Peter Ripka wants to ensure that Water Mill is not just a row of shops you pass on your way to another destination. Or “that place with the traffic light.” For the past year, Water Mill has been home to The Mill, a fresh take on the once-neglected Water Mill Shoppes on Montauk Highway, and Ripka is working to give people a reason to stop.
“It’s a collection of really nice, charming buildings at a traffic light with a lot of parking,” says Ripka, co-founder of Ripco Real Estate, of his initial impression of The Mill. “In football, the fundamentals are blocking and tackling. In retail real estate, it’s a traffic light with a lot of parking and a charming property.” He closed on The Mill last summer.
Throughout the course of its life, the Water Mill Shoppes had seen a steady stream of businesses come and go. The once-gray buildings, which were home to such places as Foody’s, Subway and Vitamin Shop last summer, have been given a facelift, the property re-landscaped, and new leases signed. “Every property has its own personality,” says Ripka of his decision on which businesses to bring into The Mill. SoulCycle has signed a long-term lease, and West Elm has signed on to be at The Mill through June 2016. This summer saw Surf Panda, Helmut Lang and Save Khaki United set up shop, all of which are currently at different stages of their lease terms.
The new coat of white paint was applied to the buildings of The Mill at the suggestion of a number of people, including one of the founders of SoulCycle. “There are so many options for white paint, we gave it to SoulCycle and their team of designers to let them pick,” says Ripka.
As a part of the refurbishment, Ripka re-branded the Shoppes as “The Mill.” “I wanted almost a nickname for Water Mill. I wanted it to be organic,” he notes, hoping that “Meet me at The Mill” will become a common saying for its ideal location in the middle of the Hamptons.
Ripka has a three-year plan to turn the property around. “I feel optimistic and encouraged with where we are just 12 months later,” he says. The top three categories that he would like to attract are health and beauty aids (which could include a makeup store or a salon), a restaurant and athletic apparel. One of challenges of the property is its seasonality, though he hopes to make The Mill a year-round destination. “It’s a labor of love to be leasing a property that you’re a part of,” says Ripka. He’s still formulating his future plans, including “perhaps doing community events” in the courtyard.
“It’s been awesome,” says Alana Grim, the general manager of West Elm at The Mill, of her first summer. “People have been so nice and so kind and so positive.” Ripka has also been pleased with the addition of West Elm, as a home furnishings store was one of the key categories he wanted to fill. Echoing Ripka’s reasoning for purchasing the property, Grim noted the perks of being at The Mill are the traffic light, which makes it easy to get in and out, the phenomenal parking (there are spots for 154 cars) and the great neighbors. As they continue to engrain themselves in the community, West Elm will be hosting popups with local artisans this fall.
Jeff Fagen also opened his Surf Panda this summer, choosing The Mill because of its great street exposure. He notes that, “I think the future of The Mill is contingent upon adding some great casual restaurants and food concessions to the mix. The location is tricky—it’s a destination shopping area—so the challenge is to draw people to it in a meaningful way.”
“I want a restaurant bad,” says Ripka. The ideal Memorial Day 2015 would yield companies in the aforementioned three categories, and Ripka notes that all suggestions are welcome. Though all of the shops currently in The Mill have a city aesthetic, he’s open to leasing to local businesses as well.
“Back to the football reference—If the ball was at the 20 yard line, we’re driving. We’re at the 40,” says Ripka with optimism.