Essay: The benefits of a new Stop & Shop

Essay: The benefits of a new Stop & Shop

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A photo illustration shows how the latest design for a new grocery store in Vineyard Haven would look.
A photo illustration shows how the latest design for a new grocery store in Vineyard Haven would look.

Stop & Shop has proposed to replace its current tired and inadequate Water Street store with a beautiful new store that, beyond all measure, will meet the needs of the community, benefit the town of Tisbury, revitalize the center of Vineyard Haven, and in the process encourage future investment in a downtown area that sorely needs reinvestment as the gateway to the Vineyard.

There is no need for word pictures here. Just walk up Water Street for starters. Quaint and inviting are not defined by peeling paint, narrow sidewalks in disrepair, and rundown structures. The before and after of Stop & Shop’s proposal is stunning by Vineyard standards.

The Stop and Shop Company plans to expand into the space now occupied by a former restaurant and clothing store.
The Stop and Shop Company plans to expand into the space now occupied by a former restaurant and clothing store.

As a former Tisbury selectman and a citizen of our town for more than 30 years, I know firsthand about failed efforts over the years to revitalize the downtown, and I fear the consequences of allowing further deterioration. We’ve asked commercial property owners to simply do the bare minimum upkeep, put a coat of paint on a tired building, to

replace loose shingles, very simple measures to enhance the beauty of our town. We enacted a town by-law to provide the local building inspector some enforcement authority and a penalty structure to force business owners to maintain their buildings. Yet, for all of those efforts, today as I write this we have not one full-service restaurant on Main Street that serves dinner, no movie theater, and one rundown grocery store.

Tisbury has a loyal partner in Stop & Shop, one who over the years has contributed generously to our schools, seniors, and community programs. In Stop & Shop, we have an anchor for revival of the downtown — renovating an entire block, keeping in the character of Tisbury’s rich history, and attracting visitors back to Vineyard Haven who are now bypassing the town for Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and beyond. Sadly, Tisbury has become, for many summer visitors and locals alike, just a waiting line for the ferry.

It’s time we do something about this. There will be those who remain resistant to change on Martha’s Vineyard. For reasons I cannot explain, we will always have a group of people who want to keep the status quo, even when the status quo is rundown, dilapidated buildings. From my perspective, change is a good thing, when done smartly. The proposed renovation of Stop & Shop is smart development.

Some in opposition have unfairly criticized Stop & Shop for the lengthy permitting process. The reality is that this site is perhaps the most unique development site on Martha’s Vineyard. We are adjacent to the main port for vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the Island throughout the year. We are adjacent to the worst intersection many of us will ever know, the infamous Five Corners. And we are abutting a town property, the

municipal parking lot that services the entire downtown area. We have been working closely with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, town of Tisbury officials, the business community, and residents of Tisbury to make this a better project. We are thankful for the input and the directions provided from many different and varied sources.

The most recent deliberation that has delayed our bringing our project to a final hearing is the result of ongoing discussions, since October, between Tisbury selectmen and a special town subcommittee over recommendations for improvements to the adjacent municipal parking lot. When Stop & Shop first applied to the MVC we had a vision for the parking lot that was included in the proposal. We were advised to bifurcate the project and focus on only the Stop & Shop property, and to let the town decide what they wanted to do, if anything, with the town lot. That has simply proved impossible. This project does not exist separate and apart from the lot. They are inseparable. Ultimately there are too many issues that interconnect between the lot reconfiguration, or the lack of a reconfiguration, and the proposed renovation, to provide a final product for a decision from the MVC.

Therefore, Stop & Shop has asked for the MVC to delay a final hearing until the town of Tisbury has had a full and complete opportunity to vet the proposed changes to the municipal lot. Once the town has made its determination, whether to change the lot or not to change the lot, Stop & Shop can button up its final proposal and head to a clean, and complete, MVC review.

As for the facts of this project:

• The footprint of the new building is just 6,500 square feet larger than the existing footprint of the buildings currently on site.

• The Water Street footprint of the proposed building is the same length as the present Stop & Shop and the rundown Chinese restaurant that now serves as storage for the store.

• The Norton Lane footprint of the new building is the same length as the current Stop & Shop, now a hodgepodge of three entrances for groceries, personal and hygiene products, and natural foods.

• The rear andwest side of the new building, blocked from view for the most part by surrounding buildings and proposed structures, will be extended the length of the Prouty house and yard.

• Stop & Shop is fully committed at its own expense to relocating the deteriorating Prouty house that, discovered as a part of this application process, is hidden from view, and years from now, if left in it’s current state, will collapse in disrepair.

• And yes, the building is higher, as will all renovated buildings be along Water Street, given new state regulations for the flood plain. Taller buildings along Water Street are unavoidable, a minimum of eight feet taller. The proposed Stop & Shop building height at 33 feet, in fact, is lower than the proposed new Island Housing Trust building next door and below the current zoning requirements.

