If you take a stroll along Main Street in Sag Harbor and step into In Home, you can’t help but feel, well, right at home. It’s no exaggeration.
Going on its 27th year, the store is an artfully packed treasure trove of sleek and useful modern home goods and gifts, from Le Creuset pots and non-stick Scan Pans from Denmark, to Rosenthal dinnerware, Chilewich mats, unique kitchen and bathroom items, luxurious bedding and a selective array of modern furniture.
But it is also the vibe created by storeowners David Brogna and his husband of 33 years John Scocco that has maintained that welcoming feeling. Whether you’re scoring a cash-n-carry sale item or making a higher end purchase from the showroom of furniture and lighting upstairs, everyone is treated like family.
What’s the best part about having a home store Out East for so many years?
“The people,” says Brogna without hesitation. “Retail is a social business and if you don’t like people, this is not the business to be in,” he emphasizes.
He should know. With his decades of retail experience, coming up through the ranks at Macy’s and A&S department stores in New York City, Brogna not only brings a stellar background in retail management and design to the business, he was a professor at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) for 29 years, where he designed the curriculum and taught product development for the home.
“The joke I always told my students is the way I got into home was when I was hired as a manager at Macy’s,” says Brogna. “It was when I first started — at the Flatbush Macy’s. They had an opening in apparel and they had an opening in housewares. They looked at me, they said, ‘He’s a guy, he can lift boxes, put him in housewares,’” he recalls with a laugh.
The loyal clientele at In Home over the years has spanned generations. Part of what’s helped the continuity, says Brogna, is his teaching and the fact that he keeps in touch with about 50% of his former students who help keep him “in touch with young and new.”
“There’s 140 different companies that we buy from, so that’s what makes the mix, and a lot of them, I have to say, my graduates are in; they are contacting me and saying, ‘Oh, look what’s going on in the market, check this out,’” says Brogna, Not surprisingly, he says, “A lot of my graduates are also my sales reps.”
In addition to forging lasting relationships with manufacturers, designers, reps, and customers, the success story of In Home over the years is largely rooted in real estate.
“When John and I decided to move out here (from Queens to Noyac, in 1994) we said we have to have a reason to be here,” says Brogna, adding, “It was my dream, to own a store.” In 1996, the team leased space in East Hampton on Main Street (“where the old shoe store was and next to where the current White’s Pharmacy is”). After six years, when the landlord jacked up the rent, Brogna told a real estate broker, “We either close, or you find us a building.” She did.
When they bought the building at 132 Main Street in Sag Harbor in 2002, it was more than a fixer-upper.
“At the time, nobody wanted it,” recalls Brogna. “Sag Harbor wasn’t yet at the point where people wanted to be here,” he adds. Brogna and his partner completely rebuilt the whole interior, gutting it down to the brick walls and putting in floors and a roof.
When In Home first opened, Brogna noticed that “everything was country out here,” so he decided to do contemporary in the store “since no one seemed to be doing that.”
“You always look for a void in the marketplace and we were aimed to that void,” he says. It worked. With limited retail space, the first order of business was to pair down the merchandise by color.
“We just do basically white, gray, taupes and blacks and that right away edits down so it immediately gives you a certain look that people appreciate,” says Brogna who believes that “you don’t want to compete with the outdoors … which is so important out here — let that be what colors the home and you do your thing so it’s a bit neutral and you can add pops of color.”
The same goes for dinnerware. “The Rosenthal loft dinnerware has been a mainstay of ours for over 20 years,” says Brogna “It’s a clean, simple look and doesn’t interfere with the food or the décor … let the food be the excitement, the point is to present it, not to take away from it.”
In its own quiet, subdued way, In Home has become a mainstay on Main Street.
“Sag is still a small town,” says Brogna, who once served as vice president of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, along with Lisa Field, owner of the Sag Harbor Variety Store, who was president. “The shopkeepers are the ones that own the businesses, they’re there, and yes, there are a few stores that are what we would say a chain but they’re smaller and they operate like small town too because of the location. So I think that’s important about Sag — it became a small village for the Hamptons.”
At the end of the day, what makes Brogna happy is “that people had a good time at the store.”
“I always said the thing that we have is a narrative,” explains Brogna. “You know Jake (Ruehl); he’s great, so Jake became part of our narrative … or Kathy Muller … it’s like everybody that has worked for us becomes part of our narrative of the store. So when people come in they’re not just coming in — yes, they’re looking at wonderful product because that’s a part of it — but the other part of it is they know who we are and they come in to see us … out here (some people) they don’t have it where their primary homes are, so this becomes their community. I think it was Lisa’s daughter (Lisa Field) who one day said to Lisa, ‘You know, Mom, we’re the celebrities here, because they want to know us — because we’re the community.’”
In Home is located at 132 Main Street, Sag Harbor. 631-725-7900. Autumn hours: closed on Tuesdays. For more information, visit: inhomesagharbor.com