Four hometown brands gone national—Tate’s Bake Shop, Hampton Sun, Amagansett Sea Salt Co. and Mabley Handler Interior Design—bring a little East End ethos to a country that craves it.
If you could package the essence of the Hamptons and share with the rest of the country what makes this place so special, what would you choose? For national brands that started small right here, the answer first and foremost involves top quality—and details that captivate the senses.
Two locals selling the Hamptons to a wider world are Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler, founders of Mabley Handler Interior Design (mableyhandler.com) in Water Mill, who partnered last year with design-trade house Kravet to sell a furniture collection that reflects the Hamptons through their eyes. The styles are even named for places that have a special meaning for the couple. “Those who know the Hamptons,” says Austin Handler, “will get the references, so it will make them feel like they’re in on the secret!” Meanwhile, visual clues recall classic details of local estate homes, such as the X-style legs of their Privet Lane pieces or the Chippendale pattern on the Halsey line. “This furniture epitomizes where the Hamptons is right now,” says Handler. “Referential to the past but designed for today and the future.”
Overall, the collection telegraphs East End style. “When people reference ‘beach design,’ they think wood floors and bowls of seashells,” Handler explains, “but people here have been exposed to top design and architecture. Even for a comfortable retreat, they still expect sophistication and taste. What we love so much about the Hamptons is the laid-back lifestyle mixed with the sophistication. It can be whatever you want it to be—which is why it has such broad appeal.”
Tate’s Bake Shop (tatesbakeshop.com) founder Kathleen King embodies this versatility. “My vision of the Hamptons is families and beach barbecues and simple living and fresh fruit pie,” she says. “The farms are my heritage, my blood. The deeply rooted, all-American homestyle baked good is who we are. It wasn’t made up. It wasn’t thought of as a marketing tool, since that’s who we were.”
King graciously attributes her success to something else that makes Hamptons businesses unique: their customers. “It’s not everywhere that Florence Fabricant can walk into your shop and write a half page in The New York Times,” she says. “The people that come out here and live out here and contribute out here, they also were a big help to me in the beginning.”
King sold Tate’s to The Riverside Company three and a half years ago—“I felt great about it. I was ready,” she says. Distribution spread beyond gourmet and natural food stores to grocery chains and even Bed Bath & Beyond, rolling out in waves up the Northeast, down the coasts and into the Midwest. Tate’s is available in select countries such as Canada and Hong Kong, but greater coverage may be on the horizon: In an acquisition expected to close this summer, Tate’s was snapped up by snack giant Mondel?z International (think Oreos, Trident and Cadbury).
Taking their company international in just its second year, Southampton native Salvatore Piazzolla and his partner, Grant Wilfley, knew their Hampton Sun (hamptonsuncare.com) line of luxe sun-care products would be representing the East End. They were naturally inspired by the beautiful beaches and elegant lifestyle, but they wanted to get more specific. “When our chemist asked us what we wanted it to smell like,” Piazzolla explains, “we said it should smell like you’re going to the beach—not with a piña colada in hand, but riding your bike to the beach in the Hamptons. You pass homes surrounded by privet hedges in blossom. On a warm summer day, that smell is intoxicating.”
The scent resonated so well with customers, they begged for a separate fragrance line. “We first created a perfume, Privet Bloom, that has quite the cult following,” Piazzolla says. “And this year we are launching the home collection, which includes a candle, room diffuser, room spray, bath gel and body lotion.” He describes the scent as “fresh, clean and sophisticated,” with hints of white hyacinth, jasmine, lily of the valley, dune grass and blue plum.
For other makers, a taste of the Hamptons is just as literal: “We call it the ‘merroir,’” says Natalie Jugelson, co-founder of Amagansett Sea Salt Co. (amagansettseasalt.com), “the taste of our salt that is unique to this place.” She and her husband, Steven, began selling their product to local farmers markets and stores right before Memorial Day 2011. “By midsummer,” she says, echoing King’s feelings, “word of our salt spread through local publications and then The New York Times. Restaurant chefs started buying and using it. Before the end of the year, some of the best chefs in the world were using our salt, and we realized it had acquired a national audience.”
But the local roots run deep. “For nearly his entire life, Steven had come to beautiful Amagansett and spent countless days at Atlantic Avenue Beach—he shared it with me more than 30 years ago,” Jugelson reports. “Amagansett has always been rejuvenating to our souls—the breaking waves, the clean ocean water and the organic farms. As we traveled to different places around the world and repeatedly stumbled upon sea-salt flats, we began to wonder, ‘Why not in Amagansett?’ and started making salt as a hobby.”
Perhaps King offers the best analysis to chew on: an instructive analogy between her home base and her famous merchandise. “It’s a product you want to visit again. And the Hamptons can sometimes be very frustrating on the outside, but on the inside there’s a tremendous sweetness—just like the cookie.”