Partly a vehicle for independently-owned shops who can't afford advertising of their own, and partly a members-only website that protests shopping at "big-chain corporations," Occupy the Hamptons organizer Ty Wenzel launched GoHamptons.com last week just in time for Black Friday — normally the time big box stores make their biggest sales of the year.
The site offers small businesses the opportunity to include their information on a free directory for people looking to shop locally.
"If we don't start putting into our own community, there are going to be nothing but Ralph Lauren's on every corner," Wenzel, of Springs, said on Monday. "It's gotten out of hand. Not a lot of businesses are from here. They can't afford it, since prices have been jacked up so much. It's difficult for any small business to function."
Wenzel is a small business owner herself — her company, Design Shrine, hosts the GoHamptons website and she does all the administrative work on her own time. Wenzel estimates revenue for her own business is down roughly a quarter from 2008 — mostly small businesses dropping their websites, unable to afford the monthly hosting costs.
She said she's owned the GoHamptons domain name for years, and decided now was the time to put it to use. The site launched last week, after a discussion and vote at a recent Occupy the Hamptons meeting made it clear another outlet was needed for locally-owned businesses.
"I didn't even know about a lot of these boutiques," she said. "I remember reading a letter at one of the early meetings we had; it was written by a boutique owner of a Bridgehampton shop. She couldn't even come because she couldn't afford to pay someone to keep over the shop while she was gone. It's pretty bad for people."
Wenzel said the connection linking the website and "Occupy" movement is "community."
"The whole 'Occupy' movement here is community-driven," she said. "We're not looking for hand-outs, and it's not about being rich — being rich is OK — but buying our politicians is not OK. Everyone should have a comfortable income, education, shelter, and health care."