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Hamptons businesses hope for August spending surge

Friends shop for dresses at Diane Von Furstenberg's

Friends shop for dresses at Diane Von Furstenberg's store in Southampton. Credit: Newsday File Photo / Danielle Finkelstein

The June gloom has faded. The July jinx is over. Now the owners of stores, hotels and restaurants across the Hamptons are hoping an August spending surge will salvage the summer.

At the Piano Barn in East Hampton, owner Mike Scainetti says sales and rentals of his $10,000-to-$50,000 pianos are down 40 percent this summer. Customers are demanding such steep discounts that Scainetti says he wouldn't make a profit.

He's staying afloat by tuning pianos in people's homes. "If I were strictly a retail business," Scainetti said, "I'd be out of business."

A weekend visitor driving by restaurants in the Hamptons wouldn't notice the economy is tight. On the first Saturday in August, Turtle Creek in East Hampton had a line of 30 people waiting for tables.

But restaurateurs say once the crowds get seated, they're paying attention to prices.

"Anybody that tells you spending isn't down is not in touch with their business," said Mark Smith, who owns four restaurants in the Hamptons. At his most expensive place, Nick & Toni's in East Hampton, diners are shying away from $300 bottles of Bordeaux they once preferred and spending $50 or so on wine.

"Conspicuous consumption is not in vogue - what's in vogue is being conservative with your dollars, even if you have money," Smith said.

Not everyone is pinched. Hampton Luxury Liner, which runs six buses between Manhattan and Montauk, is doing so well that it has ordered three more buses.

"No matter what the economy does, people bought their summer shares or they own their houses, so they're going to come," said Michael Schoolman, vice president of the company, based in Bohemia.

Jill Tonkel, who lives in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, decided to economize this year by bringing her family of five to her sister's house in Amagansett for a week, instead of renting a place as they had in the past.

But she found that "economizing" in the Hamptons is a relative matter. On a foggy day last week, their families went to East Hampton Bowl for an hour or so. By the time they'd paid for bowling and food, they'd spent $200.

"We're being careful," Tonkel said. "But I can't quite say we're saving money."

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