Maria Baum was trading derivatives and proprietary capital for a large bank when she and husband Larry decided to walk away from the intensity of Wall Street for Sag Harbor and “go enjoy life.”
“It was a career I enjoyed immensely,” Baum says, “But I had also just given birth to my third child and was finding it increasingly difficult to balance both worlds. Pre-COVID, it was just not acceptable to have a job like that and work from home. We came very close to moving to Italy then, but were also drawn to the beauty and small-town feel of the Hamptons.” In the end, she says. “Sag Harbor won our hearts, as it felt like the perfect place to raise our children year-round. We did, eventually, buy a home in Italy as well, but having our kids–now four of them–grow up here on the East End has been such a joy. We are very grateful that we made that crazy decision over a decade ago!”
But it proved not to be a complete retirement for the soon-to-be restaurateur. “It took less than a week for me to realize that I was too young to simply retire,” she says. “Larry and I are both entrepreneurs at heart, so it wasn’t long before we started building some businesses.”
The first business was a boutique capital markets recruiting firm they founded together, Bay Street Advisors, and eventually opened their first restaurant, Tutto Il Giorno. “We built three of those before eventually selling the business to our other partners. Larry and I kept the Sag Harbor space and opened a new restaurant there, Dopo La Spiaggia with Maurizio Marfoglia, our then-chef/GM who is now a partner in all of our new restaurants.”
Dopo in Sag Harbor was a hit, so they opened an East Hampton location, as well. And this summer they will introduce a sister restaurant, Argento, on Main Street in Southampton.
Aside from her own restaurants, some of Baum’s favorite stops for food on the East End include picking up fresh mozzarella from Red Horse Market or Villa in East Hampton. She tries “to get it while still warm and ‘squeeky.'”
“It sounds crazy to be opening a new restaurant during a pandemic, but we really believe in our staff and know that we have another hit on our hands,” says Baum.
One of her latest endeavors is Splash Mixers, a line of better-for-you cocktail drink mixers. It’s “the one I devote all of my efforts to now,” says Baum. She conceived Splash Mixers after “noticing a void in an otherwise flooded consumer beverage industry…I found nothing that had the potential to become a truly ubiquitous category killer, so I invented one!” Splash Mixers are “low calorie, low sugar, natural, non-GMO” and, of course, tasty. It also needed to be in a glass bottle, to avoid plastic, and “be pretty enough to go anywhere.” The project hit a few snags thanks to COVID-19, but Baum, an experienced businesswoman, was able to pivot. “The good news is that we found that we have a product that brought some smiles during these difficult times,” she says. “It helped people connect during isolation, as friends were sending Splash to one another and arranging to meet for virtual cocktails online.”
While Baum and Larry both still work a great deal, she credits her move to the East End for giving them the “flexibility to be present whenever our kids need us…We love our nightly family dinners and especially love to cook together with fresh produce from our garden at this time of year.”
The family lives in a traditional Hamptons-style home overlooking the bay in Sag Harbor. “I make the kids open their curtains and really see the view we are so blessed with each morning,” she says. “I will never tire of it–the way the light changes the scenery so intensely each day. I still pinch myself when I have my morning coffee.”
Baum’s home is “beautiful, but very accessible, as we have a large family with dogs and tons of visitors. We want our dinner guests to feel as comfortable as our kids and their friends do. I think that’s what defines Hamptons style–that beachy, casual elegance that revolves around nature, those views and the light.”
Time spent at home has created more time together with her family over the past few months. “Since our three eldest children now either work or go away to school, [the quarantine] provided us the opportunity to have everyone together here again for an extended time, which has been just amazing,” she says. “I am reminded of how lucky we are to have a home base like this that they always love to come back to. It’s hard to say there has been an upside to COVID-19, but it did cause us to renew that feeling we had when we first chose to move here. We are all reminded of what matters most as we seek to pack as much joy and appreciation into each day as we can.”
Baum also works with Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) and created “Paddle & Party for Pink” nine years ago. While Baum was going through her own treatment for breast cancer, she found it to be a positive outlet for her. “Paddleboarding on these beautiful bays really helped heal me when I was going through chemo and that was the impetus for this big idea to give back,” she says. “The Hamptons community really embraced the event in a huge way and I am very proud to say that together, we have raised over $12 million to fund research.” This year, the event is on pause, and Baum is going through her own treatment for breast cancer again. “I do hope we can bring the event back next summer,” she says.
In the present, East End continues to bring peace and comfort. “We really love it here,” Baum says. “And we know how lucky we are to call his magical place our home.”