There is a reality here. All buildings in the Water Street location will, at some point in our future, be raised approximately eight feet so that they don’t wind up in the harbor.

Project benefits:

• Stop & Shop is smartly utilizing the space beneath the building created to comply with the proposed floodplain elevation to provide 42 parking spaces beneath the structure. The proposed plan relocates the truck deliveries from the Norton Lane side of the store to a completely enclosed receiving area to the rear of the building.

• Stop & Shop has reduced the originally proposed store size by close to 15 percent, thus creating much wider sidewalks and pedestrian friendly gathering spaces along its Water Street frontage.

• All of the proposed development will be on Stop & Shop’s property, thus eliminating the current easements that are in place.

• The company has also committed to contributing to traffic studies for Water Street and the downtown, and to working closely with its neighbor, the Island Housing Trust. Results of collaborative studies with traffic consultants have indicated the replacement store will only increase in traffic at Five Corners by about six percent.

• This project creates new jobs: with its proposed new Vineyard Haven store, Stop & Shop will employ 160 in season (30 full-time and 130 part-time) and 100 in off-season (20 full-time and 80 part-time). Part-time workers will have regular opportunities for increased hours. At present, the Vineyard Haven store employs 96 in season and 57 in the off-season.

• And finally, the impressive architecture of this proposed building: architect Chuck Sullivan of Oak Bluffs has designed a supermarket in keeping with Tisbury’s vintage architecture, in tone, scope, and aesthetics. This will be one of the most attractive supermarkets in all of New England.

The downside of not moving forward with this project is business as usual in Vineyard Haven, and that is not in the best interest of anyone — the town of Tisbury, its residents, and Stop & Shop.

Geoghan Coogan of the Edmond G. Coogan Law Office in Vineyard Haven represents Stop & Shop and is a former member of the Tisbury board of selectmen.


  1. Thanks for investing in the Vineyard, and offering reasonably priced food products that make it possible for a middle-class family to not have to travel off-island in order to economically survive.

    Now, how about making the Edgartown store as nice as the one you have planned for Tisbury?

  2. S+S ruined driving into Edg. We shouldn’t let them do the same thing in VH. I am curious what the studies showed on traffic impact in Edg. I want my roads back and I want them safe for emergency vehicles. We have traffic jams there now at 6:40am. This won’t help that. Too much stuff pushed into a tiny area and the SSA is way more important.

    1. The fact that you have traffic jams at 6:40am when Stop and Shop is not open should tell you something.

      1. It does. It shows us it’s not a sufficient area without a S+S there, let alone with. It also shows we should consider changing five corners. First things first before we start biting off more than can be chewed.

        1. Very good. What is the fix and when? 5 Corners? Union St? State Rd? What would your plan look like even if you take the S&S plan off the table? All of these point directly toward the SSA. I know it’s a would have, could have, should have kind of thing but the town, state, SSA and MVC should have had the foresight to see this coming years ago when the VH terminal was overhauled, that’s when a significant change could have been made. Stop and Shop is there and not going away, they own the property and are an anchor year round operation that is going to up-grade and improve the area and add some much needed parking. Please Tiskid explain the fix.

          1. Move S+S to a feasible location where the is actually room instead of putting them right in the middle of where they shouldn’t be. Anywhere you put the SSA too much stuff will try to follow it. If you moved the SSA to Tashmoo or West Chop magically too much stuff would follow it, say they were anchor business, too important to consider moving, and say the SSA is the problem. The SSA footprint is far better than it was. S+S needs to either move or stay small. Those are the realistic choices. There is no more room for more traffic. None. Go somewhere there is or go away. Tisbury had a chance to fix things. It was called the connector road. They were told repeatedly by Fred L we needed one, but it was voted down by a minority of the town because it was a borrowing issue. Then in that case maybe don’t borrow. Just buy. It’s just not that much money. Once built there would be quite a bit of space there for S+S right in the heart of the town, and far more accessible. Then S+S downtown could be turned into parking or more bus space or housing for people that could walk. Problems solved. Instead we seem to want horribly dangerous traffic year round. I’m ready to listen to ideas about how 5 corners could be a roundabout. I’m ready to listen to how Union St could be changed. I’m not ready to listen to how we should fit yet more stuff into a tiny and critical area.

          2. One of the flaws in your plan is S&S is there, they own it. When you say move it how does that work? “Hey guys, we’re going to need you to sell this prime piece of commercial real estate and move.” Maybe at gun point. What is the too much stuff that would follow the SSA? Tashmoo??? West Chop???

            I don’t even get that. The extender road would be fantastic but I’m not sure it would impact the unloading of The Island Home into 5 corners. While the roundabout on Barnes and EDG/VH is working well again I don’t think it would solve the 5 corners problem when The Island Home dumps in VH. It’s all about the boats, get ready for the new super freight boat, that will help.

