The iconic and historic Sagg General Store building, long the center of activity in Sagaponack, has hit the market for $3.995 million. Listed with Brown Harris Stevens, it is one of very few commercial opportunities in the small incorporated village.
Located at 542 Sagg Main Street, the 1878 building has also been home to the Post Office for more than a century. The retail space currently houses the Pierre’s gourmet food shop and café, an extension of Pierre’s restaurant in Bridgehampton, but many still refer to it as the Sagg General Store or the Sagg Store.
Those whose memories go even further back may remember it as Hildreth and Company. The store started out as Chamberlain Bros., which sold items the local farmers needed, such as coveralls, boots and yarn goods. It later developed into a deli-style operation, a favorite stop for those heading to Sagg Main Beach, just 1.5 miles south. For the better part of a century it was the only store in Sagaponack.
“Some customers arrive on horseback. Some customers arrive in sports cars. But once they enter the Sagaponack General Store, they are all transported into another era,” George Vecsey wrote in a New York Times piece on the store in 1975.
Gone are the days where horses tied up in front of the store, and McMansions now stand where rows of potato fields grew. Sagaponack–an old Native American name for “land where the ground nuts grow big”–was one of the very early divisions of Southampton, first settled in the 17th century, but big development has led to its being ranked among the most expensive zip codes in the county, often at the top. In 2019, the median sale price was $4.3 million.
Even still, the landmark General Store building has maintained its country charm, even while the store went gourmet after Richie and Karen Thayer closed up the General Store when they retired in 2016. They still own the building.
The building sits on .16 acres and abuts the village sidewalk. A ramp leads to the Post Office door with a single mailbox out front. Wooden benches are placed outside for those who want to sit for a bite or to open their mail.
Both the building and the store had been family-owned for more than 100 years, until the Thayers sold the business. Merrall T. Hildreth, who just recently passed away, and his wife, Mary, owned the building until the late 1990s. Hildreth also served as the postmaster until 1986, the third in his family to do so. His family had owned the building since 1898, some 20 years after it was first built.
According to Sagaponack Then & Now, Thaddeus Edwards built the General Store and Post Office in 1878 to meet the demand of an increasing population and improved communication. It was first located near the street, and in 1914 was moved further back from the road and turned 180 degrees around so that the two large plate glass windows on either side of the steps in front were facing the street. The porch was “big enough to hold a commercial bread box on one side.”
Hildreth told of how in the original building “there was a pot-bellied stove around which the men of the community sat after supper while they waited for the evening mail.” The store held wheels of cheese, barrels of molasses and bags of samp for winter meal, but it also carried flannel shirts, boots and kerosene lamps.
The Post Office and the store were all one until the Postal Service deemed it had to be separate and a wall was put up in the 1970s. The store was run by different families from 1979 to 2005, the same year Sagapoanck became an incorporated village.
Hildreth’s nephew, Thayer and his wife purchased the building in the late 1990s, becoming fourth-generation owners of both the building and the store (though they did not take over the store until 2006).
“We’re just at that point where we are ready to do something else,” Karen Thayer said this week about putting the building on the market. “It’s a toughie. It’s bittersweet. It’s a hard decision. It’s been in the family a long time. No one else in the family can pick it up. It’s the heart of this town, but it’s also not the way it used to be…”
Thayer hopes the Post Office, all 687 square feet of it, stays put. “We hope whoever buys it will have a stipulation that the Post Office stays,” she said, adding there is time left on both the Post Office’s lease as well as that of Pierre’s.
“Whoever buys 542 Sagg Main Street is buying a vital piece of Sagaponack history,” said Susan L. Ratcliffe, who, with Christopher Burnside, has the listing, “and it will be their responsibility to make it/keep it a mercantile store, post office and meeting place for the residents of Sagaponack, and all those who visit this extraordinary village.”