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Aug 1, 2017 2:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Clothing Companies Rally Behind Sag Harbor Partnership's Campaign To Buy Cinema Building

Aug 1, 2017 5:25 PM

For the most part, the Sag Harbor Partnership—the nonprofit looking to buy and restore the fire-ravaged Sag Harbor Cinema on Main Street—has benefited from large donations from the likes of artist Eric Fischl, legendary director Martin Scorcese, musician Billy Joel and film industry mogul Harvey Weinstein.

But those marquee names do not tell the whole story.

Alongside them, local businesses have created a groundswell of support. Two online clothing companies, Surf and Slide and Bongiorno Brand, started selling T-shirts and hats that bear an image of the iconic “Sag Harbor” neon sign, which had been above the cinema’s entrance and was pulled from the rubble after a devastating fire in December 2016 and placed in storage. All proceeds from the sale of those items are donated to the Sag Harbor Partnership.

“I’ve spent a lot of time out in Montauk over the last 15 years or so,” said Jack Keating, the founder of Surf and Slide, which made the T-shirts, and a Manhattan resident who frequents the East End. “That included going to Sag Harbor a few times a year. That’s kind of been a place that I’ve had a connection with. I heard about the fire in December. That’s kind of always been in the back of my head.”

Each company’s contribution makes a small dent in the partnership’s $8 million goal, the price of purchasing and restoring the cinema building. But the hope is that apparel offers a unique ability beyond simple fundraising: It sparks conversation and demonstrates support for a cause, physically and proudly, while fostering a sense of community.

“I certainly think every little bit helps,” said Tom Bongiorno, a Brooklyn resident who founded Bongiorno Brand, which sells the hats, and who lived in Sag Harbor seasonally as a child. “My goal with this project was twofold, really. I wanted to first create a timeless product that represents our town, something that people can carry with them and wear with pride. Secondly, I wanted to facilitate an outlet allowing for a memorable contribution that everyone can be a part of donating through. Spreading brand awareness is a good thing, yes, but more importantly it brings overall attention to the rebuild.”

In March, Mr. Keating began producing shirts in an attempt to raise money for the theater’s reconstruction. Around the same time, the Sag Harbor Partnership began to take shape. “It was great timing,” Mr. Keating said.

Catching wind of the partnership on social media, Mr. Keating reached out to artist April Gornik, the partnership’s vice president, offering to donate $5 for every shirt sold. But soon he upped the ante—he decided that all proceeds would be donated. Each shirt costs $30; after production costs, every sale nets more than $15 for the cause.

“Jack came out of the blue,” Ms. Gornik said. “With people like that out in the community supporting the cinema and supporting this effort, we haven’t really had to seek our own swag initiatives.”

Mr. Bongiorno’s involvement followed a similar trajectory.

“Sag Harbor is a special place to me,” he said in an email. “I was taken back when I heard about the fire and loss of such a historic landmark. I grew up on Long Island, and my family has had a summer house in Sag [Harbor] since the 1940s. I visit as much as possible. It’s a community close to my heart.”

In June, Mr. Bongiorno approached the partnership, offering to pitch in with what he knows best: fashion.

Both Mr. Keating and Mr. Bongiorno quickly sold out of their initial orders and are in the process of restocking their products. Demand was abundant at the partnership’s July 16 Big Tent Party on Long Wharf. In total, Mr. Keating sold roughly 100 shirts, while Mr. Bongiorno sold roughly 200 hats, netting $1,500, he said.

“I think the sign, there’s so many iconic images of it, including in the tragic fire,” Ms. Keating said of his design choice. “Those are of the most stirring images to me: The firemen looking up, and the sign is undamaged through the fire.”

The Big Tent party yielded more than $200,000 from clothing, ticket and art sales, Ms. Gornik said. A total of roughly $5 million in tax-refundable donations and pledges has been raised in a little over three months, $1 million of which came via small donations from community members, she said.

“People have come forward so generously,” Ms. Gornik said. “Our community wall, once we get it done, we’re going to have nine-point font for all the names!”

The Sag Harbor Partnership, which wants to open a not-for-profit cultural center that shows films and offers other activities, has until December 31 to raise the remaining $3 million it would take to purchase the cinema, listed for $8 million. If they fall short, all donations will be refunded.

“We have done well, God knows,“ Ms. Gornik said. “Really remarkable support. But this is no time to slack off, because we will be needing funds to close this deal—and that’s critical. We still could fail, theoretically.”

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Great people step up to bat for Sag Harbor. Thank You All...
By knitter (1893), Southampton on Aug 1, 17 3:59 PM
Can one order a shirt or hat on line?
By beachbag50 (18), East Hampton on Aug 1, 17 10:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
It would be great if we could get the link.
By MrsD (52), Hampton Bays on Aug 2, 17 6:08 PM
By orion4ever (13), sag harbor on Aug 3, 17 8:18 AM
By Bongiorno (1), Sag Harbor on Aug 14, 17 11:07 AM
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