The Real Riches in the Hampton
As I sat on the Hampton Jitney to Amagansett for the first time, I was so excited to experience all that I had heard about the Hamptons: the beauty, the celebrities, and the exciting parties. However, no one had told me about the real riches in the Hamptons.
I’d moved to New York City at the age of twenty-six from my hometown of Philadelphia to study fashion at Parsons School of Design, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. One of the most popular topics of conversation at Parsons was the glamorous Hamptons. It wasn’t long before I discovered the Hampton Jitney, the direct bus to all the towns in the Hamptons. So one lovely spring day, I decided to do some exploring and booked a round-trip ticket to the East End.
By the time I arrived in Amagansett, I was starving, having not eaten breakfast. Since it was off-season, the area was very quiet, and only a few stores on Main Street were open. Across from the bus stop I found a deli. I decided to stop in before I began my day of exploration.
It looked like any typical small-town deli, with stools around the counter and small private booths. The deli was empty, and I took one of the stools. Before I knew it, a short, stocky woman wearing a white apron rushed to the counter from the back. With a wide smile, she said in a high-pitched voice, “What would you like to eat? I haven’t seen you here before. My name is Emily Cullum, and I own the deli.” Her bubbly personality made me feel immediately at ease. I told her I was new to the area and didn’t know what her specials were. In less time than it took for her to fix me her special tuna-salad sandwich, she invited me into her kitchen and started telling me all about the Hamptons and her life growing up there.
Her family had come from Nova Scotia in the early 1900s. Her father was a fisherman who had passed on, and her mother was an active eighty-year-old with whom she was very close. She told me stories of her childhood and how she’d loved growing up in the area. We spent hours talking and getting to know each other, and before I knew it, two hours had passed. I thanked her for her fabulous food, looking forward to visiting her deli again.
Over the next several months, I took every chance I could to visit Amagansett and Emily’s deli. One weekend, Emily invited me to her home on Hedges Lane, where I met her children, Dell, Gail, Marilyn, and Diane. I started spending weekends with Emily and her children and, gradually, became one of the family.
Emily and I became close friends despite our different lives. She was going through a divorce, fighting the world on her own while raising four children and running a business. I was a fashion student trying to find my way in New York City without knowing anyone to help me navigate the rough road to success. This was an unusual alliance, but for both of us it brought support, caring, and love.
The years passed quickly, and our lives changed along with them. I became a fashion designer on Seventh Avenue, and Emily began traveling, having sold her business. Still, we kept in touch, and time seem to stand still whenever we spoke to each other, as it had the first time I visited her deli.
Emily is now retired and living back in Amagansett, happily spending time with her children and grandchildren. I have made my mark in the world of fashion, having been recognized as “Inventor of the Year” for an online system that revolutionized online shopping. Today, more than forty years after we first met, I am as close as ever with Emily and her family. The Hamptons feels like my second home, with the special love I have with my adopted Hamptons family—the greatest riches of all on the East End for me!