March 6, 2017
Dylan Eckardt is a Montauk local who's taking his cutting edge vision to the next level as he handles the sale of a popular local eatery.
MONTAUK, NY — It's less than 20 degrees in Montauk in early March, but not even the cold temperature can extinguish the fire and passion in Dylan Eckardt's voice when he speaks about his vision for a popular local restaurant that's on the market.
Montauk's former Zum Schneider is on the market and Eckardt, of Nest Seekers, has an exclusive on the sale.
The eatery, located at 4 S Elmwood in Montauk, is listed at $4.1 million. Built in 2000, it's a 4040 square foot parcel by the ocean featuring 102 seats inside and 40 outside — as well as a 44-foot bar that seats 16.
Eckardt, 38, was born and raised in Montauk, and spent several years in Malibu, California, before returning home to the Hamptons.
He's a local through and through — his mom worked as a waitress and his father, a lobsterman.
And it's these deep roots and community connections that Eckardt says make him a natural at sharing his vision for an evolving Montauk.
"With strong family ties to the area and an intimate knowledge of the landscape and local population, Dylan realized that with his energy and connections, real estate was the perfect fit for him. A lifelong surfer, Dylan has a profound love of the Hamptons and a fierce dedication to protect its natural beauty," a release from Nest Seekers International said.
Eckardt, who was arrested last June, is back at Nest Seekers, bringing his creativity and energy to the real estate scene, and he's excited to be embarking upon the sale of a restaurant that he believes can offer Montauk something it hasn't seen before.
Speaking of his vision, Eckardt's voice is filled with enthusiasm. "I was born and raised here. This is something I always wanted when I was younger; this restaurant was a great memory for me."
And now, he says, he hopes to bring in interior designer Anna Cappelen of Curious Yellow, a talent he's worked with before.
Montauk, he says, has its share of lobster shacks. But what it's lacking is something a bit more upscale.
His renderings, he said, suggest a shabby chic eatery with a Scandinavian-inspired, "less is more" approach. He hopes to design a place were people might enjoy a drink at an outside lounge before heading in for dinner. A place where, after dinner, guests can head out to the bar for a drink and socializing.
"I have a vision for a restaurant, with lots of light, that has a great bar scene," Eckardt said.
The bar, at 44 feet long, is "one of the biggest" in Montauk, Eckardt said. But the goal is to create an elegant space where diners can enjoy a drink at the bar or some nightlife in the lounge, "nothing wild."
Montauk, he said, "is missing a generation."
Those who are slightly older than the twentysomethings who take the hamlet by storm every season are seeking a place where they can have dinner and "still feel like they're in the scene. Where you don't have to go home at 9:30 p.m., and you can have dinner and then mingle with your friends in the lounge," he said.
The former Zum Schneider, he says, is "right at the beach, surrounded by hotels. It's the first thing you see when you come into town. It's such a big place, it can be anything. It's going to take someone to come in with a great vision."
His dream includes perhaps 20 tables in the bar area, Eckardt said, where people can enjoy a cocktail and an appetizer while waiting to be seated for dinner.
Diners heading out to Montauk, especially a more mature crowd, might be coming out for the weekend from the city and used to "great service," he added.
Providing a top-of-the line eatery benefits not only visitors and guests, but the locally economy, too, Eckardt said. "Everyone benefits from great service and food." Fishermen, waitstaff, and locals all benefit from an infusion of clientele, he said.
"This is something that benefits my community," he said.
Reflecting on the backlash of the past year after his arrest, Eckardt said some don't understand his demeanor.
"This is who I am," he said. "I'm not a bad dude. I grew up in a beach town. I have passion about Montauk. I am passionate, and I do talk freely, but I always have the best intentions."
He added, "I'm sorry for whatever happened, and I do respect other people." He added, "But I do speak out."
And, as a realtor, Eckardt said his approach is a breath of fresh air meant to change the status quo.
"If there are a lot of people around me, I'm standing out," he said. "I'm not just a regular agent. Once the deal's done, I don't go away."
