In the Hamptons, catering to the rich (and their dogs) is good business

Tue May 21, 2013 2:51pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Beth Pinsker

EAST HAMPTON, New York (Reuters) - Judging by early demand for everything from doggie daycare to Ferrari rentals and fine art, rich Americans are going to make this a strong summer in one of their favorite playgrounds - the beach towns on the eastern end of Long Island collectively known as the Hamptons.

With stock prices surging, home prices recovering, and borrowing costs low, there is a renewed sense of confidence among the wealthy and the merely well off. It may not be conspicuous consumption of "The Great Gatsby" kind but it could be the best season since the financial crisis slammed the U.S. economy in 2008.

It is "new" money coming in that is making the difference, since the "old" money in the Hamptons never really stopped flowing, at least in terms of the ultra-wealthy spending on things like food, wine and household staff.

But discretionary spending did slow down over the past few years, so it's making a noticeable comeback now for vendors like Mark Humphrey, who has owned a gallery on Main Street in Southampton for more than 30 years.

"We had a good winter, and that just never happens. We are usually barely open," he says.

Last summer, he had a lot of browsers, but they rarely opened up their wallets. Suddenly over the past few months, he has been contacted by some of those window shoppers who were finally ready to buy, and he has sold 10 paintings at $5,000 to $10,000 since December.

It is a similar story for American Bull Rentals, which is for the first time expanding into the Hamptons with its rentals of mechanical bulls to bring the rodeo experience to house parties and fundraisers.

"I have a sliding scale, and for Hamptons calls, whatever amount I tell them, they say 'whatever, send the contract,'" says Mike Marrazzo, owner of Prestige Excursions, based in Bellmore, New York, which operates the service.   Continued...

A man walks off the beach after photographing the stormy ocean in Sagaponack, New York August 28, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson