Bunch of Grapes will move to Bowl and Board space

President Barack Obama greeted well-wishers following a visit to the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore to stock up on reading for his Vineyard vacation last August. — File photo by Susan Levine

The Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on Main Street in Vineyard Haven will move, but not very far. The new home is just across the street, in the former Bowl and Board building.

“The Bunch of Grapes Bookstore and the Hall family proudly announce the execution of a lease for the former Bowl and Board property,” a press statement announced this afternoon, “which will allow the Bunch of Grapes to move its retail operation to 35 Main Street, and for years to come continue its role as one of downtown Vineyard Haven’s anchor stores.” The Cini Miller law office in Edgartown made the announcement, in a one sentence press release.

The move is the latest chapter in the 40-year history of the Island’s only remaining year-round bookstore.

In October 2008, Dawn Braasch bought the business from owner Jon Nelson and signed a long-term lease with building owner Anne Nelson, Mr. Nelson’s mother.

In a telephone conversation late Friday afternoon, Ms Braasch told The Times financial considerations prompted the move.

“The book world has been hard hit in the past few years,” Ms. Braasch said. “Since I bought the book business, between the bottom falling out of the stock market and summers not being what they once were here, and ebooks, we were hit especially hard.”

Ms. Braasch said she now occupies 5,000 square feet over two floors. The new space is 3,300 square feet, on one floor.

Ms. Braasch said one challenge in her current space is attracting customers to the second floor.

“Nobody likes to climb the stairs,” she said. “No matter how much signage we provided, we still had people saying I never knew you had a second floor. So, anything that was on the second floor, whether it be cookbooks or children’s books, I think is just going to do much better being on the same floor.”

Ms. Braasch said that the new space will be less expensive to lease and staff. She said the nature of the business and range of books offered will not change.

Ultimately, she said, it was a decision she needed to take to save the business. “I had to make a call in order to save the business,” she said, “and that was downsizing and moving to a place that would be less costly.”

Ms. Braasch said she looks forward to the future.

“I am so excited,” she said. “It’s been a long process, but the Halls were ultimately great to work with, and I think it will be a really good space for us. I’m excited about putting tables and chairs out on that little patio and throwing the doors wide open.”

Ms. Braasch says she envisions a small coffee bar where people can sit and read. “I’m really optimistic this will be the move that will make us profitable for the first time since I bought the business,” she said.

Ms. Braasch said would end her longterm lease and expects to move by Memorial Day weekend, mid-June at the latest. The current bookstore space will revert to Ann Nelson, for her use.

Ms. Braasch, a resident of Vineyard Haven, moved to Martha’s Vineyard full-time in 2005 and worked at the bookstore for two years before buying the business.

Mr. Nelson and his family moved to Texas only days before a fire on July 4, 2008, that started next door to the current Bunch of Grapes, at Café Moxie restaurant, spread to the bookstore and severely damaged it.

The Hall family owns several Main Street properties, some of which have remained vacant for some time for a while, including the building once occupied by the Bowl and Board.

After 37 years in business, the Bowl and Board closed in February, 2010, due to declining sales, co-owner Maria Metters said.

Interviewed in February for a story about Main Street businesses, Benjamin Hall Jr. told The Times his family had several possible leases in the works but nothing had come to fruition yet.