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Summer in the Hamptons will be sizzling

In the Hamptons, Wall Street loves to spend their money. And if Memorial Day weekend is any indication, it's going to be raining Benjamins all summer long.

This past weekend, Range Rovers were everywhere ... gourmet market Citarella and Starbucks (new in Southampton) were in FULL swing ... Ostentation was percolating, but not boiling yet ...


A beachfront home in South Hampton.
Source: Douglas Elliman
A beachfront home in South Hampton.

I hit up some Wall Street friends across the age spectrum to find out what's hot and how much they're spending in the Hamptons this summer. Here's a quick and unscientific poll:

Age: 25-29 — Transportation: Train or Jitney; Housing: Share house; Discretionary weekend spending: $1500 — the bulk of their spending is in the club.

Age: 30-40 — Transportation: car, car service and helicopter; Housing: own or rental; Discretionary weekend spending: $5,000 — the bulk of their spending is on everything.

Age: 40-50 — Transportation: helicopter or car; Housing: own; Discretionary weekend spending: $3000 — the bulk of their spending is on food, golf and transportation.

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Wall Street and the Hamptons seem to be a match made in 1-percent heaven, but it also feels like an arranged marriage. The two have been feuding and exchanging money long before Gordon Gekko was using his Motorola DynaTac 8000x on the beach to talk to Bud Fox.

"It's always been this way," said Brenda, a real-estate agent from East Hampton. "They're all the same. We don't discriminate between Wall Street and all of the other cidiots." (cidiot is local slang for someone from the city who acts like an idiot) "But they definitely help the economy."

"What are you doing in the Hamptons unless you want to spend money?" said Jeff, an equity sales trader. "It's like bringing a cat to a dog run. Don't do it." Jeff, who has been summer-ing for years in the Hamptons, said he likes to bring his clients out there on the weekends. "Sure it costs me a few bucks, but I make up for it in trading commissions."

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Memorial Day Weekend sets the tone for the rest of the summer. It's sort of like the New Hampshire primary is in elections. Publicity and momentum can be enormous for new and old businesses out there; which, in turn, creates better-than expected results at the cash register.

Although the men and women of finance haven't been able to figure out how to control the weather, they're very meticulous on checking every other box to secure a great weekend. Here's a check of the leading indicators for summer 2015 in the Hamptons:

Lobsters – check

Wall Street likes to eat well. "It was the best Memorial Day weekend we've ever had," said Kelly from Sherin's Seafood Market in Westhampton. "Lots of lobster bakes were ordered." The fish store was busy all weekend, but a large bulk of their revenue came from the delivery service they offer.

Booze – check

"The Sloppy Tuna was a zoo," said Alex, a Wall Street trader. "It was out of control… In a good way of course." There were kickoff parties from Westhampton to Montauk. Richie Akiva's Butter Group reopened its 10ak Southhampton outpost at 125 Tuckahoe Lane to great success.

"The hardest part about going out in the Hamptons is gaining entry," Alex added. "But if you come out here long enough — and with connections in the city — it's usually not a problem."

Helicopter – check

It's all about convenience. The skies were filled with helicopters. "People didn't want to share," said Tim Hayes, owner of Gotham Air. "They just wanted to take it themselves."

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A private chopper to East Hampton will run you about $3,850 and seats 6 passengers. But if you're willing to share the chopper, the price becomes cheaper per person. This is Gotham's premier summer and finding a seat proved to be difficult. Plans for more flights are in the works to accommodate the demand. Their 407 GX chopper was one of the most popular choices of the weekend and it makes about as much noise as a John Deere tractor.

"The only people who didn't book were the ones who called up and said they needed to leave in 15 minutes," Hayes said.

But the current chopper situation hasn't been fully resolved yet. A federal judge recently delayed implementation of severe restrictions on access to the East Hampton Airport until she renders a final decision next month. The East Hampton Town Board passed a law in April that all but prohibited helicopter access into the area. So Memorial Day weekend resumed their normal flying schedules.

Building permit – check

Homebuilders in the Hamptons have been very busy all year round. Wall Street and the other Manhattan privileged have been putting them to work recently. It's been a busy year with new construction and reconstruction. New home permits have been issued faster than Dixie Cups of water during the New York City Marathon. Last year, developers got approval to construct about 555 homes across the Hamptons — the most since 2005.

The median price of all Hamptons homes that sold in the first quarter of this year was $920,500 according to Douglas Elliman Real Estate. But the biggest increase came from the transactions in the $1 million to $5 million range. And that's right in Wall Street's sweet spot.

The tea leaves suggest that Wall Street has gotten long the Hamptons this summer. And they'll be adding to their position this weekend. Now if only they could figure out how to control the weather…

Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side," and is currently working on his second book, a Wall Street novel. He is also featured on the CNBC show, "The Filthy Rich Guide." Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.