Back Alleys is back

Back Alley’s, closed since November 2009, is expected to reopen this summer. That will be a welcome change for workmen and year-round and seasonal Island residents who once frequented the popular pastry and sandwich shop in the heart of West Tisbury.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) owns the building, vacant all last summer. Yesterday, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, tribe chairman, confirmed that the tribe has signed a lease with Wenonah Madison and her husband Daniel Sauer. She described the combination of the tenants and the business as a very good fit.

The husband and wife team are experienced in the food business. Mr. Sauer was formerly the chef at the Outermost Inn in Aquinnah. Ms. Madison, a Wampanoag tribe member, has worked in the food service business in New York City. The couple has two young children and lives in Aquinnah.

“We are pleased that we are able to assist a tribal member and her husband establish their new business of 7a Foods,” Ms. Maltais said in an email to The Times. “It will be unique and is the type of business that everyone can appreciate.”

Ms. Maltais would not disclose the terms of the lease, which she described as a private business transaction. She said the tribe would prepare the building for its new tenant.

Last April, there was a glimmer of hope that Back Alley’s might re-open when the couple applied for a special permit from the West Tisbury zoning board of appeals to operate a food counter and take-out business. However, a lease agreement could not be reached in time to prepare for the summer.

Asked about the lost summer, Ms. Maltais said the tribe chose not to move forward because the selling season was too far along. “We didn’t want to burden the young family and business with rent throughout the difficult winter months at the very beginning,” she said. “So we waited until now to allow them the best possible opportunity for success.”

Ms. Madison and Mr. Sauer could not be reached for comment.

Chris Scott, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns Alley’s General Store, spoke enthusiastically about the couple’s food and management talents.

“I really look forward to the two businesses working together,” Mr. Scott said.

The building was left vacant when Paul Garcia, owner of Garcia’s Deli, unexpectedly shut his doors and moved out (Nov. 5, “Garcia’s closes over rent hikes”). According to Mr. Garcia, his annual rent was more than $60,000, plus a percentage of the business’s gross sales.

The tribe bought Back Alley’s CafĂ© from former owner Howard Ulfelder in the spring of 1999.