By Carrie Ann Salvi
A new ‘shoppe’ has docked on Long Wharf, and all aboard will find an earth, human, and estuary-friendly experience, minus the excess and prices typical of the Hamptons. “Nothing is mass-produced,” said Simon Harrison, the real estate broker next door who leased the space with his wife, Stephanie, to offer shopping selections that are line with their values.
The message of the collective here is that everything is “made by a person,” Mr. Harrison said. His wife “takes things personally,” he said, and has chosen each artisan carefully based on their process, ingredients, and cause. Inspired by their frequent family escapes to Maine, they found many of their vendors on the way up and down, and researched others extensively. “If there is a hint of child labor or Styrofoam, we skip it. That lasts 1,000 years,” he said. “You wont’ find stuff made in China,” he said.
Instead, visitors will find bags made from “clean but weathered sailcloth that has actually sailed, run a race, had a life, and is now retired,” according to the vendor list he presented. The bags are displayed all around the store, with a size, shape, style, design or zip code for everyone.
Some show the racing numbers and identifying markings of competitive sails, with handles made from genuine sailing rope. “You can’t hurt it, it is virtually waterproof,” said Mr. Harrison. “You can put it in the wash,” he added.
Lobster pot float ropes that were banned due to their entanglement of the endangered Northern Right Whale have been repurposed into doormats, which are rugged enough to hold up even in Maine weather. The ropes have bypassed the landfill and ended up at Hamptons House as colorful baskets, dog leashes, and bracelets, too.
Since the socially responsible shoppe opened in June, Mr. Harrison admits to having “an inventory learning curve.” “Do you know what’s selling like crazy?” he asked, looking surprised, and answered, “Whales, anything whales.” Holding a pair of organic cotton whale leggings for babies, he said, “These are going out the door.”
Water colored, hand made glass sun catchers with man-o-wars wound up being timely, he said, “but the turtles and sea horses are the big seller.” Aside from the popular recycled, nautical-themed products, he said he can’t keep enough bat and purple martin houses in stock. “They eat their weight every day in mosquitoes,” he explained.
Soon to come is a line of beach kits made from biodegradable materials instead of plastic. He said they also plan to be “fully involved in Christmas decorations.” “These are New England prices,” he said. “Up in Maine the fishermen’s wives won’t sell their goods if the prices will be doubled, it’s an assault on their senses,” he said.
Despite the organic fibers, earthy ethics, and reasonable prices, the shoppe’s upscale aesthetics and elegant hand-blown glassware result in queries such as “when did this gallery open?” Mr. Harrison said.
“Each unique, colorful piece is a fully functioning work of art,” he said of his wall of handmade Zooplankton and Phytoplankton glassware. Why not enjoy your cocktail in a unique piece of sculpture with themes he said “are inspired by the countless tiny creatures and organisms that act as the root of our food chain.” “In each square inch of water there are millions of zooplankton,” he explained.
The Harrisons also hope to utilize the space and opportunity to educate locals and visitors about causes crucial to the area, including Mr. Harrison’s own SHO (Sag Harbor Oyster) Club Seed Project, which he said was just approved by the Sag Harbor Village Board for the fifth year. The organization raises tiny oysters to adulthood and then releases them into the harbor where they can reproduce and clean the water. “Oysters are the vacuum cleaners of the sea, they take in the water around them, filter out the plankton and bits of dead animals and waste that they eat, then spit the water back out, free of that waste,” he said. He sells apparel with the SHO logo and donates the profits to the cause.
The couple, who now offers an essence of Maine just off Main Street in Sag Harbor, has known each other since they attended prom together at the Copa Cabana in New York City. After reconnecting, they have been married for 12 years and they live in the village with their 11-year old child, Colin, who partners in the mission to clean up the water for current and existing inhabitants by placing oyster seeds under every dock and bridge available.
“Don’t stop at Bay Street,” Mr. Harrison said to tell the public. They welcome browsers to cross over to Long Wharf for a respite in a rocking chair in an air-conditioned oasis. Hamptons House, 5 Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, is open Thursdays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. but “we have been staying open till 10 on weekends,” notes Mr. Harrison.