The countdown is on for those seeking a summer rental in the Hamptons. And if the thought of that puts a damper on your sunny summer plans, there’s a company out there that can help you brave the storm of house hunting.
Enter StayMarquis, a Melville-based vacation agency that helps its clients “rent without reservation.” Co-founded by high-school friends Alex Goldstein and Bryan Fedner—themselves Long Islanders—the company strives to both ensure a positive renter experience and to help homeowners who want to tap into the hot short-term rental market, an industry that has experience explosive growth over the past decade, valued at about $140 billion, according to AirDNA, a provider of data and analytics for the short-term rental industry.
The seed for StayMarquis was planted after its founders experienced a “bait and switch” online rental listing in 2009. Instead of the quintessential Hamptons cottage with a pool shown in the listing, they arrived to what Fedner describes as “something found in a war-torn village.” They vowed not to let that happen to anyone else.
“We knew about VRBO and realized there was a very large family demographic of people looking for this kind of rental,” Fedner says. In 2016, as they watched AirBnB explode and transition from the random room for rent to more family and luxury offerings, Fedner says, “It was the company we aspired to become but didn’t know how to get there.”
StayMarquis launched shortly thereafter as a side hustle for Fedner, at the time an investment banker, and Goldstein, an executive in the student travel business. The friends, now partners, managed a cluster of 12 listings, and when they added 50 properties to the portfolio, StayMarquis became a full-time job.
Now representing about 750 properties in the North and South Forks and Hudson Valley, the agency offers services in three sectors: Listing and managing properties that already exist as short-term rentals (which can be booked here); helping property owners buy, renovate, furnish and market their homes as vacation rentals; and since 2019, a suite of personal concierge services where no request seems too large or small, too outrageous or too ordinary. Guests are supported by a travel specialist and a guest experience manager to ensure client needs are not only met but exceeded.
The concierge service evolved at an unprecedented time, says Breese Pickel, the guest experience manager who joined the agency in December 2019. At the time, the extra services included arranging tennis or swim lessons and fitness or yoga classes at a guest’s request. But then the pandemic changed the nature of the requests dramatically.
“We were not receiving too many concierge requests before March 14 , when the world changed,” Pickel says. “Then there was a massive surge in people exiting the city and taking rentals in the Hamptons and we were getting lots of extended bookings with undetermined lengths of time—everyone was going full season or multiple months.”
With people hesitant to go into public and engage in transactions, the concierge services filled an immediate need.
“What really caught on during that time was grocery shopping and other personal shopping,” Pickel says. After that, there was an uptick in product rentals—family games like ladder toss, corn hole and badminton. “From there, we started thinking about beach wagons and boogie boards,” adds Pickel, and other off-property products.
Now that service has evolved to a “genie in the bottle” model where a guest’s wish is likely to be fulfilled. That can include arranging baby and pet gear on arrival, bike and car rentals, or stocking a rental house with specific guest requests, right down to brand preferences. Customizing guest experiences with events was a natural trajectory, so StayMarquis established relationships with local chefs to offer in-home private chef dinners, one of the most popular requests. Guests can either survey menus offered by the chefs or create their own theme, and they can be as hands on or off as they like in the design of a dinner event.
“Guests have a wide range of options to design the experience,” Pickel says.
And the services aren’t confined to the four walls or grounds of the vacation rental: StayMarquis can arrange car service and rentals—from affordable to exotic cars—boat tours and a variety of vineyard experiences at RGNY, the Riverhead winery.
“There are services that sometimes are not in my wheelhouse, like a helicopter ride out to the Hamptons, but if a guest gives us an unusual request, I’m not going to tell them no up front. I’m going to do the best to make it happen,” says Pickel. The most unusual request so far was for a private John Mayer concert. While he wasn’t able to execute the booking, Pickel says he was able to get a price quote and make the needed contacts.
Concierge services are administered separate from the cost of the house rental and on an a la carte basis, with Pickel working with a guest’s budget and preferences.
“There’s endless potential here and the services are constantly changing as fads are constantly changing so I’m trying to say on top of what’s cool and unique,” he says.
Like goat yoga, a trend that he admits caught him by surprise. But, he says, “Where there is a service to be provided, there will be someone who has that service and someone who wants it, and we’ll do our best to get it.”