Last August, with the peaceful Long Island Sound as our backdrop, I sat down with Ellen Wiederlight and Rachel Murphy, managers of the Sound View Inn and Sound View Restaurant and talked about the 77-year history of the resort and its owner, their 104-year-young father, Jack Levin.
Rachel and Ellen’s stories gave Hamptons Creative Group a poignant look into a business that has left its mark on a small town, and into the life of Jack Levin, a gifted businessman, generous community spirit, and devoted family man.
I was entranced with the stories, abundant with love and dedication for the family, their history, and the great relationships built through generations. We’re grateful for Ellen and Rachel’s willingness to invite us to hear their family’s story, and honored to share it with our readers. We hope you will enjoy their story as much as we were privileged to take a walk down memory lane with them!
Walk into the Sound View Inn on any given morning and you’ll find Jack Levin eating breakfast, enjoying a stunning view of the Long Island Sound, and greeting patrons and new customers alike. At 104, Jack shows the same type of fierce attention and love for his resort that he had at the beginning of his journey in 1935.
Today, Jack’s properties include the Sound View Inn and Restaurant and the Terrace Colony Cottages. 77 years ago, however, Jack Levin leased from the town a square concession stand on the east end of the Greenport public beach. Appropriately named Jack’s Shack, the concession stand soon became the hottest hang out on the North Fork, serving up burgers, hot dogs, hand cut French fries and shakes all summer long to the devoted crowds.
In 1952, with his wife Donna by his side, Jack built the Sound Shore Motel, one mile east of Jack’s Shack and next door to the Sound View Restaurant. Together, they established one of the most popular family destinations on the North Fork.
Since 1952 the Sound View Inn has stood as an iconic landmark for the town of Greenport. Small and unassuming, the inn and restaurant have
been the destination spot for first, second, and
now third generations! What once started as a beachside shack has become a booming business…and a family affair!
Jack’s daughter Ellen Wiederlight was born into this whirlwind hotel life. Her first crib was a dresser drawer in the Sound View Inn. When she was five, she helped pick up Coke bottles littered around the Inn’s bushes for the deposit. As she grew older, Ellen did everything from collect the linens to bussing tables at the restaurant.
Today, Ellen is the manager of the Sound View Inn and it’s still hard to tell where Ellen’s work ends and her personal life begins—the two are intertwined in an indistinguishable manner.
“It’s not a job, it’s not work,” Ellen says. “It’s life … and it’s all good.”
“It’s a lifestyle,” Rachel says. “I love working with my staff and I love the people part of it.”
And for these two sisters, it’s the people part of it that makes coming into the inn and restaurant everyday not seem like work.
“The best part about this job is watching people be happy,” Ellen says.
The Levin family has been fortunate to experience generations of families coming through both the inn and restaurant. The same couples who vacationed there in the 1960’s are now bringing their grandchildren and enjoying the same vibrant memories—building sandcastles on the beach, climbing on the rocks, watching brilliant sunsets from their back porch and eating world class seafood caught right outside their room.
“We have a special relationship with the regulars,” Ellen says. “Families who come back every year and enjoy themselves.”
“I have people my age coming in and they walk in [the restaurant] with a smile and I go, ‘You came here when you were a little kid didn’t you?’” Rachel says. “And they go ‘Yeah! We’re back!’”
But Jack Levin does not need a plaque to be remembered by the people of Greenport—his role as a community man has already stood the test of time. Even though his concession stopped selling their burgers and shakes over 30 years ago, many locals still refer to the Town beach as Jack’s Shack beach. Generation after generation has come through the Sound View Inn and Sound View Restaurant and Inn Families, enjoying the view, the beach, and the dedicated and personable Levin family.