'This pandemic is now part of our story': The Hamptons hotel with a grand opening it didn't plan

Lizzie Frainier
Sylvia Wong, The Roundtree, Amagansett

Sylvia Wong’s background may be in law firms and multinational IT companies, but she had long searched for the perfect place to open a hotel. Never in those years had she imagined the doors flying open for the first time in the middle of a pandemic.

The place she finally settled on was formerly known as the Gansett Green Manor in New York’s Hamptons – an extensive refurbishment will see it reopen as The Roundtree, Amagansett on June 1.

Wong initially passed on purchasing the property as it turned out to be smaller than what she was looking for but she soon changed her mind. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it because of its beautiful setting near the ocean, yet in the midst of farmland,” Wong said. “I happened to have a free day on a Saturday in March 2019, so I hopped on the Jitney to come out East to take another look. I fell in love with the tranquility of the place immediately, and that was the beginning of The Roundtree journey.”

The Roundtree was due to open on May 1, but naturally that was delayed due to the restrictions in place surrounding travel to halt the spread of coronavirus. Hotels were always deemed essential and allowed to remain open in the state of New York, but many closed as leisure travel became non-existent. As the United States slowly begins to lift lockdown though, with restaurants, beaches and more allowed to reopen, it has been possible to firm up a new date. 

Wong feels particularly lucky that the hotel is already well suited to social distancing as a boutique property with only 15 rooms, spread across a historic barn and private cottages. The latter each has its own private, external point of entry. But of course, the hotel will look different to originally planned and new systems have had to be put into place to ensure guest safety, while maintaining the service and experience that guests will expect.

The Roundtree, Amagansett

For example, continental breakfast will now be served in-room or on the vast lawn; the concierge team will be available for supermarket shopping, or picking up takeaways from local restaurants; and Netflix can be streamed for free in rooms. These were all decisions made as the team reassessed what luxury now means: seclusion is key, as are intimate and personalised experiences.

Practical changes include making sofa covers for all rooms so that they can be laundered between stays and enhanced cleaning procedures. 

So far the response to their opening date has been extremely positive, with many travellers sharing they are keen to visit as soon as possible. As for international guests though, the situation remains unclear and heavily dependent on what both the US and UK government decide in terms of international travel agreements.

Even if UK travellers miss the summer season, Wong is hopeful she may be able to welcome them before the year is out. She said: “We very much hope to welcome international guests this year, and our doors are open as soon as they are willing to travel to Long Island’s East End. With our property open year-round, there are opportunities to welcome our friends from abroad during any season.”

Wong reflects on her unique position of opening a brand-new hotel, rather than simply reopening: “Each situation presents its own unique set of challenges, but given the continuously changing guidelines and protocols, [as a new hotel] we’ve been able to specifically tailor and adjust our amenities and offerings for our guests to fit their needs and exceed expectations during this time.

"This pandemic is now part of The Roundtree, Amagansett’s story, and the hotel’s opening has brought a sense of brightness to me and my team during such a dark time."