Polo & Wine: Jon Gruen’s Adventure With Clothes at East Hampton Polo

I am sitting at a table in Pierre’s Restaurant in Bridgehampton having lunch with Jon Gruen, the owner of the Optika eyewear boutique on Main Street East Hampton, and he is telling me about a dinner he had at his home in Sag Harbor with a friend who edits a national magazine based in New York. This friend talks with her hands. Jon, in telling me this story, talks with his hands here in Pierre’s.

“This happened just before the horse show last summer,” Jon says. “It’s pretty funny.”

At the time, Jon was sitting across from his friend. His wife Joan is on his left. On his right is his friend’s husband. Suddenly, with a swoop of her hand, his friend accidentally knocks over Jon’s wine glass, sending red wine down all over his white pants. Jon leaps up. People run to get things to clean the pants with and Jon does as best he can with them.

“I’ve ruined your pants!” she says.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Jon says. “We’ll get the rest of it off later.” And so they sit back down and finish up dinner.

Two weeks later, Jon gets a gift in the mail from his friend. It’s a pair of pants. A note attached says “Sorry I ruined your pants. Hope this makes up for it.”

But the pants inside the package are not his size.

I really appreciated she would do this, Jon tells me now in Pierre’s. I called her up and thanked her. Then I took the pants and the box it came in toP East Hampton’s Polo Country Store to change the pants for the right size. I show them to a clerk there.

Ah, the clerk says, you got these pants before the sale began. We will take them in at the price paid for them, which is $375. And you could get the new pants for just $105, although as it happens, we are out of them. Come back in a few days. Or maybe you’d like to get something else.

“So here I was,” Jon told me, “with the old white pants in a bag in one hand and a gift card for $375 in the other. And I think—why walk out with the card? Why not just use it up right now?”

Everything in the store is on sale. 70% and 80% off. He had come at the right time.

“So I walk around and I get a white knit sweater for $175 marked down to $60, a pair of shorts for $125 marked down to $45, three polo shirts for $80 each marked down to $35 and I put all that on the counter with the store credit card.”

The clerk rings all this stuff up.

“On sale, it comes to $210,” she says. “So I can give you a new card for $165.”

So now I walk around a second time, and this time I buy this gorgeous winter white Polo jacket for $300 on sale for $169 and bring that back to the counter with my card.

“That’s more than the card by $4,” she says. I pay the $4.

Jon makes a swoop with his right arm here at Pierre’s barely missing his own glass of red wine. And I’m thinking, if he hits his glass with a backward stroke and spills it on his own pants, that’s got nothing to do with me. But if he nails it with a forward stroke, either his glass or mine, and it splashes on my pants and ruins them, he’s in the soup.

He does neither. And I realize my pair of pants, some chinos, came from Kmart and cost about $13. I know this because the kid left the label on.

Might have been better if I wore dressier slacks to this lunch.

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