This Memorial Day weekend, The Green Room in Vineyard Haven celebrates its 20th anniversary. Founder and owner Elaine Barse opened her surf and skate shop in 1994 on Spring Street. The business expanded in 2003 with the purchase of LeRoux Clothing and Fashion on Main Street, where The Green Room now sells surfboards and sporting gear alongside fashion apparel and accessories from sought after brands including Patagonia, Tommy Bahama, True Religion, Hunter Boots, Levi’s, Frye, Mia, Clarks, Steve Madden, Dansko, and North Face.
How did you get started?
I worked with a guy named Neil Peck of Peck’s Bad Boy and he kind of introduced me to the action sports industry. I was already a snowboarder, but he introduced me to skateboarding and surfing and all that. So when he went out of business, I took over that void that existed on the Island. I sort of fell into it that way.
How has your business changed over the years?
We used to be focused solely on surf and skate, but when we bought LeRoux, we entered a whole clothing and fashion environment. Going to New York [apparel shows]is very different than dealing with surf reps. I think I’ve been very lucky, the business has grown as I’ve grown professionally. I was 27 when I opened the store. You don’t want to do the same thing you did when you were 27, 20 years later.
What do you remember about your first day of business?
My first customers were an Australian couple. They still live on the Vineyard.
What has been your best day?
I’ve had a lot of them. It’s hard to nail one down. A lot of people think a best day is a financial thing, but it’s really not. Our annual sale (going on until mid-March) is the highlight of the year.
How about a worst day?
Probably one of the worst experiences I’ve had was when a skunk wandered in to the store. I had no idea what to do. This was the first year we were in business. It would have ruined my entire stock.
We called someone from Animal Control. She said, go to Cumberland Farms, buy chocolate donuts, and make a trail out the door. It worked.
What keeps you going when it’s summer and you’re working all the time?
I can’t work seven days in a row. I will work from home, but that’s very different from being in the store. Having really good staff allows me not to have to be here seven days in a row and allows me to be a better boss to them.
How do you relax on your days off?
On the Vineyard: Go to a yoga class, go to the beach, do a little paddle boarding and just relax. Off-Island: snowboarding.
What else floats your boat?
I’m really proud of being involved with the Martha’s Vineyard Skate Park, getting that off the ground and really helping that come to fruition. It opened in 2003. and we’d been involved for five or six years at that point.
What advice would you give a new business starting on Martha’s Vineyard?
You’ve got to jump in with both feet. You have to. Because if you’re worried about failure, there’s a chance you will. If you’re prepared for failure, that’s a whole different scenario. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. And try and enjoy it. Make sure that you do take time for yourself.
The Green Room, 71 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6888; vineyardsurf.com.
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