Not everyone knows yet where The Hampton Gather is on Newtown Lane in East Hampton, manager Phyllis Sullivan concedes—“It’s across the street from Wittendale’s” and it opened toward the end of the summer.
But Ms. Sullivan puts two or three huge red plastic letters near the front to attract attention. They’re left over from a movie set, she notes, and are not untypical of the “recycle and reuse” goodies inside: “antiques, salvage, consignments and eclectic finds,” many of them hand-crafted artisan items and “cool” vintage pieces.
One day the red letters spell out YOU; another, OY or YO. If the day is not too cold, a huge old wooden wagon wheel will hold the door open. And if business is brisk, large items can be seen being angled onto the sidewalk, as recently when a couple was happily maneuvering a $100 twig side table outside, to the friendly notice of strangers passing by. The table was a consignment item, and the consigner will get 70 percent, the shop 30 percent.
It’s not all consignment, however, Ms. Sullivan says. The shop owner, Erica Broberg Smith, “knows how to hunt” and has friends who text her when they come across something they think she’d like. There’s a discernible informality and community spirit to the origin and operation of The Hampton Gather. “I’m not pretending to be a fancy shop, with professional presentation, upscale merchandise and Hamptons prices,” Ms. Broberg Smith says. “I want an authentic, affordable thrift shop where local people can feel comfortable coming in, get a fair price for their wares and know that we’ll negotiate.”
The shop is next door to Ms. Broberg Smith’s other businesses—Smith River Kitchens, which she runs with her husband, and her own architectural practice, which she has had for 20 years. Smith River Kitchens, she says, is named after the Smith River in Montana, and not her husband, Scott Smith, though he lived in Montana for 15 years—and Montana is one of several places in the West which they regularly visit and where they pick up items such as Navajo Nation pottery, taking pleasure in doing business with locals. She estimates that the split between consignments and what she finds is 50/50.
She does a lot of her hunting and gathering at auctions, estate and sales sites in farm and horse country in New Jersey, where she’s from. Brimfield, Massachusetts, is also a major draw, a world renowned 90-acre antiques fair that runs three times a year. Her husband calls it “the Grateful Dead show for antiques” because of the many bearded rustic types who show up with their vintage items. A lot of her hunting also comes from emails with images sent by friends and colleagues, and from chance drop-ins.
Recently, Ms. Broberg Smith says, a 96-year-old man from Southampton came by to talk about two pairs of Indian snowshoes he had from the 1800s. They chatted and Ms. Broberg Smith convinced him to give one pair to his daughter. The other pair, he said he’d like to see in a “gentleman’s library on Long Island, near a fireplace.” Indeed, Ms. Broberg Smith has observed, older folk constitute her main clientele, and she loves “connecting” with them. She sees conversation as an important and enjoyable part of what she does. But she also picks up salvage stuff from a Bronx warehouse, including a handsome string of industrial factory lamps that hang above a wooden “Sno-ler,” a child’s sled and stroller. Nearby, an antique piston from Germany sits on a shelf, pricey but unique.
Artwork and glassware are big sellers these days, as are German beer garden tables—slim, attractive, foldable—and German and Turkish wooden dough bowls. “There’s no rhyme nor reason as to what sells,” says Ms. Broberg Smith.
The South Fork is “chock full of overpriced, over-styled antique stores and boutiques,” she said. “The Hampton Gather is designed to be an old-school barter shop which kids as well as adults can visit.”
The store can be found at 94 Newtown Lane, and the phone number is (631) 527-7171. Shop hours are Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.