Ode to Center Moriches: The UnHampton
Somewhere, nowhere, to the west of Westhampton sits a quiet little town that keeps to itself. It’s unsung, it’s unnoticed and it’s beautiful. Center Moriches is a golden gem that thankfully has been overlooked by nearly everyone, except the folks who live there. Most homes in this hamlet are cute cottages, charming capes and a few waterfront colonials. The waterways that flow in and out from the bays in to the main streets are dotted with boats. Not the yachts, cigarette racers or houseboats commonly found to the East, but family walkabouts, Boston whalers and even rowboats with small outboard motors. Its Main Street has a few shops and restaurants, not the tony high end stores and eateries, but locally owned and managed real estate office, bagel shop, and travel agency. Nothing fancy, but always friendly.
Out on Moriches Bay you will see colors of blue that you thought only existed in the Caribbean. Unbelievably, they are all here, too. Cobalt, teal, azure, cerulean, and sapphire can be spotted on a clear day thanks to the constant washing in and out of the Moriches Inlet. The bay is not for novices, though. Only the most seasoned boaters can find their way around and through her many sand drifts. Great Gun Beach is a town park only accessible by traversing the bay. It sits across from the charming Moriches Bay Yacht Club or the reliable town dock. It’s perfect for an after hours private picnic on the beach. Or if you are looking for something truly special, set up camp on one of the sandy shores of the islands that rise up from the bay and come and go with the tides. You might see a neighbor or two seeking rest and relaxation nearby, but other than that the beach is all yours.
The bay is not what makes the town of Center Moriches truly beautiful, however. The real beauty comes from its people. This is a town full of volunteers. Residents show every day that they are determined to make life better for the others. It seems everyone has a hand to lend, each in their own way. Kathleen Johnson who runs the Center Moriches Community Center organizes countless events that benefit so many. One of the most outstanding, is the day in December where community members from all walks of life gather in the elementary school gym to wrap the donated presents for families in need. Keith Caputo and his mom Casey are always busy with a fundraiser for their Helping Makes You Happy foundation. This summer they are collecting school supplies for kids who can’t afford them. Mike Luongo is another helper who devotes so much time to the Center Moriches Soccer League, that one only has to look at him to feel tired. The culture of giving back goes beyond the individuals, however. Every sick child, every house fire, every sudden loss is met with a community spirit and outreach that is amazing to witness. The community page on Facebook is the place to go for more than friendly advice. Recently, there was a Prize-A-Day raffle for an ill child who has captured everyone’s heart. Over thirty prizes were donated and there were over one hundred tickets sold.
This may sound like a travel brochure or advertisement for Center Moriches, trying to draw people in, but it’s not. Although all visitors would find a warm welcome and have the time of their lives. It’s fun to bike through the residential streets over bridges and pass by scenic waterviews. A good time can always be found at the tikki bar at Senix Marina where laughter can be heard blocks away. Shoppers can find affordable, yes I said affordable, treasures at Main Street’s Cotton Caper boutique. But this is not a plea to come and see, this is simply a homage to great town. Center Moriches is sometimes called the Gateway to the Hamptons. But the Hamptons doesn’t need a gateway and Center Moriches doesn’t need a different identity. This community has a culture, personality and charm that stands on its own.