Identical twins, five sets, spice up the staff at the Home Port

No, you're not seeing double: twins, four sets, are working at the Home Port this summer. From left, Jessica and Mariah Cambell, Rachel Serwa, Tanner Halkyard, Katie Serwa, Weston Halkyard, Jennifer and Heather Mears. — Photo by Gwyn McAllister

If you have trouble identifying your server in a busy restaurant, then a trip to the Home Port this summer might just completely throw you for a loop. The popular Menemsha restaurant is currently employing five — yes, five — sets of identical twins.

It’s sheer coincidence that the Home Port is celebrating the summer of twins, according to owner Sarah Nixon, although she points out that Massachusetts has the highest incidence of twins in the country. She says, “People want to know, is it gratuitous or not? Last year we thought it was fun and then this summer we ended up with an epidemic.”

Two sets of twins are returnees this year, two are new, and one young woman, 20-year-old Alexa Fisher of Chilmark has joined her twin sister Zoe who worked for the restaurant last year.

Three of the matched pairs, 20-year-olds Katie and Rachel Serwa, 21-year-olds Tanner and Westin Halkyard, and 20-year-olds Jennifer and Heather Mears, have known each other since childhood, having grown up together in Amherst. The Serwas are servers, the Halkyards have several responsibilities, and the Mearses are backdoor servers.

Rachel and Katie spent the summer on the Vineyard last year for the first time and secured jobs at the Home Port. When they decided to return this summer, they recruited their childhood friends as both roommates and coworkers. As well as working and living together, these six hang out as a unit after work and on their days off. “We go on family trips,” Jennifer said. “We go for ice cream or to Sharky’s.”

Bussing tables for the Home Port was a first job for Jessica and Mariah Campbell of Chilmark. They started work last year when they were 14 and have returned to the restaurant this summer.

Ms. Nixon tries to schedule the twin sets together so they will have the same days off. “It’s confusing but fabulous at the same time,” she said. “The teamwork element is exemplified by the teams of twins.”

Ms. Nixon notes that she differentiates between them by focusing on one distinctive characteristic, like a nose ring.

Not only are patrons sometimes mystified, but even other staff members have a hard time telling the twins apart. “Some people [employees] have just figured out that there are actually two of us.” says Rachel said.

But the confusion can be an advantage, according to Jennifer. “Customers think that we’re really efficient when one brings water and one brings bread the next second,” she said.

The twins all claim that they are no better at differentiating between other identical twins than anyone else, although they say that you tend to pay more attention to individual characteristics when you are perpetually mistaken for someone else. Tanner claims that he can’t even tell the difference between himself and his twin in childhood pictures of the two. Heather, on the other hand, thinks that she and Jennifer look more alike now than when they were kids.

The boys have different hairstyles, but the girls are very similar in appearance, even down to the freckles and braces on the Campbell twins. Although they all say their parents dressed them in matching outfits as kids, they tend not to dress alike now. Says Jennifer, “Sometimes we come out in the same outfits and we say, ‘Oh no, we have to change,'” Jennifer said.

As a twin it is difficult to resist a practical joke now and then. Jessica and Mariah have been known to switch classes at school and Tanner and Westin once fooled their respective girlfriends. The twins tend to share the same interests and likes and dislikes.

The Halkyard boys are both architecture majors at Syracuse University and play ultimate frisbee. The only food preference they don’t share is, oddly, sour cream and onion potato chips.

Jennifer and Heather are both business majors at Western New England University, where they play volleyball and softball. “We connect better with each other on the court than with anyone else,” Jennifer said.

They all agree that twins are competitive with each other, but in a friendly way. When asked as a group if they fight, they answered in unison with a resounding “yes” except for Mariah and Jessica. “When you’re around someone 24/7, you’re going to fight,” Heather said.

The Campbell twins have somehow managed to avoid bickering, despite the fact that they not only live and work together but also jointly participate in sports — soccer, swimming and track, and other activities.

When Mariah and Jessica said that they will not attend the same college, at least three other twins said, “That’s what we said.” The six Amherst natives all chose the same school as their twin, although they say they each came up with the same plan independently. However, Rachel and Katie will be splitting up in the fall when Katie transfers from UMass Amherst to the University of Vermont. Zoe and Alexa attend Roger Williams University and UMass Boston, respectively.

They all say that they finish each other’s sentences, and Tanner and Westin recall having shared dreams as kids. One concern that all the Home Port twins share in common is the thought that they might have been confused as babies and are now going through life with the wrong identity — something that very few of us, except on an existential level, can relate to.

Ms. Nixon may show preference to the next set of identical twins that apply for work — not just for continuity, but because she’s become biased towards twins. “After working with this many sets of twins I’ve developed a theory,” she said. “Twins are incredibly hard-working, particularly thoughtful, extremely flexible, and a heck of a lot of fun. What more could we ask for? It’s perfect for the Home Port.”

Twin lobsters, anyone?