By Claire Walla
For 15 months, The Fairway Restaurant — a small white box-of-a-building connected to the Poxabogue Golf Course in Sagaponack — sat empty. After 22 years in operation, not a single side of scrambled eggs was served up. Not a single customer entered its doors. But it wasn’t because no one wanted to go.
Quite the contrary.
“We missed it terribly,” said Sag Harbor resident Joan Carlson.
For the past 20 years, Carlson and a group of nearly a dozen other women have met at Poxabogue on Tuesday mornings. They call themselves “The Tuesday Thinkers.” It’s a name which they said actually generates snickers from certain husbands who wonder what they do the other six days out of the week, but they don’t mind.
When restaurant owner Dan Murray was forced to shut his doors on March 30, 2010 because a lease agreement failed to be reached with the building’s manager, Ed Wankel, a large crop of loyal customers — including The Tuesday Thinkers — were forced to go elsewhere.
“We were like orphans caught in a storm!” Carlson continued.
That is, they were until this summer. After Southampton Town took-over the building’s management, Dan Murray very quickly entered into a new license agreement with the town. And after fully refurbishing the building’s interior, he reopened the restaurant — just like it was before.
“The first day we opened, the second customer we had walked in and said: Nothing’s different!” Murray recalled. “At first I got very upset” — Murray labored for weeks with contractors and suppliers to rebuild the restaurant after having gutted the place in the spring — “But then I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s exactly what you wanted.’”
And after a frantic summer season, during which Murray said he and his crew (largely the same as it was before Fairway closed) worked through many of the kinks inherent in getting a business up and running, everything at Poxabogue is finally business as usual.
Though Murray said at one point he had considered changing the menu, and even considered revamping the interior design, he realized that snazzy aesthetics and innovative cuisine are not what keep customers coming back for more.
“I just think, especially with everything that we went through, people wanted their place back,” Murray continued. “And the best way to give it back to them is to give it to them the way it was.”
For Niki Yektai, that meant restoring unusually low countertops. In fact, Murray insisted on keeping the pint-sized countertops, even though mid-sized stools are hard to come by; Murray ended up shipping his in from Tennessee.
“They’re the perfect height,” Yektai exclaimed. In fact, she said she and her family are so smitten with them her husband designed the counters in her son’s studio with Poxabogue in mind.
Of course, she added, counters aren’t everything. Yektai prefers the Poxabogue crowd, which she called a “lovely mix of farmers and city people; I’m very comfortable there.”
And it doesn’t hurt that she isn’t barred from spreading out her personal papers while she sips her morning coffee.
“I’m a really bad customer because I will definitely bring my whole desk with me,” she admitted. “I’ll do some bills, then I’ll do some writing, or an illustration.”
Yektai, a children’s book author, even authored one of her books, “Bears At The Beach,” atop the surface of that unusually low countertop.
An atypical allowance for most Hamptons eateries, Yektai is in good company at Poxabogue.
Across the room from The Tuesday Thinkers earlier this week sat artist Leif Hope with a stack of sketches and a pencil in hand. As he flipped through the pages of caricatures he had drawn, he pointed to several that had been sketched at a table within the small restaurant.
“I’ve done a lot of drawings here,” Hope said. And with a coy nod, he motioned to the man sitting across from him: “Most of them were while I was waiting for him.”
Bernie Goldhirsch cracked a subdued grin. Goldhirsch and Hope have been coming to Poxabogue on a regular basis for several years. They are such regulars they give a friendly wave to nearly every customer that walks by in the span of a 20-minute conversation. In fact, it was Goldhirsch who formed a petition to bring the old Poxabogue restaurant back when it closed last spring. He said he got more than 500 signatures.
“In a community where a lot of the eateries are also snobberies, you need a place like Poxabogue,” he said. “Years ago, I realized [The Hamptons] is a place that’s filled with celebrities who don’t want to be known as celebrities. Whatever that need is, Poxabogue seems to be part of it. Every town needs an ‘Eddy’s Luncheonette.’”
Just last March, Murray signed a 10-year lease with the town of Southampton.
“So we’ll be here for at least another 10 years,” he said. “If not more.”