Tisbury businesses hope new eats bring more feet on Main Street

New businesses are sprouting up along Main Street in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Tisbury is showing signs of an early and promising spring, from emerging crocuses and daffodils to new businesses about to bloom. Although vacant storefronts remain on Main Street and some of last year’s shops won’t reopen this spring, many Tisbury business owners say they are optimistic about the upcoming season. They are hopeful that several new restaurants due to open soon will generally increase customer traffic.

To kick off the trend, Seth Gambino will hold a grand opening for La Choza, his new take-out burrito place at the corner of Main Street and State Road, from noon to 2 pm on Wednesday, February 29. He said he plans to offer customers an affordable option for lunch and dinner by keeping the price of a “good-sized” burrito and drink under $10. La Choza, which means “The Shack” in Spanish, has a small counter area where customers can stand to eat, but there is no seating.

A few doors down at 18 Main Street, Sweet E’s Cupcakes moved out and M.V. Chowder Company plans to move in.

Owner J.B. Blau, who also owns Sharky’s, said he had been looking for a space in Tisbury for a few years as a possible Sharky’s takeout site. When the Sweet E’s spot recently became available, Mr. Blau decided to open a chowder shack there instead. “I figured the town didn’t need two burrito places, given Mr. Gambino’s plans to open La Choza,” he said.

“We’re going to offer multiple types of chowders available hot for immediate consumption, cold for people who want to bring it home, and frozen for people who want to stock their freezer,” Mr. Blau said. Other to-go menu items may include pastries, lobster rolls, lobster salad, and pre-made sandwiches and salads.

Cupcake lovers should not mourn, however, as Sweet E’s already has a sign up in a new location close by, around the corner next to Bob’s Pizza.

Work also continues nearby at Café Moxie, an old favorite under new construction. A fire destroyed the predecessor café on July 4, 2008, and badly damaged the Bunch of Grapes bookstore next door.

Although the bookstore was rebuilt in a year, a drawn out insurance claims process, town limitations on the construction schedule, and issues with NSTAR delayed work at the café site.

Last November, owner Mike Ryan told The Times he had purchased kitchen equipment and hired Chef Willy Wannamaker of Edgartown. When asked about an opening date, he said it would be “soon.”

On Tuesday this week, Mr. Ryan said two apartments above the restaurant are 90 percent done, and that the kitchen and restaurant are being painted. “We’re getting close,” he said. “I’m not going to say definitely when we’ll open, but it’s going to be weeks as opposed to months.”

At the end of Main Street, extensive renovations are under way on the first floor beneath Le Grenier restaurant, now in its 34th year. Owner and chef Jean Dupon plans to open a new café, La Cave du Grenier, that will serve breakfast, lunch, and light dinner.

Although he hoped to open the café in April, Mr. Dupon said this week it would likely be early May because the renovations were more extensive than expected. The M.V. Bagel Authority, which formerly leased the space, closed last fall.

In addition to Main Street dining options, chef and owner David Spooner is on track to open his new French-American restaurant, Mon Amour, in April, at 395 State Road. The 50-seat restaurant will be located at the site of the former Nicky’s Italian Café, in the same building complex as Radio Shack and Island Entertainment.

A few maybes in the mix

There is a mix of yes, no, and maybe among existing and potential Main Street business owners, as they contemplate the upcoming season.

In the cul-de-sac across the street from the vacant Bowl and Board store, the former Che’s Lounge space is under consideration by Josh and Angela Aronie as a possible site for a new restaurant.

For the last three years Mr. Aronie served as the chef at their popular year-round eatery, the Menemsha Café. The Aronies closed the café last December because of a rent hike and what they deemed unacceptable terms in a proposed new lease.

In a phone call Tuesday, Mr. Aronie said although the Che’s Lounge space is a possibility, recent reports that he would definitely open a restaurant there were premature.

Tisbury approved a zoning permit in March 2011 for a 48-seat restaurant at the site, which is in a building owned by the Benjamin Hall family. Several Main Street properties the Halls own have vacancies, including the building once occupied by the Bowl and Board and the former location of the Green Room, now relocated and doing well at 71 Main Street.

Benjamin Hall Jr. told The Times last week they have a lot of potential leases in the works but nothing has come to fruition yet.

When asked about rumors that Midnight Farm might move into the former Bowl and Board site, Mr. Hall said, “I can’t confirm nor deny anything right now.”

Stop and Shop Supermarket Company announced plans last spring to expand its Vineyard Haven store, which includes the space leased by Midnight Farm at the back of the building.

A Midnight Farm employee said last week that the store’s management is in negotiation for possibly leasing the former Bowl and Board building, which has been vacant for two years. The employee said there is no official timeline for a move.

Last May Stop and Shop purchased the property and building adjacent to its Vineyard Haven market where the Golden Dragon Restaurant and Vineyard Sweats are located. On February 1, Stop and Shop purchased another piece of property next door to Midnight Farm, at 15 Cromwell Lane. No formal plans have been announced yet for the expansion.

Some doors open, others close

Another business on the move is Vineyard Electronics, the Radio Shack dealer at 325 State Road. With their lease due to run out and in need of more space, owners Linda and Don Sibley are looking at purchasing the former site of Vineyard Home Center at 426 State Road.

Last December, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) reviewed their preliminary proposal to renovate the building, contingent on its purchase. The project would create a mixed-use facility, with two apartments on the second floor and space in back of the building to lease for light manufacturing and/or warehouse use.

The MVC agreed that the project qualified as a modification to the property’s existing development of regional impact permit and did not require a public hearing review. Last week Ms. Sibley said she could not say with 100 percent certainty where Vineyard Electronics would move, until details are finalized and papers signed.

Tucked away between Midnight Farm and Main Street, the space for the former Riley’s Reads children’s bookstore will soon have a new tenant. Landlord Todd Silva said on Tuesday a lease is in the works and that he expects a new retail operation, not food or clothing, to open there April 1.

After being closed for the winter months, the future of the Tyler and Tallulah shop at 43A Main Street is uncertain. Business partners Beth Vages and Betsi Convery-Luce relocated the shop, which specializes in European children’s clothing, from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven two years ago. Ms. Vages said this week they have not decided yet whether they will reopen it this spring.

A few shops will definitely be absent from the Main Street lineup.

Hannah b.’s, a women’s clothing store that opened last May at 56 Main Street, has a “For Rent” sign in the window. Waterside Market owners Stephen and Susan Bowen decided to close Vineyard Kinda Life, a gift shop they ran for two years next door to their restaurant at 76 Main Street.

Business-friendly climate

Depending on square footage, annual leases for storefronts on Main Street range from the low $20,000s upward, Peter Cronig, owner of Cronig’s Real Estate, estimated.

Mr. Gambino said he looked at rental properties for his burrito shop in the three down-Island towns and found prices similar. “I found affordable places in Edgartown and ridiculous prices in Tisbury and vice versa, and the same in Oak Bluffs,” he said. “It depends on the landlord.”

Mr. Gambino said the positive business climate in Tisbury affirmed his decision to open his shop there. “The town has been terrific in helping me find solutions and working with me to get the place open,” he said, which included approval for an increase in sewer flow allotment.

“I’ve been involved in food service operations in New York, Chicago, Boston, Great Barrington, Pittsfield and Adams, and this has been the easiest and most friendly process I’ve ever gone through,” he added.