Decades ago, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times architectural critic and East Hampton resident Paul Goldberger, wrote a cautionary piece called “The Strangling Of A Resort,” describing what he thought at the time were signs of the Hamptons’ imminent demise. In many ways, Goldberger was right. The Hamptons have struggled with several of the issues he warned about. However, in many cases, those dangers have been eliminated or at least minimized.
That’s not to say the Hamptons haven’t changed — they’ve changed a great deal — or that they’re perfect; they’re not. However, the Hamptons and the East End are still a uniquely beautiful community that retain many of the characteristics that have attracted people here for centuries, for work and play. Nevertheless, while the region has to a large degree avoided becoming a blighted, banal suburban landscape, new challenges have popped up.
One challenge is the increased polarization of the economy. While not unique to the Hamptons, polarization has made it more difficult for many to live and work in the community they call home, leading to a steady “brain drain.” Much of the middle class is being displaced, while others are prevented from joining us. Overall, this transformation can stifle creativity, vibrancy, and hamper economic opportunity for many on the East End. There are ways to address this struggle others have recommended, each with unique benefits and pitfalls. We’d like to suggest an additional route.
In the months ahead, we will be showcasing the stories of a new breed of Hamptons resident in this space. Innovators are creating the future of the Hamptons, driven by insight, courage, and technology to build thriving businesses in the digital economy that don’t fit the dominant mold of our resort economy. It’s increasingly clear that living and working in the Hamptons, and building a healthy middle-class, requires a new business ecosystem. This is one of the missions of The Spur.
The Spur, a co-working space in Southampton Village, is working to bring together entrepreneurs, creatives, visionaries, techies, academics, and business leaders — across generations — to help curate and support the next wave of businesses needed for the East End to continue to thrive. Not only will this resurgence generate much-needed business diversity and opportunity, it will contribute to a more dynamic cultural experience as new businesses and their employees seek out more enriching and valuable year-round outlets, smoothing out the valleys of the off-season. This is another mission of The Spur.
In addition to being a cool workplace, our space is used for art exhibits, business seminars, educational programs, music sessions, guest appearances, and even the occasional wine tasting. We don’t only provide space for entrepreneurs to run their businesses, we roll up our sleeves and help them gain the tools and knowledge they need to achieve success. The Spur facilitates engagement between business leaders and others in ways that are not possible at the library, a coffee shop, or even traditional offices. Like the Hamptons, work is changing, and we’re at the forefront of that change. We’ll also highlight some of that programming in this space so you can be part of this transformation.
One example is our Riptide “Sink Or Swim” contest. Modeled after the popular “Shark Tank” show, we’re giving local entrepreneurs a chance to win up to $50,000 to fund their start-up business. About 20 businesses have entered. Our “sharks” will decide who has the best idea on November 10 at the Southampton Arts Center. Don’t miss that or this column, where we will continue to offer insight into ways we think we can create business opportunities and economic independence for a new generation of South Fork and North Fork residents. In a way, that’s not much different than what bonackers, baymen, and farmers did generations ago. Hope you join us on the journey.
Ashley John Heather is the founder of The Spur in Southampton. The Spur is built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Its mission is to bring together the creatives, innovators, and entrepreneurs across the Hamptons. By providing a central hub to work (and play), The Spur will provide all the essential resources to help you grow your ideas and businesses. Learn more at www.thespur.com.