David Waksman has a major hold on the hospitality market in one of the world’s most exclusive resort towns
By Stephanie Wilson
Photography by Eric Striffler
“They come out to enjoy the Hamptons, to chase a girl or a boy, to chase their boss, to chase a social life, to chase an activity. With that in mind, they need to have comfortable rooms from which they can launch their chase.”
The roster of individuals who call the tip of Long Island home is literally a VIP guide to the barons of industry, a who’s who of both society and celebrity, from Ron Perelman, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren to The Hiltons, Barbara Walters, and Martha Stewart.
With this concentration of dynamic denizens, why is it that there are no hospitality options fit for the likes that frequent the area? That is the same question that was plaguing David Waksman roughly ten years ago when he stumbled across the fact that the Hamptons, despite the impressive pedigree of its visitors, have virtually no hospitality to speak of.
The cities that comprise the east end of Long Island have strict regulations about the construction of new resorts in their pristine beachfront towns, but Waksman saw this as an opportunity to construct an empire. He had a vision of a hospitality group that could dominate in the thriving market, yet had a keen sense of what would work within the area’s restrictions.
To circumvent the Hamptons’ stringent construction regulations, he set his eye on properties that had fallen into a state of neglect. “I was able to find several somewhat discarded resorts,” he explains. “I bought all the major hotel properties in the area.” Waksman knew that buying just one property would not make a mark in the Hamptons, but combining all the properties under one set of management would. “I knew if I purchased them all, I would own a significant market share of one of the primary resort locations of the world,” he states.
Waksman is now proud owner of Hamptons Resort and Hospitality (HRH), which owns and operates The Atlantic, The Bentley, and The Capri, as well as Hampton Hall, the largest event space in the Hamptons, HRH Catering, and The Pink Elephant. These properties are all located within two miles of each other in Southampton, operating out of one main office with one main staff. “Even though it’s four physical locations, it operates as one hotel,” says Waksman. He has managed to create a full-scale resort, complete with 132 rooms, spa services, grand banquet hall, upscale nightclub, and catering company.
His success is the result of knowing his market, his customers, and his product. While skeptics abounded, blatantly wondering who would stay at a motel in the Hamptons, Waksman was unwavering in his pursuit of the ideal relaxed place for vacationers to lay their heads, ensuring that his rooms provided the best place to do so. Upon acquiring the properties, Waksman went to work renovating, making sure to celebrate the humble facilities and the relaxed locale, putting a big focus on ensuring that the rooms, specifically the beds, were as comfortable as possible.
“People don’t come out to the Hamptons to hang out in hotel lobbies,” he explains. “They come out to enjoy the Hamptons, to chase a girl or a boy, to chase their boss, to chase a social life, to chase an activity. With that in mind, they need to have comfortable rooms from which they can launch their chase.”
Each of the four properties brings something different to the group, eventually covering all the needs of virtually any guest, whether they are celebrities, families with children, business folks on corporate retreats, or guests of one of the properties’ major events. The centerpiece is The Atlantic, which also houses the management office. Sitting on five and a half acres of pristine property, the Atlantic exudes a fifties retro-chic vibe, based on the motel-like structure with a gorgeous pool in the center that has hosted events like the world premier of MGM’s Uptown Girls starring Brittany Murphy.
The Bentley offers rooms that are larger than some typical Manhattan apartments, each coming in at over 750 square feet. Each of the units boasts a private patio or terrace. The Capri caters to the sophisticated nightlife crowd, thanks to The Pink Elephant, the celebrity-infused nightclub that provides exclusive bottle service to their exclusive clientele, which on any weekend can include the likes of Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, and Mary J. Blige. As the saying goes, “You never know who you will see at the Capri.”
In reality, the same can be said at any of the Hamptons Resort and Hospitality properties. “Our big joke is that people come to the Hamptons to raise funds for the same reasons that criminals rob banks; that’s where the money is,” Waksman laughs. “Events are a huge part of our business,” Waksman explains. HRH even has a full time wedding and event planner on staff. And what better place to host fundraisers or other A-list events than at Hampton Hall, an 8,000 square foot venue in the heart of Southampton that can seat up to 450 for dinner, and host 750 for cocktails. Voted ‘Best place to host an event’ by Hamptons Magazine, Hampton Hall has held its fair share of A-listers; the first event to grace the locale was the star-studded worldwide premier of Legally Blonde 2. In fact, the premier of Legally Blonde took place at the Capri!
The hotel has implemented various concepts that have grown along with the Waksman family; in the early years, Waksman and his wife Tina established the Urban Pooch Getaway Program, complete with a doggy ‘cocktail’ party. When Tina and her husband became the proud parents of Evan Lee and Hannah Soo, the Hamptons Baby Beach Club began. This summer marks the start of The Hamptons Camp Concierge.
Waksman is a firm believer in offering his guests a comfortable and innovative way to escape their busy city lives, which is what most people head to the Hamptons for.
“A big part of the Hamptons is that you have to relax, and take your jacket and tie off,” he says. His properties give you the perfect place to do so.