Bridgehampton Banana Republic Mourned by Hamptons Old Timers

Bridgehampton Banana Republic, circa 1937
Bridgehampton Banana Republic, circa 1937

Too many longstanding Hamptons businesses are closing of late. Southampton Stationary recently closed after 43 years in business, The Golden Eagle in East Hampton was forced to move this month after decades on Gingerbread Lane and the Outdoor Store in East Hampton announced it would close for good last month.

Just this week, longtime Southampton Village restaurant Barrister’s announced that Sunday would be its last day open; Tide Runners in Hampton Bays is going off to sea with a farewell bash on Saturday and, most devastating of all, the Bridgehampton Banana Republic closed its doors for the last time yesterday.

It’s incredibly sad to see any of these inveterate East End businesses shuttered after so many years serving the needs of our community, but Banana Republic’s closing ends generations of tradition on the South Fork, Hamptons locals say.

Old man Bayman Gary Lester
Bayman Gary Lester, Photo:

“I’m just really sorry to see it go,” 74-year-old bayman and Springs resident Gary Miller said after hearing the news on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just me who shopped there,” the Bonacker said. “My father, his father and his father’s father bought all their clothes at Banana—that store kept my family warm and dry for generations on the water.”

Architect Gerald Marks
Architect Gerald Marks, Photo: Garry Knight

Gerald Marks, a 67-year-old architect and Southampton resident also felt the loss this week. “That building in Bridgehampton has been through a lot of changes over the last two centuries, but Banana Republic never left,” Marks said. “These are tough times if such a stalwart symbol of the original Hamptons is finally coming to an end,” he continued, noting, “I have a photograph taken during the original construction hanging in my home.”

Wainscott farmer Louis Mears
Louis Mears, Photo: Alex E. Proimos

Wainscott farmer Louis Mears, 88, said he outfitted all his laborers in Banana Republic clothes. “I loved how they never made anything bigger than a size 38 waist,” Mears said. “It kept my men from getting complacent and fat—kept them working hard—lest they be naked in the field, and no one wants that.”

In late 2014, the Bridgehampton Historical Society will be exhibiting photographs, artifacts and clothing from Banana Republic’s long Hamptons history. In the months preceding the show, BHS is asking anyone who’s interested to come in and share their stories about the store on video, to be screened during the exhibition and saved for posterity.

Building Banana Republic in Bridgehampton
Building Banana Republic in Bridgehampton, Courtesy Gerald Marks
Historic Bridgehampton Banana Republic postcard
Bridgehampton Banana Republic building during the prosperous 19th century.

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