Montauk merchants who spoke with The Independent this past week expressed mixed feelings about the use of the Montauk Green by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce for various fairs held there throughout the summer season. A couple questioned the direction the Chamber of Commerce is moving in.
The idea of holding the fairs throughout the summer season was questioned at the East Hampton Town Board meeting June 11 by the owner of Sharkbites on Main Street in Montauk, Peri Allen.
A couple of store owners expressed strong misgivings about the fairs and the Chamber, but would not be quoted on the record. One who was not so shy was the owner of Fudge ‘n Stuff, Jennifer D’Albora.
The farmers market has a seller that makes fudge, directly competing with her business.
D’Albora had worked at the store for many years, and then was given the opportunity, along with her husband, to buy it outright in 1992. When the idea of the farmers market was floated, “I was offered a spot there,” D’Albora said. She weighed the option. “I would have to pay for permits from the town. I would have to staff it. I have my workers here. Why would I do that?” It made no sense, businesswise, to her.
But now she finds herself competing with someone who does not have to pay Montauk storefront rents during the season. D’Albora said that she understood that the reasoning for the farmers market was, in part, to raise money for the food pantry. “I would rather make a donation to the food pantry than to have to go through all that,” she said.
D’Albora said she was supportive of the crafts fairs, particularly the one sponsored by the Lions Club.
She is a former member of the Chamber of Commerce. The idea, to D’Albora, behind the Chamber, and the fairs, “was to get locals to sell local goods.” She feels the Chamber has “outsourced and gotten people from out of town. The whole purpose of the Chamber is to promote local businesses, not to undercut them.”
Laraine Creegan, head of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the town board on June 11. She said that the fairs have helped raise $78,000 for the food pantry over the years. She did tell the board that the large fairs on major holiday weekends should be curtailed.
One of the main complaints Allen had made at the June 11 meeting was echoed by other shop owners adjacent to Fudge n’ Stuff. Kelly Bogetti has owned a shop on the Plaza for 10 years. She added a second in 2014. Between Kelly B and Swim, she sells clothing and items that have recently been showing up at the crafts fairs. She supports the idea behind the fairs, but wants more scrutiny of the items being sold. “It should not be a flea market. It should be a craft fair. We pay a lot of rent, all year long.”
Kathleen Engstrom owns Montauk T-Shirts. She supports the fairs, as long as the items being sold are truly craft items. She also suggested a different location if more fairs are to be held. “As long as the crafts fairs are kept to maybe two a season, I support them, but not as many as they have.” She suggested the grounds of Second House as a possible future location.
“I’ve been in business for 37 years. I still think they should have music and entertainment on the green because the families love that. It brings the families here,” said Engstrom.
At the town board meeting, Councilwoman Kathee Burke Gonzalez said that “we need input from the community, from the broader community.” Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said she would report back to the board after she meets with the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee.