Rita Cantina, a festive Mexican restaurant in the Hamptons, has received a lot of attention since it opened this summer.
On a Wednesday night, Hannah Bronfman and Brendan Fallis were sitting in a corner enjoying items like margaritas and scallops. At the bar, spirited guests in fedoras and crop tops hit back tequila and danced to Bad Bunny.
Adam Miller, 32, one of the owners, was walking around taking drinks orders. "When people are around, we stay open all night," he said.
The scene may sound familiar in other parts of the Hamptons, but it's alien to Springs, a quiet bay on the bay north of East Hampton Village with humble single-family homes and thick woodland. There is no major highway, just windy two-lane roads. The Financial Times once called it "the Hamptons without celebrities and celebrities".
In the 1940s, Springs was an artist colony for American Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. "It was a long party," said Helen Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, a museum in Springs. "They caught fresh fish and mussels and then brought their catch to the others' homes and had a great time."
Over the past few decades, around 7,000 year-round residents have lived in the neighborhood, many from families with medium to low incomes.
"This is a very old community of fishermen, workers, and laborers who are the backbone of the Hamptons," said Miller, who has owned various restaurants in Springs for nearly a decade. “The people who do your incredible landscaping, install your beautiful pool, or serve you in a fancy restaurant – they don't live by the water in East Hampton. They live in Springs. "
Wealthy New Yorkers looking for weekend homes tended to avoid it. "People looking to rent or buy in the Hamptons would say they want to be in East Hampton but not Springs," said Adriel Reboh, a Compass real estate agent who specializes in the Hamptons. "They would tell me that it is too far or that they want to be closer to the city or the sea."
No longer. Mr Reboh said Springs has become a desirable location for New York City residents, especially millennials looking to buy and rent homes. They are attracted to relatively cheaper houses that come with more land.
For example, a recent search by Zillow found more than a dozen homes for sale in Springs for less than $ 1.25 million, while listings in East Hampton are significantly leaner.
Younger shoppers are also drawn to new eateries like Rita Cantina and Si Si, an upscale Mediterranean eatery in the EHP Resort and Marina, a boutique hotel that opened in May. Springs is also known for its quiet beaches, one with a natural bay and jetty.
New homeowners include Ross Mastubara, 36, vice president and style director at Nike Communications, and husband Noa Santos, 33, who runs an interior design and architecture company called Nainoa. They bought their four-bedroom Greek Revival-style home in 2019.
The couple fell in love with Springs after visiting a friend who bought a house there. "We also liked that Springs is diverse and not particularly luxurious," said Santos. “It's almost like living in downtown New York City. You get the courage, which is kind of fun. "
They have been joined by a dozen other friends since buying there. "We never leave the neighborhood on most weekends," said Mr. Mastubara. “We have cocktail parties one weekend and someone else does the next weekend. We all just hop around. "
On the weekend of July 4th, the couple threw a party for a hundred people including Chanel and Alexander McQueen's marketing directors, interior designers, photographers and artists. Despite the rain, the guests appeared in floral shirts and spent the day with champagne and romping about in the pool. "Two years ago we wouldn't have come so many because we live in Springs," said Mr. Mastubara.
The rental market is also heating up. Lia Bartha, 37, a fitness entrepreneur, and her husband Justin Bartha, 43, an actor who starred in "The Hangover," rented a two-story house on Kings Point Road this summer. "It was a smaller, cozy house, but it had a nice outside area with this pool that had a vintage '70s feel to it," said Ms. Bartha. “There was neither pedestrian traffic nor cars passing by. The only noise I heard was the chirping of birds. "
"We love the rural atmosphere with nature and tranquility, so it feels like a real vacation," added Ms. Bartha. "It's also far enough from the Hamptons scene that we can go in and out when we want."
However, the hamlet's newly discovered seal of approval poses challenges for long-time residents and companies.
"The community has changed dramatically because so many more people have moved here," said Kristi Hood, owner of the Springs General Store, a store on Old Stone Highway that also rents kayaks. “People are struggling to find rental apartments, which leads to a shortage of staff. We are still open seven days a week, but we close earlier due to the limited staff. "
The influx of New Yorkers, especially those who moved here full time during the pandemic, has also added to the stresses. "You usually have downtime in the winter to prepare and restart and prepare for the season ahead, but there was no break this year," said Ms. Hood. "Other business owners say the same thing."
Eric Miller, the chef and co-owner of Rita Cantina, expressed a similar opinion. "We're a 65-seat restaurant and we have 185 reservations on a Wednesday night," he said. “It is like this every day. I am a little shocked. We have to figure out how to keep up. "