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Jul 18, 2017 11:45 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Sam's Beverage Place Opens For East Hampton Community And Owners' Son

The Iden family; Heidi, left, Shana, Sam, and Mitchell outside their new business, Sam's Beverage Place. JON WINKLER
Jul 18, 2017 3:25 PM

Sitting in a rolling black leather chair, with his eyes locked on a computer screen, Sam Iden focuses on a Google Maps page—something he’ll be using a lot to plan delivery routes for his new job. Fortunately, he can take time out to swing around and beam a friendly smile as he explains what he likes most about his work.

“On the computer,” the 23-year-old says before quickly swinging back to the computer screen.

“It makes him really happy. Nothing makes Sam happier than telling him how proud you are,” Heidi Iden, Sam’s mother, said this week of her son, who has autism. “He loves to do a good job, and there’s nothing greater than to see him smile. He’s a man of few words but has a great smile.”

Her son’s new place of work also happens to be named after him. Sam’s Beverage Place is a new convenience store that officially opened last week on Race Lane in East Hampton. The shop is a friendly space, with beef jerky, Doritos and other snacks available for purchase in addition to craft beers and a great many other beverages.

The open space also allows customers to meet the store’s namesake, as well as the shop’s owners, Mitchell and Heidi Iden, Sam’s parents. The husband and wife opened the store to provide employment for Sam Iden—an idea his father said came when he and Ms. Iden realized that their son needed to find a place to work after he finished school.

Mr. Iden explained that Sam has limited expressive capability but good receptive ability when it comes to understanding people.

“At a certain point in time, you realize that he’s 15 or 16 years old, and there’s more to life than school, so where the hell is he going to be?” Mr. Iden said. “So you try to find him vocational work, and you find that it’s very difficult. My wife and I decided we really needed to do something for him.”

“You’re thinking about your child and that aspect of getting him through each stage of life—you realize that he’s not always going to be a child,” Ms. Iden said.

Her husband said that their son, accompanied by an aide, used to work in different places for two to three hours one day a week. Mr. Iden said that Sam went from job to job for brief periods until he began working for Peconic Beverage East in East Hampton three years ago. The younger Mr. Iden would replenish the stock and straighten items on the shelves, and he was doing well, the aide told his father.

When Peconic Beverage East went on the market, Mr. Iden tried to buy it but did not succeed. So he and Ms. Iden decided the next best option would be to open a business of their own for their son.

After searching for a local spot, Mr. Iden, said that he found the former site of the Pritam & Eames furniture store, which closed in 2014. In the meantime, he teamed up with Gary Moller, who used to be the manager of Peconic Beverage East and now is managing Sam’s Beverage Place.

“I think it gave you a dose of reality,” Mr. Moller said, referring to Sam working at Peconic Beverage East. “I give Mitchell and Heidi and his family enormous credit. It takes an enormous amount of patience. It’s a 24/7 responsibility, and those of us who are fortunate to be healthy, I think it made you step back and help you appreciate your own life more.”

Mr. Iden refers to the shop as a convenience store along the lines of Speedway gas stations, but with a local touch.

“I wanted to do something a little different, because we’re in East Hampton, so we’re trying to cater to the different seasonal interests that come out here,” he said. “Obviously, the summer season is the biggest, so I’ve also tried to bring in products that relate to summer. You’ll see cooler equipment, beach chairs and party goods in addition to having the groceries of a convenience store.”

The store officially opened at 29 Race Lane on Monday, July 10, and will be open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Mr. Iden said he doesn’t want to overwork his son, and that he’d be happy having him on job three to four hours a day from four to five days each week. That way he can still fill his day with other activities, including working at the South Fork Bakery, which offers paying jobs to local residents with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well as working out, taking swimming lessons at the local YMCA, and riding bikes and hiking with his father. He’s also volunteered at the East Hampton Food Pantry, the YMCA East Hampton RECenter, the Amagansett IGA and the Retreat.

“He is a very happy person, which is very rewarding to us as parents,” Mr. Iden said of his son—and, now, his employee.

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What a wonderful family! Best of luck in your new venture.
By homesweethome (2), East Hampton on Jul 18, 17 6:53 PM
When parents care, children thrive. Best of luck to the Iden family.
By Buddy1 (1), East hampton on Jul 19, 17 6:49 AM
What a great thing to do ! Hope it 's a smashing success!!
By sukie (4), sag harbor on Jul 19, 17 7:48 AM
Best of luck to you in this wonderful venture! Sam is lucky to have such dedicated parents!
By Shirleyr (1), Southampton on Jul 29, 17 9:35 PM
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