I was asked last fall if I would be willing, as the founder of Dan’s Papers, to have myself auctioned off as a prize as part of a Dan’s Papers fundraiser. It would be hosted at the popular Pierre’s French restaurant in Bridgehampton.
I’d never had this done before. If it meant I would be served up at the dinner, the answer was no. But if it meant I would be among those being fed, the answer was yes.
Assured it was the latter, I did wonder who won the auction and how much I went for. Then, last Sunday, I came to Pierre’s at 6:30 p.m. to meet the winner—a blind date. This was blind for me, anyway, but not for the winner. Sort of weird.
The winner was Aleksandra Kardwell, the President of the Hamptons Employment Agency. I met her there at 6:30 p.m. and also met her husband, Ross Kardwell, who accompanied her.
Aleksandra had a salad and a duck entrée. Ross had a bowl of gazpacho and the vegetarian platter. I had the asparagus soup with a bit of bacon and oil and then a steak. I also had a rum and Coke to remind me of the Caribbean, the others had ice water.
Here’s what we talked about. We talked about charities that we support. Ross and Aleksandra are part of the Child Fund, where they send money to help support several disadvantaged children in Cambodia. They get letters. I am a supporter of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center. My wife, who was not present, was in Denver for an annual board of director’s meeting of the charity Nurse Family Partnership. We all help children’s charities.
We talked a bit about celebrities I have known, specifically Billy Joel, Alec Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut and Christie Brinkley. And we talked a bit about the young children in our lives. I have six grandchildren, they have a 13-month-old daughter named Alexa. Pictures were shown.
Perhaps the most interesting thing we talked about was the businesses we are in. All three of us had managed to make our careers owning businesses on the eastern end of Long Island. I’d founded and owned Dan’s Papers for 40 years before selling a majority interest in it to others. In my time, our headquarters was in Bridgehampton.
Aleksandra is a native of Poland. Emigrating to America 10 years ago, she soon founded a domestic staffing business called Hamptons Employment Agency, which, for example, last week provided 4 chefs, 8 servers, 6 housemen, 4 housekeepers and 2 dishwashers to a private home in this community for the weekend. The client, well-to-do—or I should say very well-to-do—lives in a large mansion and likes to have lots of friends over for weekends. Aleksandra has many other clients, too.
Ross grew up on the North Fork as one of seven children of a father who owned a personalized promotion item business called Kardwell International. Ross’s father was, at first, a magician, then an ad agency owner in Manhattan, and then he moved to an office in Mattituck. If you need customized Frisbees, beach balls, T-shirts or playing cards, you call Ross, who now is the principal manager of this business his dad founded.
We talked a lot about travel. Ross and Alekandra, together five years, went back to Poland to visit Aleksandra’s hometown and family, and they discussed the fact that Ross’s paternal grandfather was from Poland. The couple also visited the Czech Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Norway and Iceland for New Year’s Eve—looking for and finding the Northern Lights—and they have gone, separately, before they were married, to England, France, Brazil and Argentina. They’ve also visited Asia. I talked about trips I’ve taken to Guatemala, the Canary Islands, France, Maui, the Soviet Union and Germany, all in the wintertime because Dan’s Papers is not so busy that time of year.
It was a pleasure meeting Ross and Aleksandra. And I heartily recommend Pierre’s Restaurant for an evening of fine French food, a great waitstaff and Pierre himself who, for some reason, drives a bright yellow 1961 Deux Chevaux he parks out front of the restaurant.
Anybody else want to win me for dinner?