By this time of year, The Clam Bar is normally bustling seven days a week, its signature white-and-yellow striped umbrellas shading a throng of packed tables where overflowing lobster rolls, lobster salad and clam chowder are in high demand.
But with most restaurants shuttered by the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, it is an entirely different scene outside the iconic Napeague eatery these days — forcing it, for better or worse, to fill a new type of order.
Now in its third week, the Clam Bar Pantry is helping feed families across East Hampton Town by providing boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, bread, pasta, packaged goods and more directly to their doorsteps.
The $100 bundle, designed to feed a family of four for a week, can include a $50 Produce Box add-on — which is also available as a stand-alone box — filled to the brim with favorites such as strawberries, pears, avocados, kale, asparagus, mushrooms and a few unexpected surprises, according to restaurant manager Leigh Goodstein.
“People are worried about where their next meal is going to come from,” she said. “Even if you have money and you’re working, if you don’t want to go to the grocery store, Peapod deliveries are two and three weeks out, out here. I was surprised to see people reordering after a week — I was happily surprised — but I was surprised to see it. I think it’s pretty clear that this is something that people need.”
Orders are up from 38 boxes to 54 boxes purchased last week, Ms. Goodstein reported on Friday afternoon after packing them earlier that day and sending them out for delivery with five Clam Bar employees.
“I have a friend who I delivered to last week who said to me, ‘I opened the box and I started to cry when I saw all the fresh produce,’” she said. “It’s not easy. Out here, there’s a certain amount of isolation, and if you can’t get to the grocery store, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
A widow with a 2-year-old son, Ms. Goodstein, who suffers from asthma, can relate to the dire straits some families have found themselves in. It’s the reason the pantry was born, she said, with the blessing of The Clam Bar owner, Betsy Flinn, whose son-in-law caught the virus and self-quarantined with his family on the East End.
“While he was in the hospital, I was running food over to Betsy’s daughter and their 1-year-old, and I thought, ‘You know, this is something. They’re not the only ones that are dealing with this. There are plenty of other people in town who could use somebody dropping off stuff at their doorstep,’” Ms. Goodstein said.
“It kind of clicked for me,” she continued. “When all of this started happening, I just kind of hunkered down. I pulled my son out of daycare. I’m immuno-compromised, so I didn’t want to risk it and I can stay home, so I did. I don’t have somebody to run to the store for me, I have to do all these things on my own, so it came from there. It came from helping out Betsy’s daughter and son-in-law, who’s better and are now, in turn, helping with deliveries. Everybody’s kind of giving back.”
While most of the pantry and produce boxes are intended for those who ordered them, four of the 54 boxes from last week were donated and delivered to others in need.
“We did set up gift certificates, so that you could make a donation to somebody that you know, but maybe you don’t know their details, like when they need food,” she said. “I’ve also had people tell me they want to order for donating to essential workers. It’s amazing. It’s not a surprise to me, but it’s exciting to see how people are really coming together right now out here.”
All orders must be placed online at clambarhamptons.com before Tuesdays at 8 p.m., with delivery on Fridays in Wainscott, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett and Montauk. But please be aware, Ms. Goodstein said: Clam Bar menu items will not be included.
“A lot of people are asking for lobster salad, and a lot of people are asking for clam chowder, and I appreciate that we have such a huge fan club and that’s awesome — and that will be back at some point,” she said. “But right now, myself and Betsy feel like the most important thing right now is to help our community, and whenever it is that that isn’t needed anymore, we’ll be back to making lobster rolls. For now, we just see this huge need and we want to help people.”