Meeting with old friend Steve Haweeli of WordHampton for lunch at the new Maison Vivienne in Southampton to discuss art, restaurants, the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, and, let’s face it, life in general, begs the question: where the heck does this story go in The Independent? Culture, art, or community news — Haweeli can easily fit into any category, a virtual chameleon in the flesh.
Steve Haweeli is indeed a renaissance man. His PR company started the same year as Indy, and in the early days, faxes (remember those?) would arrive multiple times a day from his office in Springs. He launched Hamptons Restaurant Week and Long Island Restaurant Week and is also an accomplished painter of abstractions with his own blue period, which seems to be his most successful seller.
“I just finished two more pieces in blue. I wanted to make sure I could recreate them,” he said. Some of the pieces are large and he noted that seeing one of his 4’x4’ paintings alone on a white wall in someone’s home recently gave him a thrill.
“It looked so dynamic. It made me want to move some of my own stuff around to make room for a piece myself,” he said. He called his blue art “soothing,” and ascribed its popularity possibly to that. His art can be seen at the website www.haweeli.com.
WordHampton celebrated 25 years last summer. As we dined on a beautifully prepared ahi tuna tartare and a Salad Nicoise in the gorgeous surroundings of the new inn and eatery, Haweeli talked about one of his newest accounts, somewhat outside of his usual bailiwick — a trade association in Washington, D.C. called the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association.
“Pens, pencils . . . Are there other writing instruments I’m not mentioning?” I queried.
“No, there are not,” Haweeli responded, which elicited a laugh from us both. “But these are huge companies with familiar names. Dixon, Ticonderoga, Bic, Federal Pencil, Pilot — we do all their social media. There’s an effort out there to bring handwriting back. It’s a fun account and we’ve won some awards for that.”
Haweeli comes from a background of teachers. “My mother was a stickler for handwriting,” he said, but admitted that his own penciled scribblings often elicit a head-scratching response from WordHampton’s executive vice president and partner Nicole Starr Castillo. “Please don’t tell my mom,” he joked.
Onto discussion of the East Hampton Chamber, over a delicious dessert of chocolate mousse. Haweeli said he’ll be stepping down as president at the end of his two-year run in December. “The Chamber is better than ever, and it’s only going to skyrocket,” he said. “We’re really trying to bring activity, and nightlife, and fun, back into the heart of East Hampton Village. But we’re also the Chamber for the entire Town of East Hampton.”
And now The Independent has partnered with the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce as the Lead Media Sponsor.
“I am honored and excited about our new partnership with the Independent,” said the Chamber’s executive director Steven Ringel. “Together, we are on a mission to revitalize and invigorate the Village of East Hampton. We want to bring the community back to the village and create exciting and meaningful events.”
Haweeli noted that some of the ideas for collaboration with Indy include a new village farmers market, plus the annual fall festival in Herrick Park and the spring street fair.
Ringel also threw other ideas or existing events into the works, including “music in the park, a beautification of the village with more flowers, art installations, food truck nights, movies in the park, a fantastic holiday season complete with magical lights in the village and on the Hook Mill Windmill, and the re-imagining and growing our famous Santa Parade, which this year will feature a community holiday party at the Hook Mill Windmill complete with food, drink, carolers, games, and the big Windmill lighting ceremony!”
In the meantime, Haweeli said, when he steps down, he plans to stay on the board of the Chamber. “It’s a very dedicated board,” he said. “And we’re on the move.”