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INTERVIEW: Jason Belkin On The Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s "Denim & Diamonds," What’s Brewing Up At Hampton Coffee Company, And More

Nicole Barylski

Theresa and Jason Belkin. (Courtesy Photo)

It's that time of the year again! With spring right around the corner, it's time to join the Ellen Hermanson Foundation for their annual Denim & Diamonds soiree. This year the benefit will take place on Saturday, March 10 at 230 Elm Productions in Southampton.

The yearly end of winter gathering, which supports the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Ellen's Well, will feature bites from several East End favorites - including 230 Elm Productions, the Art of Eating, CowFish, DeJesus Deli & Taqueria, Edgewater Restaurant, Erica's Rugelach & Baking Co., Fresh Flavors Catering, Golden Pear Cafe, Hampton Coffee Company, Hamptons Farms, Hands of Tradition, Julie Bakes, Peconic Gold Oysters, Inc., Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs, Saaz Indian Cuisine, The Seafood Shop, South Fork Bakery, Stop & Shop, Stuart's Seafood Market, and Union Cantina, an open bar, live and silent auctions with Angela LaGreca, award winning comedian and Emmy Award winning television producer, DJ Double S Production & Mirror Photobooth NYC, and other fabulous festive happenings.

The 2018 Denim & Diamonds will toast to Dr. Louis Avvento of New York Cancer & Blood Specialists; Jason and Theresa Belkin of Hampton Coffee Company; and Shirley Ruch of South Fork Bakery.

We recently caught up with Jason Belkin to learn about what's brewing up at Hampton Coffee, values they share with the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, and more.

What was your reaction when you learned you were being honored at Denim & Diamonds?

JB: We were so surprised. We help the organization out a lot - like we do so many around here. We help more than 100 different local organizations every year. So, at first, we thought we were just organizing the coffee for the event - like we do every year - and then we were shocked to hear that they were actually there to tell us that we were the ones being honored.

And you'll be honored alongside your wife Theresa? What does it mean to you that you guys were selected?

JB: It's actually the first time we've been publicly recognized at such a big event. So, it really is the first time for our company too. We're honored that it's Teresa and I and our company because our company has grown to become kind of a medium sized company now. We can't do it ourselves anymore. 17 years ago it really was just the two of us, literally, but now we have so much support and help. We wouldn't get to the dozens and dozens of events we get to every year, and helping the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, if we didn't have the support of managers going to the events with us or everyone brewing the coffee or baking the cookies and making the gift baskets that we raffle off. It really is such a big group effort. We made a donation to buy tickets for 20 staff members to come with us that night. We're having a big Hampton Coffee group there; it's all our key people - the store managers and everyone who is making the prizes and going to the events and being the judges at the youth competitions. We thought it was really important that they all get recognized too.

Have you ever been to Denim & Diamonds? If so, what was your impression?

JB: We donate every year to it. I believe I've gone there as a volunteer, so this is why it's going to be really weird for all of us, actually, because we hardly ever go to an event as an honoree or a guest. We're always there working at our table, handing out coffee and doing things like that. So it's going to be really, really weird for all of us to be guests, but it's really cool too.

What does the Ellen Hermanson Foundation mean to the community?

JB: We're really proud to support them because they're very similar to our business. Just like our business, they're here year-round. A lot of events and a lot of businesses close for half the winter. Hampton Coffee is open every day, every year - same thing with them. They provide their services not just during the summer, but their facilities are open all the time - providing these important services to the community. That's a value that we both share. And the second value we both share - which is why we like them so much - is that they don't ask if you can pay. We're really conscious of that at Hampton Coffee - we invite everybody to come. Even though it's called Hampton Coffee Company, we're really proud of our prices. They're really reasonable. We always try to match the local delis and Panera. So that everyone who wants to come to Hampton Coffee can come and they're not going to say, "Oh, wow! That place is so expensive. I can't afford to go." We purposely make sure we're affordable. We're not a summer place. We're an everyday place for local people and same with them. If you have insurance, they bill insurance, but they never ask. Everybody goes, they get the services that they need. They just bought that new $250,000 state-of-the-art machine. So even if you have no money and no insurance, you can go in and be serviced by top doctors and receive treatment on these state-of-the-art machines and it won't matter if you can afford it or not. We think that's amazing!

Hampton Coffee is involved with so many great East End causes throughout the year. As a family-owned company, why did you find it important to support these organizations?

JB: We do it because we're really proud to live here. My wife and I live in Westhampton Beach; all of our employees live on the East End - so it's a no brainer because it's our community too. It's really easy to support all these local organizations because we live in these communities. We all go to school here. We have kids here. We all see our customers at the local stores, at church, at school - so we think it's really important. It's part of our company philosophy to be a part of the community. I've owned it for 17 years, but the company's been here for 24 years and we're open - like I said - everyday, and we're so lucky, and the only reason we're open is because we have customers - local people in the community that support us day in and day out. The least we can do is support causes that are important to our customers and our staff.

Is there anything exciting brewing up at Hampton Coffee?

JB: We just started franchising. So we're going to be expanding through other local community people. Like Theresa and I, they'll be able to open their own Hampton Coffee. So they'll be more Hampton Coffees on the East End in the next year or two. They'll be run by other local people that will have the opportunity to be a part of the community, which like I said with our stores, part of our franchise plan is they have to be involved with the community, they have to be from the community, and participate in the community and have the same values that we do. So it's great because we're expanding our brand, but also there will be more stores to contribute and be a part of their communities and hopefully make a positive difference.

Have any locations been secured for franchising yet?

JB: Yes, but we haven't announced any yet. But there is one that's probably going to open in time for the summer.

Is there anything you would like to add?

JB: So many things close up in the winter - it can be like a ghost town. But in the summer, there's like a charity event every day. It's so nice to see organizations and businesses doing charity events in the offseason. We live here all year, our staff lives here all year and there's people in need here the whole year. That really touches us the most and why we love the Hermanson Foundation so much. They're all such giving, kind people.

Denim & Diamonds will take place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets begin at $125 and $75 for a junior ticket (34-years-old and younger).

230 Elm Productions is located at 230 Elm Street in Southampton. For more information, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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