By Emily J. Weitz
Down Bay Street, past the boats bobbing in their slips, there’s a boat yard without pretense. Lou Grignon has owned and operated Sag Harbor Yacht Yard for the better part of his daughters’ lives, and the girls have long been visible playing among the hardware in the shop. But as a family business, the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard has always been open to the young women’s personal passions. One year Lou’s daughter Camille operated an ice cream stand out of the boat yard. And this year, his other daughter Elizabeth has brought her love of vintage clothing and jewelry to the unlikely setting of the Yacht Yard shop.
When you walk down the gravel driveway and in through the front door of the shop, you’ll see the familiar sites: Robert (known around town as Bobcat) is behind the counter, and all the necessary boat items like life jackets and special screws can be found. But look to the left and you’ll see glam mannequins, go go boots, and the kind of jewelry you’d expect to see on Marilyn Monroe.
“My dad has owned this business for almost 20 years,” says Elizabeth, “and when we first got the store, it was just all boat parts. Then they started incorporating things to make your boat more comfortable.”
Cushions, cup holders and other accessories for the boat blend into antiques related to boating.
“My dad always liked marine antiques,” says Elizabeth. “It fit in with the men’s stuff. But he knows my mother and I have a huge passion for vintage and antiques, and he was happy to see us take some of the stuff we’ve been hoarding. He’s supportive, and is always looking to get different types of people in here.”
Many of the people who have stumbled upon Lil Darlin have been pleasantly surprised. Lots of women work on the yachts in Sag Harbor, and they’ll come in for a part and find a purse.
A jewelry case displays Lucite pieces from the ‘50s, Bakelight from the ‘20s, and antique rhinestones from the ‘30s.
“I’ve found these things at local thrift stores all over Long Island,” says Elizabeth. “East Hampton, Riverhead, Patchogue…”
The process of finding these treasures is, for Elizabeth, the best part.
“When you go thrift store shopping,” she says, “you never know what you’re going to get. It’s like Christmas when you’re a kid. You have no idea what you’ll find.”
Still, she’s methodical in her hunt.
“I always go for dresses and accessories first,” she explains. “Those are pieces that can fit a lot of bodies and styles. And they’re longer-lasting than casual clothes, which people work in.”
If she has any time and energy leftover, that’s when she’ll head to the vintage t-shirts, which can be absolutely priceless, but take a lot of patience.
“I recognize fabrics, zippers, and tags,” she says. “Even if it looks vintage, only certain zippers were used in a different period. And you can look at floral prints: these days, prints might be three colors. Back in the ‘70s, many colors would be used.”
Each piece in the shop is hand-picked and totally unique, like the funky band uniform with a little tassel on the butt, or the cropped blouse that Elizabeth describes as “so Dazed and Confused”.
Of all the eras she has researched and sampled, Elizabeth has a particular affinity for the ‘30s and the ‘70s.
“In the ‘30s, everything fit so glamorously. The fabrics were amazing. It really flattered a woman’s femininity, no matter what size or shape.”
The ‘70s, on the other hand, “were just fun. Cut off tops and big bellbottoms. High waisted jeans that fit the butt cute… It was a sexy, carefree and easy lifestyle.”
Elizabeth has priced everything in the shop reasonably.
“It’s not a museum,” she says. “I want people to buy things.”
Therefore, most of the items are less than $50.
As a woman who grew up in Montauk and has been spending her days in Sag Harbor for nearly 20 years, it’s important to Elizabeth to keep that casual identity.
“Sag Harbor has always been more family, more affordable, more funky,” she says. “There have always been consignment stores in town. So Lil Darlin’ follows the neighborhood.”