Melina Wein is Shelter Island’s ambassador to worn-down New Yorkers, promising the notion of peace and quiet just 100 miles away.
Wein, who heads her own firm, M. Wein Realty, has a sales pitch that is as simple as the area she operates in.
She has a whole speech ready at a moment’s notice, which contains trivia like the absence of traffic lights in the area, and a list of advantages to resort island living.
“Shelter Island is beautiful,” Wein said. “Almost everywhere you turn, you’re either on the water or you’re very close to the water.
“It’s safe, there’s next to no crime. It’s a friendly island. There’s a lot to do. There are two golf courses — public and private — there’s a yacht club, there’s a tennis academy, Itzhak Perlman’s music center is there…
“You have it all if you want the North and South Forks. If you want the vineyards on the North Fork, if you want South Fork and, you know, all that South Fork has, you get that by being in the center of both forks.”
If she sounds more like a tour guide than a real estate broker, it’s because she has the expert knowledge that comes with 19 years of living in the area.
Wein has recently put that expertise into good use, writing a guidebook that’s written from the point of view of a local and with the help of residents and businesses.
Wein, who admitted to refusing invitations to visit Shelter Island at first, said that she grew to love the place after going for a visit.
In 1996, when she and her husband were looking to move out of New York City, they decided to live in their summer home in the island full-time, on a one-year trial basis. “We kind of figured out our lives there,” she said.
After a year living on the island, she sold off her medical advertising business and looked to start a different career.
She eventually chose real estate, a decision that she attributed to a dearth of occupational options in the island.
“What do you do in a resort island? It was real estate,” she said. “It was either that or eat Bonbons and watch soap operas.”
Shelter Island, which has gained the nickname “the un-Hamptons,” has been a willing accomplice to her plans.
The area, which consists of 8,000 acres of land and marsh that represents the antithesis of other parts of the East End, has facilitated her own success.
The island, which is only accessible through the South Ferry from North Haven and the North Ferry from Greenport, is, in Wein’s words, a “little bit of a throwback.”
The atmosphere of calm that permeate across the island, which is as big an attraction as the waterfront and the hiking trails, does not come cheap.
According to Wein, property prices have been trending upward since the start of the millennium, with a dip in between during the mortgage crisis years starting in 2008.
Property values have since “gone way up,” making it a very profitable time for real estate in the island. This has allowed Wein to survive in spite of the invasion of real estate agencies from the Hamptons and New York City itself. Currently, firms like Corcoran and Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International all have listings in the area.
Wein’s company currently has listings for as high as $24.5 million, something that she said would have been unbelievable during the early 2000s. “Shelter Island has gotten much more expensive in both sales and rentals,” she said.
While the promise of luxurious island living may seem universally appealing, Wein said that life in Shelter Island requires a certain kind of attitude.
“People who come to Shelter Island are looking for certain things. They’re looking for an alternative,” she said.
“They live these hectic, crazy lives. They’re very secure over there. They’re very comfortable. They want to be in a resort every summer. They want to know that they can see their friends in the city and the North and South Forks, but they want to be in a place like Shelter Island where they can have their own time with their families.
“It’s kind of that weekend when you can relax and rest up for Monday, when you get back to a much more hectic pace.”
The prospect of rest and relaxation has lured in defectors from the Hamptons and New York City, who have relocated to the island in droves.
Credit, at least in part, may be awarded to Wein’s sales pitch. “By the time I finish saying all of that, people are hook line and sinker and headed out.”