In times of sink or swim, Montauk has never been known to leave a member of its community behind. That resilient nature withstands the harshest of winters, making the financial storm due to the COVID-19 pandemic just another battle it must weather — together.
In April, East Hampton native Bryan Seekamp threw a life preserver to those in the service industry through his Spotfund fundraiser SupportMTK.
“The whole Montauk service industry community is a very tight-knit bunch, everyone knows everyone,” Seekamp said. “The overall goal is to get some money into the pockets of industry employees.”
At age 19, Seekamp started working in the security department at The Surf Lodge. In the seven years since, he has split his time between The Surf Lodge, The Snow Lodge near Aspen Mountain Ski Resort, and Grey Lady in both Montauk and Manhattan. His father works at Brent’s General Store in Amagansett and his mother runs The Beach Hut concession at Atlantic Avenue Beach. His family is just one example of those that heavily rely on a doors-open policy to survive, when working from home means not working at all.
“I think a lot of people in our industry live paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Jayma Cardoso, owner of The Surf and Snow Lodges. “He’s filling a void.”
On March 11, Cardoso shut down her Aspen location, laying off multiple workers, many of whom travel from New York to Colorado, Seekamp being one of them.
“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me,” she said. “Our industry is about getting people together. We’re all a family. We’re here to help each other.”
Even those considered seasonal employees are seen as locals to the Montauk community. Seekamp’s initiative will help pay for child care, groceries, bills, and other necessities for individuals and families. Many, like himself, have yet to receive unemployment benefits and are struggling to survive.
Yanni Papagianni, director of operations at Montauk Beach House said it’s a valiant effort.
It will “help local members of the industry who either lost their jobs already or won’t be able to start their jobs,” he said. “We’re all in the same boat. Everybody is in need right now. Even after everything is open and running, we still need to take measures on how to keep people safe.”
Venues enlisted to help in the effort include the Clam and Chowder House at Salivar’s Dock, Harvest on Fort Pond, Sammy’s Restaurant & Bar, The Montauk Beach House, Common Ground @ Ricks Montauk, Best Pizza & Dive Bar, Memory Motel & Bar, 668 The Gig Shack, Grey Lady Montauk, and East West Security, LLC. Seekamp is open to additional requests, as 100 percent of the proceeds will be evenly distributed to each participating venue. The highest donors will be eligible to win prizes donated by local establishments, such as a two-night stay with dinner for two at The Surf Lodge in the 2020 or 2021 season, a table for 10 with alcohol at Grey Lady Montauk, gift cards, and more.
“Acts of kindness, such as Bryan’s, embody what it means to be from a small-town community,” said Logan Erb, owner of Harvest on Fort Pond. “In times of crisis, we have each other’s back, and it truly is a great thing.”
Additional recognition goes to Cassell Ferere, Peter Darrow, Brittany Rivkind, Charlie Gliwa, and Amanda Seekamp for helping put together the #SupportMTK relief group. To donate to the effort, visit www.spotfund.com and search SupportMTK.
The original version of this was published in The Independent Newspaper.