Summers in Amagansett
Summers in Amagansett
by Barry Adelman
I first visited Amagansett in the summer of 1994 and 95. My cousins rented a very large house on the ocean just past the restaurant “Lunch” on Montauk Highway and decided to have a family party each summer. Little did I know that 18 years later, in the summer of 2012 I would be presenting a Music for Humanity Scholarship to Maxfield Panish, who had just graduated from East Hampton High School, and at the same time fighting for the business survival of my store “Outdoors in Amagansett”. As they say in the music world, “it’s been a long strange trip”.
The family visits, which included catered dinners served on the beach, were special, but there was no indication, and I never expected to be spending time owning a retail store in Amagansett. It was not in the cards, but as life would have it, I took in a silent business partner in 1995 and two years later, he called and said, “I think we have a good opportunity for another retail store.”
So, in March 1997, we took over a store, right on Main Street (Rt. 27) in the heart of Amagansett. Our property owners had run the store for decades as had their father. They had decided to retire. It was somewhat of an honor to me, to be taking over a store with a 65-year history. With the exception of having to fire the initial manager for embezzlement, everything went pretty well for the first 10 years. Unfortunately, I learned that the law enforcement community makes few arrests for white-collar crime, but at least our insurance company came through with a $5000 check for employee theft based upon the evidence I presented to them. The embezzlement gave me a taste of a nasty side of the human condition: greed.
It was during these first 10 years that in addition to running the business I started to write songs. Then in 2004, I had an epiphany. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Be silent that you may hear the whisper of God”. I heard that whisper and it said “Music for Humanity”. I knew I had to do something and formed a not-for-profit. In 2005, the IRS approved Music for Humanity as a 501c corporation, which meant that donations to MFH would be tax-deductible.
I put a Music for Humanity sign in the window of the store in Amagansett. The staff had told me that our customers included Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, and other rich and famous people like Steven Spielberg, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. I naively thought they would all donate to Music for Humanity. I owned the store (with my silent partner), and did virtually all the buying and marketing for it, but I was rarely in the store. I could accomplish the necessary work from my office in Chester NY. However, for the busy holidays, like Memorial Day Weekend and July 4th, I would work in the store helping customers. In addition, generally, once a month I would travel to Amagansett to see how the store looked and discuss current and future plans with the staff.
Most of the “stars” did not shop on the big holidays but on one off day when I was working, a customer parked a very unusual looking van in front of the store. It had oversized tires and was high off the ground to ride on the beach; it had two or three surf boards secured to one side. I just happened to be outside when the driver got out and I said to him, “that’s a very cool looking vehicle”. He replied, “Thanks, I had it custom made in California.” He went next store into Indian Wells Tavern for lunch. An hour later, he stopped into Outdoors to shop. I helped him with a pair of Levi’s and he began talking about the van again. He mentioned it ran on vegetable fuel. I asked him where he got the fuel. He said “from my restaurants.” I asked, “What restaurants?” He replied, “Margaritaville”. I said, “Oh, you must be Jimmy Buffet.” He smiled and I introduced myself. We shook hands and I gave him a copy of the Music for Humanity CD. He told me he would listen to it, but I never did receive any donation from Jimmy. I was surprised, however, by some generous donations from regular customers.