1965. Originally the site of a model home, then the office of Realtor Arden Catlin and the Post Office. The building was owned by Arden Catlin who was the first Postmistress.
With partners Cappy Hanlan and Myra she also opened the Picketty Ruff Cafe. So the space had many uses. However Gene Smith and then partner Ron Malcolm with various partners opened the Sandpiper restaurant and nightclub in 1966.
As the era of Disco begins the Sandpiper becomes the place to go. The restaurant takes second to the growing popularity of Disco music and dancing. It is known for both.
The Sandpiper was a low one-story building as far as public spaces. And it was all open in the front, which was great, because they could open all the windows, there were like five glass doors and they could open the entire front of the façade and let the wonderful summer breezes come in off the harbour.
It was a restaurant in the early evening. It was kind of divided in half by a row of banquettes and the other side was the dining room area and that had removable tables and director’s chairs.
Everything was a blue and white theme. On the inland side, not the harbor side, that was the dance floor, again it was one-story and it was not a high ceiling. If you were tall you could touch the beams. It had a very rudimentary light show. They had those little
small twinkly Christmas lights. They were stapled up to the cross beams where they would chase up and down and it actually created a remarkable effect because all the walls on that side were mirrored and they had blue Plexiglas columns
against the far wall which had those little twinkle lights inside them as well and they would chase back and forth and with the mirrors it would look like an infinitely long trompe l’oeil effect.
It was actually quite impressive. Everything was wood out there so the dance floor was bare wood; it was very comfortable for all night dancing. And back then, strictly speaking, we weren’t an after hours place so we would close at 4am.
The crowd danced inside. There was an inside deck, but that was mostly just to go out and have a cigarette and have a drink and cruise. The dance floor and the speakers were just inside. the capacity was between 5-600 on the weekends and then it would be 300 on weeknights during the season. Everyone went to Cherry Grove on Saturday nights, it was all about the Ice Palace. Roy Thode was the head DJ there. So the Sandpiper and the Pines was deserted on Saturday nights. It was one of the earliest clubs to have a Graebar Sound System.
After meeting Gene Smith in Florida a young Robbie Leslie begins his F.I. journey with his job waiting tables at the Sandpiper. It is here he watches and learns the art of the DJ. Owner Gene Smith lets him begin playing during the
week. He started off season and this was the time when normally they would play reel-to-reel tapes, which they would record over the summer when other DJs would play. So after Labor Day they would just play these tapes, so they didn’t feel like they were gambling by having him play. Because normally there wouldn’t have been anyone else…
Every community has its eccentrics, and so it was David Campbell to the Pines. David (seen here with Robbie Leslie) would dress up and play his tambourine at Tea Dance and at the Sandpiper. He played back round on several Disco records of that period.
Robbie Leslie in the Sandpiper DJ booth. The DJ journey begins…
“I worked at the Sandpiper from 1975 until its closing on Halloween 1979 – in fact, I was the DJ for the closing party, called “LAST DANCE”. Though I began as a waiter, I began spinning late in 1977. I remained a weeknight DJ until the closing and then moved to NYC and 12 West, The saint, Underground, Palladium, etc.
A few minor points: The Sandpiper was owned by Arden Catlin and leased for 15 years by co-owners Smith & Malcolm. The lease expired after the 1979 season. Initially it was a very successful restaurant, but morphed into a restaurant/disco in the early seventies. Dinner business dropped off drastically in later years, as Fire Islanders began to eat by and large at home. The Lemon Tree, a Cherry Grove restaurant, leased the restaurant concession in later years.
We had one of the first setups built by Graebar Sound. They were the company that later did the Saint, 12 West, Trocadero Transfer, Dreamland and Salvation. We had two Technics turntables with a Bozak mixer and an actual light Show.
A true DJ booth. The booth was on the dance floor against the back wall. The system was tonally balanced which gave it a very smooth sound and it never was harsh or fatiguing even at high volumes.”
The sound if Disco music was not enjoyed by all as neighboring co op’s and others began to complain about the late night partying. Owner Gene Smith did his best to accommodate the communities needs.
Many in the community who enjoyed the music and dancing would stage their own parade walking in unison through the co op’s singing the disco hit of the time “Don’t take away the music.”
Wood panels were put up on the doors to help with the sound issue.
As the 1970’s came to a close so did the era of the Sandpiper. The property has become valuable and the lease with Arden Catlin and the now lone partner Gene Smith was expiring. Offers from other club owners were coming in, and it would go to the highest bidder. Gene had made a great deal with Arden that at the time worked for both, but as the club became popular the value increased making it now time to pay the piper. In the end Gene decided to close, but not without a bang…
It was the end of an era in so many ways. The 70’s were over with all it brought to the Pines, celebrity, glamour, creative minds from all over the world. The Sandpiper held all of the music and memories for the many that came through it’s doors.
Signs were made and hung declaring Bye Bye Birdie to the community that made it their own.
Before the doors were closed for the last time there would be a “Last Dance.” A party held on Halloween weekend to celebrate the Sandpiper and the end of and era.
DJ Robbie Leslie would DJ the all night event. A night that would go down in Pines history.
In 2006 New commercial district owner Eric Von Kuersteiner demolished the Pavilion built in 1980 to make way for a new Pavilion. Underneath the Pavilion structure was the Sandpiper that they had built right over. All came back to the many longtime residents who had meny memories there. Some even came to take a piece of history.
It brought back all that the Sandpiper was. simplicity, a rustic beach feeling of a time gone by….