          3. Obviously the SSA wouldn’t move to Tashmoo or West Chop. That’s why I said “magically”. But if they did businesses would spring up around it quickly. How would that happen? They would buy land there, just like how S+S ended up where they are now. They’re have to make a business transaction. They’d have to buy one place and sell another. They are in the middle of attempting business transactions now. They had to buy the spot they are in in Edgartown. It could be done. I totally agree with you the boats are a huge issue. 5 corners wasn’t ready for that and even if 5 corners changed it might not matter if they just got another larger boat. It’s true that the S+S is already there, but so is the SSA

    2. I drive into Edgartown every morning to drop my sons at school and haven’t seen this mysterious traffic jam…and that’s at 8:30 in the morning.

      1. You’ve never been in a traffic jam going into Edg? And the jam just happens to let up right after the S+S? Never? Do people do their shopping at 8:30am?

        1. Well, in August I guess…but I don’t think that’s the Stop & Shop. Wait…do you call three cars a traffic jam?

          1. So, you were speaking about traffic in the area of the Stop & Shop at 6:40 a.m. in the morning during August? Yes, obviously, that’s the fault of the Stop & Shop. We should move it off island and all of the traffic will go away. Gotcha.

          2. Nooooo. No. We should put an even bigger and better S+S right at the intersection of Look and Edgartown Rd where we know there is only bad traffic in August and it’s not S+S’s fault. Great planning.

          3. Actually, it’s a pretty good location as it is close enough to town that a lot of people can walk or ride their bikes their…rather than driving.
            Enough though, you’re right that 6:40 a.m. traffic is a killer…let’s close it down.

          4. Which S+S are we talking about? The one that two people ride/walk to, or the one that three people walk/ride to?

          5. Many, many people walk and or bike to both Stop and Shops. A grocery store is the backbone of a community; removing it will be the final blow. I suggest, to the people who want to move Stop and Shop and the bowling alley out to the airport, why don’t you go too. You can have your own little town.

          6. Oh yeah. You can always see all the bikes lined up, and all the people walking with their bags. Tons of em. At Cronigs too.

          7. Not that you feel this way Sara but “to the people who want to move Stop & Shop” YOU CAN’T!!! It’s not on the table, not in a million years would they or should they give up the piece of land they OWN. I’m just so tired of hearing that theory that S&S can be moved to suit others’ needs.

          8. Then ya gotta stay appropriately sized for a small neighborhood….no malls, no Wall Marts, no Lowe’s, no super shopping centers located right in the busiest and most important intersection on the island, which is already clogged up like the Big Dig all summer long, and at other times too.

          9. There is no mall or Wallmart, the foot print will not be that much bigger, it can’t be. You are looking for Tisbury circa 1965, good luck finding the time machine. The rest of us will move forward.

          10. I’m pretty sure the 1965ers are the ones that would have you believe tons of people are actually walking/biking to get their groceries, that there are no traffic jams here, except in August, and that we didn’t need a connector road. I’ll sit here in reality, thank you very much.

          11. Coulda sworn there was Diary Queen right around there. There were also no buses and I highly doubt anyone would want 4 grocery stores in any downtown area now

        2. There is also a delay the other direction, turning left across traffic to Pinehurst Road. I don’t know why drivers turn there, should we shutter that shopping plaza and tell residents of the neighborhood they must move?

          The solution for Upper Main Street is two small roundabouts: one at the Triangle, the other at the Curtis Lane / Cooke Street intersection. Then ban turning left across traffic. Instead, drivers circle the far roundabout and come back for an easy right turn off Main Street.

          This won’t cure traffic problems in Edgartown, that is why I didn’t make the Edgartown Road intersection the second roundabout. Traffic will continue to backup southeast of Peases Point Way because there is not enough parking beyond.

          1. The pointy end of Cannonball Park. Such a roundabout needn’t be very big. The effect would be drivers could legally make a U-turn and head back the way they came.

          2. It came late, on Wednesday, and it was just a slightly incoherent dupe of one I published a week or two ago. I may publish it next week or the next.

          3. I’ve long advocated this type of solution for Edgartown, specifically, a round-a-bout at the Triangle, then one around Cannonball Park, along with no left turns. I do this already, often, during the summer – instead of trying to turn left when exiting S&S or Edg. Nat. Bank I turn right and drive the block up to the Triangle and turn left there and re-enter the traffic pattern heading into town. This would work even better if it were actually designed for this purpose.

          4. Your idea makes sense.
            Are you wondering about the cars turning left off VH road to Chase road or turning left off W Tis road on to Pinehurst by Edg Hardware?

          5. That’s a short-cut from VH Road on Chase Rd through to the WT Road. Brings you out on the WT road just before Coops.

      1. Good question. I would say the same thing that let 93 Tisbury voters say “Not in my backyard” to the Tisbury connector road when the rest of the town overwhelmingly was in favor of it, and it was recommended by town personnel.