As a general rule, it may or may not be true that opposites attract. But it’s definitely true in the case of Greenport couple Brent Pelton and Alex Vinash.
Pelton, the hotelier behind American Beech, and Vinash, a fashion designer, have combined their respective talents to transform the formerly neglected assemblage of historic storefronts that comprise Stirling Square into a neighborhood hub of shops, bars and restaurants.
“I have to give stability and balance to Alex. He has this amazing creativity and energy and is a ton of fun with an infectious personality,” said Pelton. “I’m able to keep things moving. I think we both really enjoy what we’re doing when we work together.”
Vinash agreed: “Our dynamic is a yin-yang, which I think is super important because I couldn’t be with someone exactly like me. It’d be boring.” “It’d be a disaster!” clarified Pelton.
Pelton had little experience developing commercial property when he purchased Stirling Square in 2014. A Manhattan lawyer, he had been immediately taken with the waterfront village of Greenport when he first visited and began spending weekends out east with growing frequency. Instead of renting a seaside home, Pelton decided to put down roots. After closing on the square, he immediately got to work on revitalizing the former apartments into what is now American Beech.
Meanwhile, Vinash, who was then living in Barcelona, was in New York for fashion week. A trip that was supposed to take two weeks ended up lasting closer to a month, and Vinash eventually found himself at a Starbucks, searching online for sublets. The two had been chatting throughout Vinash’s visit, and Pelton happened to reach out while Vinash was apartment-searching at the coffee chain. They finally met up, and the rest is history. “We had a good date, and Alex never got on the flight home,” said Pelton.
During the first renovation, Vinash and Pelton had just met, so the fashion designer left most of the work to his new beau. “I didn’t know [Brent] well enough yet to say, ‘We should do this or that,’ so I was just along for the ride at first,” said Vinash.
More recently, though, Vinash couldn’t help but bring his own point of view to the space, which can be clearly seen in the recent renovations to the hotel’s restaurant and lobby. “I was coming from Ibiza, so my idea of a beach is completely different,” he said. “The first renovation was too bright for me. It was too Hampton-y and everything was very polished. I don’t think people want to come to a bar and be prim. It needed to have more soul; I thought Greenport needed something more tropical.”
Vinash, who often dresses Billy Porter, owes his eclectic design signatures to a decade of living nomadically. He began his career as a figure skater, leaving his home country of Argentina at the age of 19 to compete in Europe. For 14 years, he performed in a traveling ice show, spending nine months a year hopping from city to city. After turning 30, Vinash began contemplating his next move. He had learned a lot about clothes and fabrics during his athletic career, and started by making costumes for skaters in Barcelona, eventually creating bodysuits and leotards that were featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair. Vinash then made fashion his full-time focus, creating ready-to-wear and red carpet-worthy gowns.
Now, those designs are showcased in Vinash’s own Greenport boutique. Part lounge, part shopping destination, the boutique welcomes guests staying at the American Beech hotel as well as shoppers on Greenport’s Main Street. The designer’s roots are evident in the store’s design: a warm mix of plush fabrics, concrete arches, exposed beams and abundant greenery. A waterfall in the middle of the room transports visitors to a tropical escape, regardless of the weather outside. “Right away you feel like you’re on vacation. My clothes feel that way too,” said Vinash. “I don’t have anything basic; everything has a little something, a bit of fun.”
When collaborating on the boutique, it was important for both Vinash and Pelton to mix the old with the new. The floors are original, as are the beams. “They have a lot of soul,” said Vinash. “You have a little bit of the history of the town. It’s a great reminder of what was here before.” Preserving Greenport’s history and creating a gathering space for the community were top of mind for the duo during renovations. Vinash likens the square to a park, where residents and visitors alike gather to dine, shop or just take a stroll. Pelton loves the village’s casual lifestyle and proximity to water. To him, it was the perfect escape from the city. “I really fell for the place,” he said. “I thought Greenport was really special and I’m glad I [purchased Stirling Square]. It’s not a quick or an easy project, but it’s been worth it.”
The two also work extensively with local charity CAST in its efforts to serve low-income North Fork residents. American Beech is one of the principal sponsors of CAST’s drive-in movie series this summer, and Vinash has held a fashion show benefiting the mission, even featuring Greenport residents as runway models. “We care about the future of the community, and we want everyone in the community to have as good of a life and as fair of a shot as possible,” said Pelton.
This August, American Beech will play host to the North Fork TV Festival, which draws creatives from across the country to mentor and showcase the work of independent filmmakers. And in addition to Aqua by American Beech — their chic waterfront hotel in Aquebogue — and a Vermont cabin property, they are also currently working on opening a hotel property in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Above all, the two are looking forward to welcoming back their guests as restrictions lift. “Over Mother’s Day it was so much fun to see groups come together with older mothers or grandmothers. You could tell it was their first dinner out in a while, and it was so special to see that moment,” said Pelton. Vinash also predicts a summer of more joyful dressing on the North Fork. “I haven’t sold this many dresses in all the time I’ve had a shop,” he said. “People are ready to have fun again.”