Most recently, he was involved with the sale and transformation of the Trail's End restaurant.
His hope is to share his creativity and vision with whoever acquires the property.
"A lot of people have money and want to open a restaurant in the Hamptons. It's been their dream. But they don't have a vision of what works in a small surfing community. As a native, I have this vision. Why pigeon clip me as a real estate agent, just selling property? Why not paint a vision? It's all about creativity. I have visions that work in this town, I've seen things come and go," he said.
His prior real estate deals, he said, "reflect who I am, too, and what I want."
As for the new restaurant, what he envisions is a place where someone in their 30s, who doesn't want to go home at 7:30 p.m., can enjoy a social scene.
Knowing the local scene as well as he does makes him the right person to be selling iconic Montauk properties, Eckardt said. "I know what works in this town. I'm not trying to sell a restaurant int Brooklyn or Southampton, or SoHo — although maybe I will, someday. Right now, I'm trying to build my town back up."
'I ended up being a rock star' at real estate
He became involved in real estate a year and a half ago after someone he looked up to suggested he consider the field. "I ended up being a rock star at it," Eckardt said.
While not everyone aligns with his forthright and energetic approach, Eckardt says, "If I wasn't doing something different and great, they wouldn't talk about me, and I couldn't sell these properties."
It's not always easy for people to shake up the status quo, he added.
"Everyone is afraid of change," he said. "It scares people."
Real estate isn't something he ever imagined, Eckardt said. A surfer who grew up surrounded by the fishermen and waitresses of a blue collar Montauk, he imagined careers in football or baseball as a child. But now, of real estate, he says, "I'm making it cool. I'm bringing a different aspect to this."
Yes, he said, he has long hair and sometimes gets curious glances when he dons a hoodie on the Hampton Jitney. But the sweatshirt means nothing other than a simple, "I'm having a bad hair day," he laughs.
What sets him apart as a realtor, Eckardt said, is the fact that not only can he sell a fantastic property, but he can also snag dinner reservations and suggest the best contractor in town. "You have to feel the streets you walk on," he said. "I'm an all-service real estate agent."
And eventually, Eckardt says, he might just be the one new realtors are emulating. "At first, it sounds different, but maybe in four to six months, maybe they'll say, 'He was right about this vision.'"
He added, "What I want to do is just paint the picture. I want people to visualize the options."
The Montauk space, he said could "be anything you want, from an organic grocery store to a restaurant. Not, 'It has to be what it was before.' You have to make people see the creativity. It's like ordering from a menu. You have to have options."
Change is needed to breathe life into all too many shuttered restaurants on the East End that have sat vacant for seasons, he said. New vision means new life, soaring property values, and paving the way for a new way of doing things, as well as new jobs and opportunities for locals, he said.
And for naysayers who doubt a surfer can soar to new heights as a realtor, Eckardt said, "It's doesn't matter what I was. It's what I've become." He added, "Let others do what they want. I'm just doing what's cool with me."
Of the listing and his new gig as realtor, Eckardt said, "This is just the start of so many aspirations and dreams."
Montauk, he said, might not be the go-to destination in 10 years. "It could be Block Island, then, but right now, Montauk is a beautiful destination and I'm just trying to give people options."
The new position reflects an inner transformation, too, Eckardt said.
"I think I've evolved as a person," he said. As a younger man, he sometimes resented tourists in his sleepy fishing town. "Then I saw that they were the reason I had food on my table growing up. People who came out here wanted lobsters. I don't mind it anymore. It brings pretty girls. People used to say they couldn't wait till summer was over and now, all winter, they said they can't wait till summer. I've evolved, and I loved what's going on."
He takes joy today in sharing the beauty of a deer on his lawn and the quality of a bucolic East End life with visitors.
"I rode my bike to school. Parents work hard so their kids can ride their bikes around town in the summer. This town is giving people happiness. They might have to go back to work Monday morning but at that moment they have the Montauk sunset," he said.
Patch courtesy photos of Dylan Eckardt, his vision for the property, and how he transformed the Trail's End.
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