The hordes of European renters descending on the Hamptons this year have a new reason to love New York’s posh summer playground: they can pay cash in Euros for food, lodging and even fine art at some places.
A sign in the window of Loaves & Fishes cook shop in Bridgehampton, as first reported by Plum Hamptons TV, shows how far the mighty dollar has declined. It reads, “We now accept euros. Bills only. Change given in U.S. dollars.”
Loaves & Fishes owner Sybille van Kempen said euros are welcome at any of her businesses. These include her inn in Bridgehampton, gourmet take-out shop in Sagaponack and a second cook shop in Garden City.
Retailers are responding to a massive influx of foreigners capitalizing on the weak dollar — 19 percent of Hamptons brokerage Town & Country Real Estate leases are to foreigners, up from 5 percent the prior year, as reported by the New York Sun. All those Europeans tourists are expected to keep Hamptons retail cash registers busy, as they have aided Manhattan retailers during the winter season.
“We see euros when people have euros in their pocket, so now they are spending them in our store instead of carrying them around,” van Kempen said. “It has shown itself to be advantageous to our customers — Europeans or Americans that tire of the ever bobbing exchange rate of euros.”
Loaves & Fishes’ Main Street neighbor in Bridgehampton, the new outpost of Manhattan’s Mark Borghi Fine Art, also plans to accept euros. Other businesses are likely to follow suit as the summer season gets underway.
This summer is expected to be busy for Hamptons businesses, not only because of foreigners taking advantage of the weak dollar but because high gas prices are expected to convince more New Yorkers to take shorter trips.
The influx of foreigners could prop up a slowing sales market. Home sales on Long Island’s East End fell 35 percent in the first quarter compared to the prior quarter, according to a report by Miller Samuel for Prudential Douglas Elliman.
Accepting European currency was once unthinkable here, and this spring marks the first year van Kempen has done so during nearly three decades in business. Facing a weak economy that’s pinching U.S. consumers, entrepreneurs say they want to welcome the growing number of foreign tourists renting Hamptons properties and shopping in local stores. Prices for Europeans are nearly a third cheaper with the euro-dollar conversion.
“I wouldn’t want to discourage a sale in any way because of a currency issue,” says Lynn Dunham, gallery assistant at Mark Borghi, which specializes in mid-Century American modernism.
Few area businesses have jumped on the euro train so far. Even some Hamptons players with a European sensibility, such as clothing retailer Calypso, have no plans to turn Main Street into the 8th arrondissement.
Nor is every business well suited to accept euros. Companies that rely on big-ticket sales, as Borghi does, often receive payment by check or credit card rather than a fat wad of bills.
Merchants who sell items for a few hundred dollars or less, and who buy goods in euros themselves, stand to benefit the most from accepting foreign currency in their Hamptons registers. That’s the case for van Kempen. Last Saturday, a customer paid euros for her $100-a-pound lobster salad, a bargain at 64.72 euros a pound at the current rate, which is what van Kempen charges.
“The person may not have wanted to buy lobster salad, but because they had euros that may have encouraged them to spend a bit more and treat themselves,” she says.