Restoration Harbor (Video)

It might be the best thing about Sag Harbor: anyone can drive a boat right up to the marina dock located in middle of town. This summer daydream is of course contingent on owning a boat—for those who do, and even for those who don’t, some of the best summer days can be spent jumping onto the dock of the Sag Harbor Marina and strolling down Main Street until one of the various eateries catches your eye. These staples of Sag Harbor remain year after year, but as it goes with the summertime surge of the Hamptons, there is always some turnover.

The most radical change between this summer and the last is the damage from the fire that tore through Sag Harbor’s Main Street this past December. The biggest blow came to Sag Harbor Cinema, which was left entirely destroyed aside from the famous neon sign. Many of the residents think back on that December day with awe, grateful for the surrounding communities that came to the rescue. The firefighters were working around the clock to put out the fire in deep snow, and they needed all the help they could get from volunteers who drove in from nearby towns.

The Art Deco theater will need to be entirely rebuilt—as of right now, it is an empty lot on an otherwise bustling street. There are many valiant residents and enthusiasts who are stepping up to the plate to help fund the renovation. Billy Joel, a Sag Harbor resident, has already made a large contribution to help speed along the rebuilding process. So have Harvey Weinstein and Martin Scorsese.

Many other buildings along the street also sustained severe damage—such as Corner Closet, Collette Luxury Consignment, Brown Harris Stevens, and Henry Lehr. Hamptons summer imports will be happy to hear that there have been huge strides in rebuilding. Some may even be back in business this summer. From how it looks now, there is no way to tell the adjoining shops sustained any damage at all. The only remnant of the fire is the gaping hole where the reconstructed Sag Harbor Cinema will soon be.

Sag Harbor, the infamous “non-Hampton,” has been steadily on the rise in recent years with an increasing number of hot spots opening up that attract the regular Hamptonites. Joey Wölffer, for example, has expanded from her famous vineyard in Sagaponack, and has now taken a great interest in the town of Sag Harbor as she opened up the superb new restaurant Wölffer Kitchen last summer and her namesake clothing shop, Joey Wölffer, at the end of Main Street. It seems everything she touches becomes Hamptons-approved gold—many are anxious to see what she will venture into next.

Even outsiders have infiltrated what used to be a quaint East End town. The opening of Le Bilboquet may very well mark the end of Sag Harbor’s era of quaint naiveté. The Upper East Side staple has branched out with the help of Ronald Perelman and Philippe Delgrange. The warm wooded décor of the restaurant is the perfect vantage point to sip rosé and watch the boats roll in. (And don’t worry: the famous Cajun chicken is still on the menu.) To top off the seaside eatery, the owners have plans to turn a section of the restaurant into a late night locale, similar to what used to happen when dinners went late at the original location of Le Bilboquet in New York City. The opening of this Sag Harbor location has been long awaited—many thought it would open last summer, but alas here we are! Le Bilboquet is poised to be a Hamptons must-visit this summer—for those who can snag a reservation.

There are still a variety of classic venues in Sag Harbor that keep the town’s charm intact even as big brands slide into place. Spots like Estia’s Little Kitchen keep the pretension in check with good food and seating only for those who are willing to get going before the weekend brunch rush—though I would stand in line any day for their blueberry buttermilk pancakes.

There is a strong argument to be had for anyone who implies that Sag Harbor is in fact just like every other glossy village out on the East End. Is Provisions all that different from Citarella? The staples of Hamptons life, such as starting off Saturday morning at The Golden Pear Cafe and being outfitted head-to-toe in Calypso linen are spotted everywhere in Sag Harbor. Sag Harbor’s specialties are still sprinkled around, but one has to look increasingly closer to find a contrast year after year .

Some are dismayed that  Sag Harbor may be losing its original small-town charm with the influx of new establishments. The Hamptons, just like New York City, only has a certain amount of room. The only way to cement your place is to flourish, and that goes for all establishments, from houses to restaurants to boutiques. A suggestion to all: drive out, support the local shops, and hope that they are still there when we come out next Memorial Day Weekend. The constant progression is a part of all of our lives—even our rose-colored summer home bubbles.