An Innovative Chat With Stephen Brandman

A version of this article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


In July of 2018 The Spur hosted an inSPURation Dining event to showcase the innovative space to industry VIPs in a setting that’s both intimate and avant garde.

Kicking off the dining series of 2018 was a night dedicated to those in the hospitality industry, led by veteran hotelier and co-founder of Journal Hotels, Stephen Brandman.

Brandman’s experience in the hospitality industry spans over 30 years, including co-founding Thompson and Commune Hotels. His latest endeavor, Journal Hotels, includes a collection of The Hollywood Roosevelt, Two Bunch Palms, Ambassador Chicago, Mondrian Park Avenue, and hotel affiliates of Hotel San Francisco, The Standard High Line, and, coming later this year, the Hotel Clark LA and Trinity Hotel.

“Innovation comes in a couple of different ways,” he said. “There are things that, from a technology standpoint, are very interesting, because of the impact millennials have. We’re putting creative spaces into our hotels, things like co-work spaces. We understand that people like to work in small communities,” explained Brandman. Lobby spaces once set the tone for a traditional cocktail. Now, they’re setting a tone for communal environments.


“What we find interesting about communal spaces is that people create the artwork of the hotel. We’re trying to open the doors for that. People really enjoy being out in the public and working together. It creates an environment where they feel like they’re doing more than working, they’re living.”

Owning a home in East Hampton for the past 12 years, the Hamptons have turned into a year-round destination for Brandman, citing Nick & Toni’s as his go-to restaurant. “They’ve created an environment where everyone feels like a local,” he said. Brandman views the East End as a place to party or relax, a location for every season.

“We look forward to continuing these dinners throughout the year and bringing business leaders to see what Southampton has to offer them in terms of food, lifestyle, and entertainment,” said Ashley John Heather. “As we say at The Spur — come here to work, play, and learn. The more business leaders from outside the Hamptons can see the opportunities here to grow businesses and enjoy the lifestyle of the East End, the better for all of us.”

Innovation Meets Transformation

This article first appeared in the January 24, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper

Up until a few short weeks ago East End entrepreneurs had dispiriting options of where to work. Home isn’t a suitable place for business meetings and local coffee shops provide more chaos of passerby’s than professional growth. Now, a location with world wide recognition for its creativity and beauty has a space to aid its ingenious businesses.

Welcome to The Spur, a by-invitation, members only co-working space targeting creative entrepreneurs on Long Island’s East End. In partnership with Southampton Social Club, The Spur launched on January 8 in its recognizable 256 Elm Street pop-up location in Southampton deally suited for those commuting off the train, walking down the street or driving in from Montauk. As the first of its kind in the area, it’s divided up by three zones. A dedicated desk are, with eight desks including two standing desks custom designed by California Closets, a lounge area with enough room for 40 people to work and have open meetings, and the conference room for privacy.

“Its a combination of two business models. WeWork is one and Soho House is the other,” Ashley John Heather, The Spur and i-Hamptons founder detailed.

“The Spur is a home for innovators. If you’re innovating, creating a product, creating something new, transforming the industry,” Heather explained.

The industry focus remains on media & tech, health & wellness, food/beverage & retail, a contrast to the typical concept of real estate and construction in the area.

John Wagner of Mighty Insights says community is the biggest benefit to joining.

“It’s what drives motivation and innovation around specific industries. It’s what built Silicon Valley into the beast it is today. The Hamptons are no different. There is an energy that exists when entrepreneurs work close to each other… As my company, Might Insights, is in the tech space and focused on data, it’s an opportunity for me to talk with other people and companies in my space.”

Memberships begin at $100 a month and range from Core options such as Local and Weekender to Alternative options for those 27-years-old and under to Moonlight. The Local Membership includes access to a dual location in New York City, located at 21 West 46th Street, called WorkHouse. However, there’s a vetting process before you can do business, or talk business, with likeminded individuals. Unlike WeWork, where renting space grants access, The Spur aims to strengthen the community through varied commonality. A membership committee of six people review each online application, which must be referred by an already existing member. Only upon a quick interview, to sense a prospecting members personality, vibe is everything, and tour will new innovators be considered.

As with any successful endeavor, business takes passion and admiration. Similarly to the philanthropic attitude of the area, The Spur cares for those around it. “Part of what we’re trying to do is give back to the community. We have a not for profit called i-Hamptons…through that we organize courses and events for the community…We have a big annual event called Rip Tide, Sink or Swim, which is like Shark Tank….[we want to] leverage the fact that there are some wealthy, successful individuals out here,” Heather emphasized.

“Our goal here is to connect the 20s, 40s, 60s, I’m saying that as a broad range. The young who are just getting started, out of college…to encourage them to stay and know there is a place you can come and learn and start something.”

In connecting the freshly thinking 20s, the those in their 40s who are potentially moving back after a stint at city life to those retirees in their 60s aiming to start something back up again, there’s an advisory council. The council boasts a three person team of Kathleen King, founder of Tates Bake Shop, David Bonnett, founder of Geocities, Bruce Bockmann, former Chairman of Techspace and Porter Bibb, founder of MediaTech capital partners, all of which will mentor members in building business.

Heather added, “We’re trying to stop the brain drain of all the 20 year olds leaving and we’re trying to build the next generation of year round businesses. So the town is less seasonal and more financially sustainable.”

Weekdays at 5PM members are invited to the Innov8 Speaker Series. M.A.D. Mondays, covering marketing, art & design across creative, digital marketing and social media. Tech Tuesdays, discussing innovative showcases across software and hardware. Wellness Wednesdays focus on the individual entrepreneur health, stress and time management. Thirsty Thursdays fills in on the newest trends in food and drink. Future Fridays, a mystery mag of fun topics for the upcoming year. “It’s kind of like further education. You get to learn, develop new skills, network between people. If you’re working on a business you can present it to the members who are all very adoptive in their own areas…It’s a whole culture and way of life,” described Ashley.

Meg Farrell, CEO of Huntley Global and Chief Marketing Officer of Aromox, feels ‘a sense of relief as an entrepreneur.’

“There is a certain divinity and positive light when authentic, like-minded people understand the journey as creator, developer, innovator and entrepreneur. As a collective membership supportive of one another in a co-working environment, men and women will break open the glass ceiling with steadfast innovation in 2018,” Farrell envisioned. Having attended three Innov8 speaker events thus far, her experience says it all.

“The Innov8 series is continuing education but the best kind – relaxed time for brain rest outside of your work, while cross training your mind with a variety of fascinating innovative concepts in an interactive setting. It’s an entrepreneur educational movement that benefits the members, and will impact the east end community. The members think beyond themselves, in order to make an imprint for the betterment of a sustainable lifestyle at home and at work.”

In a mix of work hard play hard, complimentary breakfast refreshments are offered 8AM to 11AM, including premium local brands like Hampton Coffee Company and Plain-T. Newly installed, for the healthier inclined, is Kombucha on tap. A lunch menu focusedon local cuisine is available 11AM to 4PM and happy hour begins at 5PM at the bar serving local beer, wine and infused spirits- just in time for Innov8 hour. Come Summer 2018 The Spur will move into a permanent, 10,000sqft facility in Southampton Village that will include a food court with 10×10 space from local businesses, a wellness studio highlighting the fitness community in the area and local liquor company partnerships.

While the businesses model landscape is changing, The Spur incites innovation at its best. Connecting the community, collaborating with individuals and creating a home. The next great idea is only a membership away.

Southampton is the hub with phase two underway to expand over the entire East End. Locations include Quogue, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Montauk and Greenport. For more information visit

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