Tisbury Business Association makes plans for a positive future

Main Street, Vineyard Haven is quiet during the winter months. — File photo by Susan Safford

The Tisbury Business Association (TBA) held two brainstorming sessions on Thursday, January 26, that provided members with the opportunity to share concerns and propose new ideas.

TBA president and Bunch of Grapes owner Dawn Braasch hosted the 8 am and 4 pm sessions at her bookstore. Although billed as an “open meeting” in a promotional email, Ms. Braasch requested that reporters who attended both sessions keep comments from business members off the record so everyone would feel comfortable to speak freely.

In general, those who attended the 4 pm session endorsed TBA plans to consider a name change for its organization, lobby the Tisbury selectmen for a new town parking lot, upgrade its website, and host some new events and a “buy local” campaign.

In a follow-up phone conversation with The Times on Monday, Ms. Braasch said a total of about 30 people attended the two sessions.

“What was good about the meetings is that traditionally TBA meetings have been attended mainly by Main Street businesses,” Ms. Braasch said. “This time we felt we got a good cross-section of other Tisbury businesses, as well. It’s a tough time economically, so I think everybody’s interested in coming together and doing what we can to make town businesses all do a little better.”

At both sessions, Ms. Braasch said members expressed support for the idea of the TBA changing its name to the Vineyard Haven Business Association.

“As several people pointed out, event planners use Vineyard Haven as a location name, not Tisbury,” she said. “It would give us the opportunity to piggy-back our name in connection with a lot of these events.”

Ms. Braasch said the name change would be on the agenda for discussion and possibly a vote at the TBA’s March 16 breakfast meeting.

As always, the need for more parking for employees, customers, and visitors came up in the TBA sessions. In response, Ms. Braasch said, “We’ll move forward as a board to draft a letter to the Tisbury selectmen that we would strongly urge them to use the old fire department property as a public parking lot.”

The TBA also plans to redo its website to offer a business directory and information on how to do business in Tisbury as a service to members and an enticement for new ones. At one member’s suggestion, Ms. Braasch said she would explore the possibility of enlisting some Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students to take on the project.

The TBA already has several events planned, including two “celebrate the arts strolls” on Friday nights in July and August; a Columbus Day sidewalk sale, and a family Christmas shopping night on a Saturday in December.

The TBA also will support the Tisbury Street Fair in July, the Sail MV regatta weekend, JAWSFEST: The Tribute on August 9-11, and the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival in September.

In addition to events, Ms. Braasch said she and Kerry Quinlan-Potter, who owns The Collection store on Union Street, are researching how the TBA could run a “buy local” campaign.

Last week’s meetings dovetailed with a recent membership drive. The TBA obtained a list of about 700 “active” businesses from the town and sent out membership applications to all of them, Ms. Braasch said. As of last week, the TBA had 52 members. Annual dues are $95.

“Everything we do comes out of membership fees,” Ms. Braasch noted. “We are going forward with a ‘buy local’ campaign, for which there are grants available, but advertising and events, for example, are funded by membership fees. That makes serving on the board and anything else we do all volunteer.”