The East End family business brings ‘quiet luxury’, innovation across generations

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When she wasn’t running around the wooded acres of Hampton Maid in Shinnecock Hills, 10-year-old Tara Poulakis spent time helping out on the property. With her mother, she would stand at a milk crate to wash the dishes, or bake muffins for their guests. With her grandmother, she folded clothes.

She now owns Hampton Maid, started by her grandparents.

“It’s in my blood,” she said, of the business.

Since taking over in 2019, Poulakis says he’s been expanding its offerings, transforming the Hampton Butler into a casual resort. This is a family-run place where generations of customers return every year for weeks with their children and grandchildren, Poulakis said.

“I know the parents, I know the kids — I feel like part of their family,” she said. “A family’s daughter got engaged here last year.”

Hampton Maid is one of 28.8 million small businesses in the United States, 19% of which are family-owned, according to SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration that mentors owners of businesses.

Only 13% of family businesses stay in the family for more than 60 years, according to SCORE. Of those who do, 74% focus on values ​​and culture. And among those businesses that thrive, new revenue models can go a long way, experts say.

These principles are evident at Hampton Maid, where the restaurant Poulakis opened, R.Aire, offers a Spanish flare. The restaurant was introduced in the middle of the pandemic, through executive chef Alex Bujoreanu. He studied hospitality and tourism in Lleida, Spain, and brings a flavorful menu with unhurried service.

The Hampton Maid began as a strip motel with an attached cafe purchased for $25,000 in 1959 by John and Marion Poulakis, who initially lived with their three children in two rooms to save on living expenses. By 1982, they added cabins to the property.

In the 1990s, the next generation, Steven Poulakis and his wife Sharon, took up the baton. After purchasing six acres adjacent to the property, by 2016, they had added LEED-certified luxury suites in 2016.

By the time Tara Poulakis turned 16, her grandfather was teaching her the financial basics of running a business. Tara studied business in college and after graduating, worked as a freelance bookkeeper at a nearby accounting firm.

In 2019, she became the owner of the property, where her brother Josh oversees breakfast service, a draw for locals and visitors.

With a focus on innovation and hospitality, Tara Poulakis has expanded the venue’s offerings with weddings and private events for 70 guests and less. The property is slated to accommodate weekend events, from cocktail parties to wedding receptions to country breakfasts, she said.

Bujoreanu, who is game for any kitchen, said he was working with a client planning an Indian wedding.

Bujoreanu said he has the “luxury” to play with different spices through the restaurant’s periodic tasting menus, adding, “We get good feedback.”

Both Poulakis and Bujoreanu said they have the benefit of close family — Tara’s father, for example, still does the landscaping — whenever guidance is needed.

Since the pandemic, the area has been home to former city residents who took up permanent residence in the East End, Poulakis said. It’s a change from the old days of Hampton Bays nightclubs.

“Young people are our new customers,” Poulakis said.

So she’s focused on what she calls “quiet luxury.”

Showcasing their offerings, Bujoreanu said that in the winter – “when there’s not much to do and we want to offer customers something to do” – he started hosting cooking classes focusing on Spanish cuisine and wines.

On March 27, National Spanish Paella Day, the restaurant presented a choice of paellas: demarisco (squid, mussels, shrimp, clams) duck and artichoke (duck confit, artichokes, chorizo) or vegetarian huerta (seasonal vegetables).

All menu offerings, Bujoreanu said, are freshly made, with whole ingredients and designed for the health-conscious without compromising on taste.

Here, Bujoreanu always aims to offer something new, including, for dessert, a Spanish cheese course paired with a sherry flight.

This year, Hampton Maid is celebrating its 65th anniversary, and Poulakis and Bujoreanu plan to honor the milestone with special menus and perhaps a cocktail for repeat customers.

For Poulakis, it’s all part of the business’s tradition of incorporating innovation while reaffirming family values ​​so that down the road, she can leave Hampton Maid in the hands of the next generation.

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