Confessions of a Shopkeeper


This week, a group of local people were honored in the city for raising funds for injured soldiers. It was also a week in which Sag Harbor tried to save Main Street and I attempted to get off my butt.

The Wounded Warrior Project held its “New York City Gala and Courage Awards Benefit Dinner” last Thursday at Cipriani’s on 42nd Street. The WWP honored Amagansett’s Peter Honerkamp for his work supporting Soldier Ride, an arm of WWP.

The WWP mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. Soldier Ride has raised $10 million for the WWP. In return, the WWP has named its community service award, “The Talkhouse Award for Community Spirit.”

Mr. Honerkamp runs The Stephen Talkhouse. His face was still wet with tears from having listened to the stories of fallen soldiers who had been helped by the WWP when he heard his name from the stage. John Melia, WWP executive director, spoke as slides projected images of Mr. Honerkamp and his Soldier Ride companions on the road.

Mr. Honerkamp’s Amagansett roadhouse was the place where the idea for Soldier Ride was hatched. The Talkhouse “is more than a bar, it’s a community, an institution. And it’s that way, because Peter has made it that way,” Mr. Melia told the crowd.

Nick Kraus, an organizer for Soldier Ride, and Chris Carney, owner of Railroad Fitness, who rode his bike around the country to raise money and awareness for seriously injured soldiers, were also cited by Mr. Melia during his tribute.

The Cipriani space is as grand as Grand Central Station across the street. The building used to be the Bowery Bank, designed by the York and Sawyers architectural firm in the Italian Renaissance style in 1921. It is a national landmark. The high style suited the evening as soldiers in dress uniform and women in gowns met to share their stories.

Despite the fact that the subject of the evening was war, the point was still to have a good time. I know I did. In fact, I was having such a good time, I missed the last bus back to the Hamptons and had to stay overnight, missing my second of six workouts.

For the first time in my life, I’ve committed to a workout routine. For the next several weeks, I have signed up to take an exercise class, on the beach, with Sharon McCobb. Ms. McCobb used to own the Springs General Store. Now, she trains people to become fit. She also sits on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Apparently, I sit way too much since my feet and ankles were sore for almost a week after the first workout. I like the idea of working out on the beach but I was praying for rain so the class would be cancelled and I wouldn’t miss it.

Believe it or not, I actually liked the first workout, jumping on the sand through hoops and ladders.

“Good for balance and for your hips,” said Ms. McCobb, who is a big runner. I’m a big sitter. I think Ms. McCobb thought I might seriously have a heart attack. “I didn’t know you were so unseasoned,” she told me as we got in our cars after the hour-long workout. I looked in the mirror. My face was deep purple.

Since I’m allergic to gyms, I figured if I exercised outside first, maybe by the fall, I’ll be so addicted to working out, I wouldn’t mind going into a gym or yoga studio or karate dojo, as my husband has been asking me to do for years.

Last Tuesday, the group Save Sag Harbor hosted a presentation called “Main Street, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Revitalizing Your Commercial District,” at the Bay Street Theatre.

After watching “The Main Street Four-Point Approach,” PowerPoint presentation, I listened to a question-and-answer period with the audience, which was made up of two different factions, business owners and non-business owners. Many in both camps wanted to keep CVS and other national chains out of Sag Harbor, a village reeling over the loss of one of its own in Iraq last month. The prospect of its down-home downtown falling to national chains and Rodeo Drive nameplates is not at all the same kind of tragedy but it’s a big issue in the old whaling village.

I was interested to learn if there was anything I could learn from Sag Harbor’s tale to save East Hampton or, at least, my shop, one of the last mom and pops left here. I have to say, I was very impressed with the group. Their goal is “to encourage locals to come into town during the off season,” and that has been my biggest problem since East Hampton has gone corporate.

The Sag Harbor residents and business owners kept saying they didn’t want to become what East Hampton has become. “How can we keep the CVS out?” was asked by several people as if there was some invisible repellent they could erect around their village.

But the truth is there is very little you can do to keep certain name brands out. The one thing the “Main Street” people kept repeating was, “shop local.”

“If small business cannot survive, then stuff you don’t want is going to come in, so you must support local businesses,” offered a woman named Ms. Lane who was the program officer and regional attorney with “Main Street’s” Northeast regional office.

I’d like to explore the “Main Street” option further concerning East Hampton. Some people think East Hampton is too far gone to ever get its old self back but I don’t believe that. I think you have to fight for what you believe in.

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