Sag Harbor Sale Has Shopkeepers on Edge
The recent sale of a group of commercial and residential properties on Main Street in Sag Harbor has left the shopkeepers who lease space in the buildings worried about being priced out of business by rising rents.
The assemblage of three contiguous properties, which was listed with Saunders and Associates in April, contains six retail stores, including the Country Lane gift shop and the Ethel and Rowe children’s store, both located on Main Street, and two single-family residences on Division Street, one of which houses the Scarlett Rose salon. It includes four second-floor apartments or office spaces with a shared roof deck, and a vacant lot on Washington Street that can be developed for commercial use.
The seller, Julia Hyman, who has owned the properties for decades, listed them with an asking price of just under $12 million. They are now in contract to be purchased by Manhattan Skyline Management, a division of a New York City real estate development firm owned by Donald Zucker. Mr. Zucker’s portfolio of East End properties includes 7 Main Street in Sag Harbor, the site of Provisions Natural Food Market and Cafe, and the East Hampton movie theater building. Joshua Roth, a vice president at the company, said that he expected the sale to close in November.
The pending transfer in ownership has frustrated shopkeepers, who have not had the chance to discuss the status of their leases with their future landlord. “I don’t even know if I’ll have the opportunity to stick around. I know nothing,” said Vanessa Hamer, who opened Ethel and Rowe nearly two years ago. Her business is currently at a standstill, she said, because she is unable to place most of her merchandise orders until she knows what the future holds. “I needed to have ordered stuff a month ago to be able to get my merchandise in for next spring and summer,” she said. “Some vendors have been willing to work with me, in case I can’t actually take those orders, but other vendors have not.”
Mr. Roth said that his company will not officially own the properties until November, and is therefore not in a position to discuss lease terms.
Annie Kim, the owner of the Scarlett Rose salon, said she is worried about being able to find an alternate space for her business if her lease is not renewed or if the rent becomes too high. “We’ve been here for seven years now, and Sag Harbor is such a small town, there’s not many options,” she said.
The shopkeepers’ anxiety about the sale, said Ms. Hamer, is representative of a growing unease about whether rising rents will force many of Sag Harbor’s locally owned stores out of business.
“Speaking with business owners who’ve been here longer than I have, they all seem distressed about what’s going to happen to Sag Harbor,” said Ms. Hamer. “Is it going to become like East Hampton and Southampton, all the rents will go up and only super corporate retail companies are going to be able to afford it?”
That concern was echoed by Gwen Waddington, who with her mother, Nada Barry, owns the Wharf Shop, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. “People love Sag Harbor because of the charm of the independent stores, many of which are operated by the owner,” said Ms. Waddington. “With the purchase of this large tract, we’re hoping that will not end, that they won’t raise the rents so high that individuals can’t afford it. I’m concerned that people are going to have a severe ending to their life’s work.”