mr. Zwick said, which may have sparked the falsehood.
Then there was the rumor that Bobby Flay had bought Espresso, the small, popular Italian deli in Sag Harbor. “Espresso has been sold,” Mr. Zwick said, with the closing to take place in two weeks, but not to Mr. Flay. “Really great local people have bought it,” he said, although he declined to name names. Also in Sag Harbor, Madison and Main, a restaurant that was on the market almost as soon as it opened its doors, has been bought by Doppio Artisan Bistro, a trattoria with locations in Huntington, Greenwich, Conn., and the city. It will open in the spring offering specialty pizzas.
Another bit of scuttlebutt across town has proved correct, however. Christopher Fischer, a cashmere retailer, has closed its East Hampton boutique (although it is staying on in Southampton), and Lisa Perry, a fashion designer with a flagship store on Madison Avenue, will be taking over. Farther north on Main Street, the Roberta Freymann shop is staying put. With branches in California, Florida, New York, and other locations, the designer known for her global style seems to appeal to shoppers here.
Juicy Couture, however, on Newtown Lane, is becoming a Kate Spade outpost. That’s not surprising, since they are part of the same conglomerate. A headline last year in Forbes blared, “Kate Spade Is a Brand Ready to Boom Around the World.”
Linda Lee, a landlord with several East Hampton stores, has rented most of them. Her space occupied by Catherine Malandrino, which is next to Cittanuova, has been leased by Zimmermann, a purveyor of edgy swimwear. Her storefront down the next-door alley will be the new office of West Chin Architect, a firm with an office on Lower Fifth Avenue that is known for the residences of Amber Valetta and Ed Burns and Christy Turlington. Ms. Lee’s store at 23 Newtown Lane will be taken over by Sunbarth, a beachy fashion line that brings the St. Barth’s lifestyle north. Nearby, the shop that was formerly Steph’s Stuff is to become part of what is said to be a worldwide chain of “luxurious and decadent” cosmetics called Orogold.
While much has been snapped up in the village, there are still several empty commercial spaces. Outdoors, in the Reutershan parking lot at 30 Park Place, which calls itself a “beach entertainment shop,” will be leaving and the space will be available. Ms. Lee has two spaces farther up Newtown Lane, one of which housed a hair salon, the other a gallery.
Retail Store E at 66 Newtown Lane near Mecox Gardens and the Drawing Room, in what was formerly Big Drop, is on the market for $138,000 for a year’s lease. At 11 Muchmore Lane, a 1910 house off Newtown Lane, the law firm of Dayton, Voorhees, and Balsam has just vacated the downstairs office, with the possibility that a new firm could expand into the upstairs apartment.
Back on Main Street, JanGeorge, an interior design studio and shop selling antiques and modern furniture, opened at number 55 in early March.
But the huge storefront that housed Tiffany & Co. — all 4,200 square feet of it — is still available. Ditto for the space that housed Valentine Gallery before it moved to a smaller location on Newtown Lane. The landlord of the Tiffany space is asking $425,000 per year for a long-term lease, and, according to Mr. Zwick, it is harder to get anyone to commit for larger properties. But, he said, “Anything under 2,000 square feet rented immediately.” In fact, there were bidding wars on a couple of properties.
Moving westward, the new owners of the former bowling alley have been unable to rent it to retailers yet, though Mr. Zwick said, “Discussions are going on.”
The large restaurant that was the Beach House, and, for a short time, the Players Club, has had three offers, but the owners are appealing the possibility that its commercial status may have reverted to residential because of the time it has been empty.
The Highway Diner, which had an initial burst of activity when it opened in 2012, is on the market asking $650,000 for the 13 years left on the lease, but will continue to do business if the lease isn’t taken over. The vacant space next to Sherwin-Williams Paint will rent out momentarily, according to brokers.
In Bridgehampton, in response to the rage for fresh juices, a Juice Press will be opening its second smoothie bar next to Starbucks, a space formerly occupied by Fill-R-Up, a gift shop. Its other location is in Southampton. Hampton Briggs Antiques has replaced Black Swan Antiques, which has moved to 26 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Peter Marcelle has moved his gallery to 4 North Main in Southampton.
All in all, the commercial demand is considered higher than since 2007. “There’s been a shift to where landlords and sellers have had a little more leverage than since the recession,” Mr. Zwick said. However, haggling has been gentlemanly. “Negotiations have been tense, but there’s been a realistic meeting of minds.”