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DAN'S PAPERS, June 11, 2010 Page 23

Who’s Here

Janet Flora

By Janet Flora There is a new Peter Elliot Store on Jobs Lane. You may remember that this is not the first time a Peter Elliot Store has been in Southampton; there was one that closed more than seven years ago after a two-year presence. It is owned by Elliot Rabin, who owns Peter Elliot Men and Peter Elliot Women on Madison Avenue, as well as Peter Elliot Blue on Lexington Rabin opened his first store on Second Avenue in 1977. He started that store with a partner who’s first name was Peter. Thus the Peter Elliot name. But the partner soon decided he didn’t want to be in retail and left Rabin with the store, no merchandise, and little money. Rabin said, “I asked my father who owned a retail store in Charleston, South Carolina for a loan, and he said, ‘No I told you not to go into retail.’” When the partner quit and his father wouldn’t lend him the money, Rabin said to his one employees, Larry Wertheimer, who was 17 at the time, “Come on. We’re going to Southampton, and we’re going to get something to sell.” They did make that trip to Southampton over July 4 weekend in 1977, and found themselves at Henry Lehr. At that time, Henry Lehr was selling a line called Go Silk and people were lined up outside to buy it. Rabin found where to buy the merchandise, took his last $5,000, and bought a lot of the same items being sold at Henry Lehr. Rabin and Wertheimer packed two checker cabs full of merchandise and opened for business the next day. In two months, Elliot Rabin had turned his $5,000 into $50,000. Besides his good business acumen and determination, Rabin, a modest Southern gentleman who stands just 5’7”, had a lucky break. “Larry Wertheimer’s father was a game hunter and he gave us this old mangled lion’s head,” said Rabin. “It was the ‘70s; I wanted to be politically incorrect, so in my window I had a woman mannequin holding a rifle, with her foot on the lion’s head, and I had a male mannequin’s holding a camera. Well, soon after, an animal activist threw a brick through the window and my store ended up on the front page of The New York Times!” However, it’s not just determination, good business sense, and a little bit of luck that got the now 68-year-old entrepreneur where he is today. Before opening that first store back in 1977, the Charleston, South Carolina native was educated at The Citadel and the University of London, where he studied law. Rabin did not complete his formal education in London, but instead decided to hitchhike and see the world. The jaunt even-

Elliot Rabin, Designer

Elliot stores have a 24-hour emergency service phone number for special clients and concierges at fine hotels. “It all started because one night in 1979 after 10:00 p.m., I was doing some paperwork and cleaning up and a businessman called the store in a panic because the airline had lost his luggage,” Rabin said. “The man had an important meeting the next day. When I answered the phone the man said ‘you must be the janitor.’ I said, ‘yes I am but I can help you, come on over.’” The businessman bought two suits that night, and three weeks later he came back and spent $10,000. Besides the great merchandise that will be in the Southampton store, Rabin brings that love of retailing, and old-fashioned customer relations to Jobs Lane. “Nothing feels better than a customer who comes back wearing the same shirt after 15 years and tells me it’s hard to wear it out,” he said. According to Rabin, the new Southampton store will be different. “The first Southampton store didn’t work because I blew it. I introduced women’s clothes into a space that was less than 600 square feet. That doesn’t work. Men do not want to shop in a store that size that also has women’s clothes,” he said. This new store will carry men’s clothes only. Another departure is that in this store, Rabin has a partner and a brand new line of clothing. He and Chaz Bertrand of Atlantis Weather Gear have joined together to form Atlantis by Peter Elliot, which is the name of the store. Rabin says of Bertrand and his team, “These guys are brilliant at what they do; they’re sailors, they know the sea, and they make the best sailing gear around.” In fact, they have been contracted to design the gear for the United States’ sailing team in the next summer Olympics. Rabin already sells Atlantis jackets and vests in his store in Manhattan. “Customers love them,” he says, “they’re good looking, practical and can go from sailing to skiing.” In addition to Atlantis outerwear, the Southampton store will carry sportswear, as well as Peter Elliot’s signature cashmere sweaters and shirts from Italy, and some footwear like an all rubber sneaker that resembles the old Converse sneaker, and a rubber loafer that looks like an old Bass Weejun. What you won’t find at Peter Elliot in Southampton or Manhattan is anything made in China. Rabin told me one of his retail mantras is: “Our merchandise is finer—ain’t nothing made in China.” Rabin also likes to quote the British economist John Maynard Keys

“I asked my father, who owned a store in Charleston, for a loan and he said, ‘No. I told you not to go into retail.’” tually took him to New York where his sister Eileen had settled. He began his retail career there, at Bloomingdale’s, and then sharpened his designing talents at Pucci, Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta. Certainly Rabin’s experience in designing and retail became the foundation for his future success, but he credits something else as well: catering to the customer. Many of his customers have been coming back so many years that he now sees their children and grandchildren. The Peter

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Dan's Papers June 11, 2010  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers June 11, 2010  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...