clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

One Hundred Years at 1 Main Street, East Hampton

New, 6 comments

Ever stroll through town and wonder what it looked like 100 years ago? Unlike much of the surrounding farmland, many of the main streets in the Hamptons are structurally unchanged. Tenants have moved in and out, but the buildings remain. So what shops used to fill these spaces? Let's take a trip to one of the Hamptons' most prominent retail corners, 1 Main Street at the corner of Newtown Lane in East Hampton, and trace its tenants through time.

1917
The family of Edwin M. & Mary A. Millard builds the structure that still stands today on land previously owned by Christian Schenck, a German immigrant. With his brothers, Schenck owned a successful butcher shop in town. He and his brothers later moved into the grain, feed, and coal business and Schenck Fuels continues to operate in town to this day. Schenck died in 1924.

The Millards lease the building to the government for $900 per year for use as a post office. The post office had previously been at 41 Main, now BookHampton. The second floor is leased to the New York Telephone Company for switchboard space. The American Legion Post No. 700 also occupies a portion of the second floor.

1927
The post office building is sold by Mary Millard to H.C. Bohack, Inc., a supermarket chain, for a reported $68,000. The post office moves to a new location on Newtown Lane, currently Theory and at one point Barefoot Contessa. The New York Telephone Company remains but the American Legion moves out. The East Hampton store opens on October 28, 1927 after significant alterations to the storefront at 1 Main.

Bohack's was based in Queens and operated a chain of markets throughout Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester, Connecticut, and Long Island, with local stores in Sag Harbor, Riverhead, and Southampton, in addition to their East Hampton store. The chain at one point operated 59 stores but shut down in 1977.

1949
After 22 years, Bohack's moves to 2 Pantigo Road, a building that they built to expand their store (and to no doubt make it easier for the increasing number of customers now driving to do their shopping) and which currently houses Citarella. The store opens on November 17, scuttling previous plans for a proposed gas station on the site.

1950
Trude Shoppe opens in the former Bohack's, selling dresses and sportswear. The store is owned by Donald and Gertrude Katz of Sag Harbor and sells fashions inspired by their Parisian honeymoon. Gertrude is the daughter of the Rosensteins, who own the Fil-Net Shoppe, another dress shop at 96 Main Street in Sag Harbor (currently Brown Harris Stevens). The Katzes eventually open a Trude location in Sag Harbor as well.

1 Main is sold to Gilbert P. Smith of East Hampton. Mr. Smith was co-founder of the Smith Meal Company at Promised Land, near Amagansett. His company was one of the largest menhaden fishing and processing companies in the world operating 15 ports and processing facilities along the east coast.

1971
Dr. Alan York and attorney Joseph Fallon buy 1 Main for $85,000 and divide the ground floor in two. Dr. York moves his optometry shop from 35 Main to part of the ground floor (Willem de Kooning is one of his patients) and Joe Fallon occupies half of the offices upstairs. Dr. York was known for his extensive collection of political paraphernalia, which was the subject of an exhibition at Guild Hall.

1980
Dick and Wendy Engel's Engel Pottery joins Dr. York at 1 Main. The Engels' store sells pottery, baskets, and crafts. The shop was originally in Bridgehampton and then at 13 Newtown Lane (now Orogold Cosmetics) before settling into 1 Main.

1989
When rent is increased to $5500/month (and at $55 per square foot sets a record for East Hampton), Engel Pottery moves to 51 Main Street (now the Corcoran office) replacing the James Marley Stationery store, which had occupied that space for 83 years. Engel buys the building for a reported $510,000.

Tom Steele and his wife, Ellen Dooley, open Above the Potatoes at 1 Main and close their other locations in Southampton and Westhampton. The store, which Steele described to Curbed as "a lifestyle store for the entire family," was known for its quirky vibe (window displays with live models), eclectic clientele ("We were mobbed when Puff Daddy had his first White Party [and] Robert Gardiner came from Gardiner's Island to buy his button-down shirts," says Steele), and vibrant décor ("We traveled around the country in the off-season and purchased vintage Americana for our window displays and to sell: vintage Coke machines, enameled advertising signs, gas pumps from the 1940's. An old-time retailer stopped in once and told us 'You do all the wrong things in just the right way'"). The store stayed open on the weekends as late as the customers flowed in (often past midnight) and was popular for its photo-booth (used by local commercial fisherman to take photos for their fishing licenses).

Tom and Ellen also open a home goods store for a few years on the west side of the building (where Dr. York had been) called Home on the Range, which then becomes the Ann Kolb Gallery Space followed by the second shop from up-and-coming ceramics designer Jonathan Adler.

During this time, upstairs office tenants include the first architectural design office of Fred Stelle and attorney Roy Greenburg.

2000
Above the Potatoes closes after the landlord, Dr. York, seeks a rent increase to $15,000/month.

Calypso, the women's clothing store, only recently having doubled the size of its store at 17 Newtown, increases its footprint in town and takes over the ground floor at 1 Main. The building solidifies its position as the pacesetter for town rents. By 2005, Calypso has three stores in town.

2006
Dr. York, who will pass away in 2014, sells the building to Elie Tahari for $7.5 million. The store opens in 2007 and still occupies the building.
Thanks to Tom Steele, Gina Piastuck (East Hampton Library), Robert Hessner, Phyllis Katz, and the East Hampton Historical Society.
—Ethan Feirstein