One of the things North Haven artist April Gornik loves most about coming into Sag Harbor Village is the smell of roasting coffee beans emanating from Java Nation, a veritable Sag Harbor institution tucked into the Shopping Cove in the heart of the business district.
For 17 years patrons have enjoyed Cheryl and Andres Bedini’s coffee shop, where beans are roasted fresh every day. While tucking into copies of local newspapers and The New York Times, customers would often be treated to the debates of die-hard patrons loudly discussing the news of the world and the Village of Sag Harbor while sucking down their third or fourth cup of coffee.
However, after January 31, Java Nation customers will no longer be able to enjoy their coffee while sitting on one of the café’s stools or in its iconic window seat. On Tuesday, Andres confirmed that while he was in negotiation to renew his lease on the space, property owner Bruce Slovin informed him that Tisha Collette, of Collette Designer Consignment, was given a lease for the space.
Bedini said he was told Collette would help create “a new upscale environment,” and had agreed to fund an extensive renovation and pay more in terms of rent.
Bedini was told he would need to leave as his lease expires on February 1. He said he is committed to reopening Java Nation in Sag Harbor, and hopes to find his new location on Main Street before his lease is up in order to have a seamless transition.
“I don’t want to close for even a day,” said Bedini on Tuesday.
However, he added that he may have to roast his coffee off-site, which means the days of Sag Harbor smelling of roasted beans are likely over.
On Monday, Collette said she plans to renovate the space — “a full gutting,” she said — in February and reopen in March. In addition to an espresso bar, Collette said she will offer a selection of teas, a large assortment of pastries as well as salads and soups created off-site.
The change is one several taking place in Sag Harbor’s business district, which Bedini noted has more shuttered stores than he has seen in 17 years of business in the village.
The building many locals call “Fort Apache,” including the former Cigar Bar, is mostly empty. There are several spaces also available on Route 114, as well as on Madison Street. The Grenning Gallery building on Washington Street is also for sale, and BikeHampton recently lost their Main Street space.
At the end of the summer, the Whalers Cleaners & Tailors closed after being open since 1962. Taken over by Reno Salsedo in 1994, the business has since had a “for rent” sign in the window with a Manhattan number for interested parties.
His brother, Dan Salsedo operated the Ice Cream Club and Vincenzo’s Pizza in the same building, and also shuttered his doors this fall.
On Monday, Salsedo said he closed because the rent was too expensive, and after 14 years of business he was ready to move on.
“I got out while the getting was good,” he said.
Salsedo was fortunate in that he was able to sell the remainder of his lease through local commercial property owner Hal Zwick, who is also the director of commercial real estate for Devlin McNiff.
Zwick said he expected to close on that lease this week, and that as soon as the property became available there was interest.
“There are people looking to do business in Sag Harbor,” said Zwick.
He added that with the recession ending, and commercial real estate too expensive in East Hampton Village, many clients are looking to Sag Harbor or Bridgehampton to set up shop.
Zwick acknowledged that the price of doing business in Sag Harbor is getting more expensive.
“You have a situation where you are dependent on your landlord,” he said. “They are often willing to extend your lease, but the rents are going up and that is something local businesses will have to watch. It is supply and demand. I got 50 calls for Danny’s place when it closed.”
Zwick said he does not see Sag Harbor Village morphing into another East Hampton Village.
“I don’t think we will find a Tiffany’s here, but we will see some of the smaller downtown shops from Manhattan coming to Sag Harbor when they want to open a shop in the Hamptons,” he said.
On Wednesday, Save Sag Harbor board member Jane Young said the organization was convening a meeting after the holidays to discuss the changes happening in downtown Sag Harbor.
“We are aware of what is going on and are brainstorming, but this is a complex problem,” she said.
For a local businessman like Salsedo, the writing is already on the wall.
“Without a doubt, Sag Harbor is changing and it’s inevitable,” he said. “I think eventually it will be just like East Hampton.”