Zach Erdem knows what those who wine and dine and look and feel fine want out of a Hamptons evening, and he happily delivers. Erdem, a Turkish immigrant who left his homeland in 2002 and landed in New York City, was entranced by just one visit to our shores; a visit he made only two days prior to his planned return to Turkey.
Arriving in Southampton on a bus ticket paid for by a friend, he quickly found his way to 75 Main, where he befriended the then General Manager and nabbed a job as a bartender.
Eventually the 32-year-old Erdem found his calling – the hospitality and restaurant business – and after considerable travels throughout the United States, including working in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami, he found his muse too – 75 Main. He parlayed his association and fondness for the Hamptons into managing the seasonal restaurant, Nello Summertimes, before assuming his current role as the purveyor of all things cool and happening in the Hamptons as the owner of 75 Main, a role he assumed in 2010.
Offering year-round dining and nightlife, Erdem has gained considerable attention from the industry, locals and visitors, as well as the bold-faced names who all flock to the restaurant, including Sarah Jessica Parker, LA Reid, Kelly Ripa, Stanley Tucci, Sofia Vergara, Howard Stern, Pierce Brosnan, Barbara Walters, Jodie Foster, Alex Rodriquez and Vice President Joe Biden to name drop just a few!
Having collaborated with award-winning chefs, artists, designers and D.J.’s, as well as redesigning the space with a sophisticated decor and an expertly crafted menu, Erdem has brought a New York City vibe to the Hamptons. He has achieved what others have attempted and failed to do – he renewed local interest in the venue while attracting new clientele. Not an easy feat in an industry known for many crash and burn failures. Providing post-dinner entertainment at 75 Main has ensured that those who come to play also want to stay and be a part of this exciting nightlife destination.
Good food, with an Italian and American leaning, great location (75 Main has been in the same spot for more than 20 years), attractive artwork including works by Chris Brown and Raphael Mazzucco, who shoots for Sports Illustrated, and rockin’ music provided by D.J.’s from as far away as Europe spinning global tunes, live bands and long hours that can keep the crowds going to as late as 4 a.m. have all combined to make 75 Main the see-and-be-seen locale created by a young man who has his pulse on what is hot and what is not, and who plans to continue to expand with additional restaurant projects in the future.
Amid his very hectic and busy schedule, Erdem took some time to answer a few questions for Hamptons.com:
Continued congratulations on what you have achieved at 75 Main, and can you tell us what you believe to be the primary reason why you have managed such a successful achievement in the precarious restaurant industry?
ZE: Being a restaurant owner not only means owning a business and working hard so that it runs smoothly – it means that you have the chance to change people’s night, their lives, their celebrations. Every restaurant owner should know that each person walking in to their establishment has a different story, but each should be treated the same – like gold. I pride myself on my passion and consideration for each person that walks into my restaurant. That will never change for me. I think that’s what separates me from owners who are unseen, I still work as a busboy, server, maitre’d. Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’ll be.
What made you undertake this venture here in the Hamptons?
ZE: I came to the Hamptons at a loss for hope. I spent my last day in America enjoying the sun and the energy of the Hamptons. It took a stroke of luck and being at the right place at the right time to grant me my first job here. Since then I have never looked back, the Hamptons to me is my home, and my vision for its success has only grown.
Do you feel there is an obvious difference between New York City clientele and Hamptons clientele, and what are those in your opinion?
ZE: I honestly love the City, and as much as I am eager to have a place there, it’s the Hamptons where people go to relax and be themselves. The energy of the City is so upbeat and vibrant – people find themselves flying through their weeks without a beat, but everyone needs a break once in a while and they find it in the Hamptons. The Hamptons is where you find even the most successful people taking a breather. That’s important in life, to be able to take a step back and appreciate, and that’s the difference I see when people come to town, they’re finally ready for that deep breath.
As a business owner, how involved have you been able to become in the local Southampton community?
ZE: I am absolutely a part of the Southampton community and I pride myself on being so. Whether it is giving back to the local schools, the fundraisers, or sponsoring a local event – I am sure to indulge myself in the responsibility of representing my community, Southampton.
Given your experience, how would you describe any differences in dealing with obstacles in a small community whose population explodes for a few months each year versus those of a large metropolitan area such as New York City, LA or Miami?
ZE: Honestly, I think dealing with obstacles in a small community is much tougher. You only have a few short months to make an impression, as opposed to New York City, LA or Miami where people travel to year-round looking for a good time. Anything that could go wrong in a small community has to be dealt with immediately or it could possibly ruin the entire season. That’s a huge difference to the year-round traffic in bigger cities with the same expectations.
With the diversity of clientele you encounter year-round, how important to you is it to have locals as staff, and why?
ZE: My employees are the most important part of my business. The staff in a community like Southampton is the most precious piece of the puzzle. They build relationships with all the guests and they become family. The employees that work in Southampton are what make the community all tie together and it’s important to have the same faces season after season, year after year.
Any new ventures planned for the Hamptons, or elsewhere, that you can relay?
ZE: I can’t spill all my secrets…yet! But with my two establishments, AM Southampton and KOZU beating all expectations, I can assure you bigger ventures are on their way.
Do you have any “best night ever” moments you would like to share?
ZE: My best night ever would have to be when my brother Ali came to town. Being able to show your family how much you have accomplished and being able to include them in it – there’s no greater feeling.
75 Main Restaurant is located at 75 Main Street in Southampton. For more information, call 631-283-7575.