New Tisbury businesses deem first summer season a success

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Photo by Janet Hefler

As another summer season winds down and Labor Day approaches, three owners of new downtown Vineyard Haven businesses called their first season a success. Despite a sluggish economy with iffy conditions for starting a business, they said they do not regret their decision to take the leap.

Although there are no sales figures from previous years for comparison, the owner of a new swimwear shop, a new fashion studio and design studio, and a women’s collection boutique said their businesses are off to a good start, and they are optimistic about the future.

A lovely bunch of Kokonuts

Over Memorial Day weekend, Alex Srulovic and his wife Fawn opened Kokonuts, a swimwear and resort wear shop, at 38 Main Street, in the space formerly occupied by the Jabas Gallery.

“All in all, we’re happy with our decision and with our first season,” Mr. Srulovic said at his shop on Monday. “The economy has not been the greatest, but it could have been worse.”

The Srulovics opened their first Kokonuts shop on the island of St. Barts in the French West Indies, followed by one in Delray Beach, Fla., and one on the island of Majorca, off the coast of Spain.

Mr. Srulovic said he and his wife had planned to expand their business with a store in the northeast and were considering Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, and Nantucket as possibilities. On a visit to the Island in April, they looked at some commercial properties to lease and found what they were looking for in Vineyard Haven.

“We liked the space because it is on Main Street, it was available right away, and no one else is doing the same type of business,” Mr. Srulovic said. “We sell a lot of jeans and dresses, as well as swimwear, and none of our clothing lines are sold elsewhere around here.”

He and his wife also considered Edgartown as a possible location for their new shop, but were dissuaded by higher rents and lack of an available space on the town’s main street.

One hurdle the Srulovics encountered in their new endeavor was finding summer employees and housing. Fortunately they found a place to rent around the corner from the store, and Mr. Srulovic is pleased he can walk most places rather than use a car.

Asked about the economy’s negative impact on starting a new business, Mr. Srulovic said it was more a matter of finding a new location to expand an already established business. Although he is new to business on Martha’s Vineyard, he has the advantage of being a seasoned business owner with knowledge of what sells in his shops and what doesn’t in this market. The Kokonuts shop in Delray had its best season ever this year, Mr. Srulovic said.

He brought his top-selling items in Florida to Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Srulovic said he would likely change some of the inventory for next season based on his observation that the Island’s fashion scene is a bit more conservative. He plans to close the shop for the off-season, probably at the end of September and return to Delray where his daughter attends high school.

For more information, call 508-687-9825 or email kokoatlantic@hotmail.com.

Stina Sayre makes a move

Across the street and just up the block, Swedish-born fashion designer Stina Sayre relocated her design studio and boutique from Beach Road extension to 43 Main Street on June 25.

“My first season here has been incredible,” Ms. Sayre said. “I’ve gotten great responses from people in the new location.”

Her previous studio/boutique was about one-fifth the size of the new one. Recessed lights, white walls, and glistening wooden floors lend the feel of an art gallery to the space, to draw attention to the clothing, she said. Ms. Sayre describes the shop’s wares as “women’s clothing and accessories, in the urban minimalist style.”

Most of her fabrics come from Europe, particularly France and Italy.

Ms. Sayre said she made the move to expand her business to gain more space and exposure. Although well aware of the poor economy, she said, “I was ready this year to do it — the day comes around when either you do it or you don’t.”

She kept her business in Vineyard Haven, where she and her family live, for convenience. She works and designs everything in her studio, which is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.

Ms. Sayre said her boutique differs from most fashion stores, since customers have a unique opportunity to meet the designer and see her at work among her sketches, patterns, and swatches of fabric. Plus, they can get clothing she designs fitted for them.

Ms. Sayre plans to cut back her hours this fall and open the shop in the winter only by appointment. For more information, visit her website at www.stinasayre.com or call 508-560-1011.

The Collection at the corner

At the corner of Main and Union Streets, The Collection is tucked under the Leland building, down a flight of stairs. Owner Kerry Quinlan-Potter, who is also a full-time real estate agent for Lighthouse Properties, opened the new shop in May.

Women’s shoes, clothing, and accessories are showcased on wooden displays made by her husband, contractor Bill Potter of Squash Meadow Construction. She said she wanted the store to be a space where women would feel comfortable hanging out.

“The feedback has been fabulous,” she said. “People are happy with the presentation, the atmosphere, and the inventory. We’ve definitely been selling shoes.”

Ms. Quinlan-Potter said she wanted to have her own retail store for years, as a creative outlet.

“Real estate is a challenging business to be in, especially in the winter, and it’s not easy to keep yourself inspired,” said Ms. Quinlan-Potter, who comes from Montreal. “This is really a way to take some of the edge off for me during the winters here.”

She decided to move forward with her plans for a store when Shibori, which previously occupied the corner shop, went out of business in March.

“It’s not a good time to start big, but when the opportunity presented itself, I could see myself able to do it all, to have an office here for my real estate work, in an environment filled with pretty things,” Ms. Quinlan-Potter explained. Her 9-year-old daughter also spends time with her there.

She said she picked Vineyard Haven for her year-round business because it’s more of a year-round town. She plans to replace summer shoes, beachwear and cover-ups in the winter with scarves, hats, tights, leggings, socks and boots.

“This summer was definitely an eye-opener as to what retail businesses in Vineyard Haven have been going through all these years,” Ms. Quinlan-Potter said.

With many vacant storefronts and few restaurants, Vineyard Haven lacks the nightlife that Edgartown and Oak Bluffs have, which is a challenge for downtown businesses, she pointed out.

“The thing that was shocking to me is that I had ambitions to stay open until 8 pm, but everything dies at 5,” Ms. Quinlan-Potter said. “People here have no reason to be out and about and strolling around. The town would do well to loosen up its permitting and take steps to encourage new businesses.”

In the meantime, Ms. Quinlan-Potter has leased her store space for three years. “We’ll see how it goes; I have high hopes,” she said. “This definitely has enhanced my quality of life. It was a goal of mine for a long time and I absolutely have succeeded.”

The Collection is now open from 10 am-5 pm daily. For more information, call 508-687-9814.