Leaders gauge fire's effect on town's economy
Following the July 4 fire, many Tisbury leaders and business owners shared concerns about how the loss of two downtown establishments would impact the town economically.
"The more restaurants there are, the more people will come to that area to dine - not having Moxie in the mix is not good for other restaurants or for the entire street or entire town," said Sherman Goldstein, co-owner of Mansion House Inn and Zephrus Restaurant. "The Bunch of Grapes is a landmark bookstore - not only does the town suffer economically, but the entire Island suffers culturally from this tragedy."
As a Vineyard Haven business owner himself, Tisbury selectman Jeff Kristal said the Bunch of Grapes bookstore was a destination shop that brought many people into Vineyard Haven. "The impact of its loss is fewer people coming into town," he pointed out. Mr. Kristal co-owns the Crocker House Inn with his wife, Jynell. "The quicker we can get these two places back on track will be better for everybody in town, residents and businesses."
Mr. Kristal said evaluating the loss of the two Main Street businesses fits in with looking at the business in the town as a whole, and thinking about what can be done to encourage new businesses to come to Tisbury.
Tisbury Business Association (TBA) president Leslie Hewson agreed. "There needs to be a creative way to stimulate our business community, tied in to our overall health as a town," she said. "I appreciate the outpouring of support the business community has shown, and am looking to take this as an opportunity to make Tisbury healthier in the long run, not just in the case of an emergency."
As the co-owner of the Mediterranean restaurant for five years, Ms. Hewson said she considers herself new at the game and respects people in the industry who came before her.
"[Former TBA president] Jon Nelson passed this mantle to me, and I want to do a good job for him," she said. "You can't help but reflect on your own delicate situation - there but for the grace of God go I."
In addition to the business owners' losses, their employees are coping with losing their jobs. Katrina Yekel, Cafe Moxie hostess and owner Austin Racine's partner, said this week that their employees have been taken on by other restaurants, including Offshore Ale and Balance.
Bunch of Grape employees, however, remain in limbo for the time being, said Clark Maffitt, who has worked at the store for more than three years. "Until it all gets sorted out, none of us know whether to apply for unemployment or how that works - we're just kind of on hold right now," he said. "I've watched more TV than I've seen in a long time."
Unlike Cafe Moxie employees, Mr. Maffitt expects it will take more time for Bunch of Grapes employees to find other jobs. "Most every place is set now for their summer help - for us year-rounders, it's a whole other story," he said.
Other economic impacts from the fire include personnel and cleanup expenses for the town. Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling told the selectmen this week he will put together figures on the costs associated with paying extra police officers and DPW workers overtime, as well as hiring a private contractor for some of the clean-up work later.