Two visions – two new stores in Oak Bluffs

Erica Belle-Williams of MV Allston, a new store located on Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Gwyn McAllister

Two young women — one a native and one a longtime Vineyard visitor — recently opened shops in Oak Bluffs. Both stores are welcome and interesting additions to the downtown business scene, and both spotlight the individual talents of the two young entrepreneurs.

Made MV is a collection of offerings from local artists and artisans. MV Allston is an affordable boutique run by a woman whose fashion background is evident in the range of women’s clothing options, from sporty to dressy.

Made MV is located at the top of Circuit Avenue. Owner Holly Lawyer has filled the small shop with her handmade children’s clothing, jewelry, and photos, along with items from a number of local folks displaying a variety of artistic talents.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said the Vineyard native, who has sold her work for the past nine years at the Ag Fair and at various street fairs. “I think all Island artists come to the same conclusion that it’s expensive to have a store here.” Her solution was to reach out to other local artists to sell on consignment. Among the shop’s inventory are paintings, photos, collage works, pottery, wooden items, clothing crocheted items, hair accessories, skin care products, soaps, food items, and lots of jewelry.

A few of the artisans whose work is on display are well represented on the Island but most are new to the Vineyard arts scene, which makes the shop a great resource for those looking to discover new and unique hand-made products.

“I was trying to get people who aren’t that well known. I don’t think it’s fair to judge people on what they’re making rather than on their talent,” Ms. Lawyer said, referring to the restrictions set by some of the flea and artisan markets on Island.

The store features work by more than 20 individuals. Among the items are cotton scarves made from recycled Vineyard tee-shirts by Rae Carter. The lightweight and colorful scarves show off familiar images such as the Black Dog patchworked with logos from banks, stores, and nonprofits.

Angelic Fontaine has a pretty display in one corner with hair accessories made from silk flowers. Pottery fans will be pleased to find several very unusual styles of glazing from ceramicists Debbie Hale and Scott Campbell.

Jewelry styles cover a wide range of prices and materials from beach pebbles and wampum to pearls and other gemstones.

And then of course, there is Ms. Lawyer’s handiwork. One of the first things to catch the eye in the shop is a rack of charming little girl’s dresses. The mother of three young girls has come up with a simple design, made from cotton, that features a halter top with a drawstring. Ms. Lawyer notes that the garment can be worn in multiple seasons — first as a dress, then as a tunic top over tights. The ties can be adjusted as the child grows.

The inventory is constantly growing as more and more artists discover the store. Ms. Lawyer sells everything on consignment and welcomes new artists, artisans, and others offering items made on the Vineyard.

MV Allston

Erica Belle-Williams named her store MV Allston after her grandfather, Leonard Allston Yancy, a jazz musician who was well known on the Vineyard for his performances at Lola’s. While others in Ms. Belle-Williams’s family encouraged her to pursue a professional career, her grandfather supported her artistic side. “He was the one in my family who really encouraged me. He always told people, ‘She can do something creative.’”

A high energy, driven young woman, Ms. Belle-Williams approached a fashion career through the business side. She attended the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in New York City, then went on to work as a fashion merchandise buyer and in marketing and merchandising. As a stylist, Ms. Belle-Williams took part in Fashion Week in New York and was able to develop a sense of the fashion market and fashion trends.

“When I graduated from college, everything was expensive,” she said. “It was all about labels and high-end products. Then we saw the economy shift and people wanted cheaper goods.”

Nothing in MV Allston even approaches a $100 price tag — including some fabulous evening wear numbers. The pieces range from casual comfortable cotton separates for $15 to $25 to flowing kimonos and tunics featuring popular tiny prints, to stretchy skinny jeans in black or white for $25. Despite the very reasonable prices, the clothing is hardly of the disposable variety. Many of the items are made in the U.S. or the U.K. The fabrics are soft cottons and blends. The designs are not necessarily of the trend-of-the-moment variety. A small selection of jewelry runs from $3 (yes $3) for a pair of earrings to $25 for items made by local designers.

The Kennebec Avenue shop caters to all sizes with a range from size 0 to 26. “Being plus-size myself, I know that it’s hard to find good quality stuff,” Ms. Belle-Williams said. “London has the best plus-size fashion. I like to find smaller designers and local designers.”

MV Allston carries a line of logowear from a small company called Legendary MV. The locally based company makes soft tees, tanks, hoodies, and sweatshirts featuring a distinctive logo and Oak Bluffs and Inkwell imprints. A small selection of fun party dresses can be found in a variety of styles. Ms. Belle-Williams joked, “My favorite color is glitter.”

The 29-year-old owner, who has been spending summers on the Vineyard since she was a baby, has managed to keep her prices down by decorating the store with hand-me-down furniture and otherwise keeping things simple. The small shop is filled with light and welcoming. “My vision was to have a coffee shop feel,” she said. “It’s neat and bright, but you feel like you can come in and relax.” The price point is certainly not intimidating, and Ms. Belle-Williams stocks water, snacks, candy, and dog treats.

The very personable shop owner has found the town to be as welcoming to her as she is to her customers. “The other store owners have been great,” she said. “Basics has sent some people in who were looking for plus-sizes. That’s what I love about the Vineyard and why I wanted to open a store here even though friends kept asking me, ‘Why don’t you open a store in New York?’”

Made MV is located at 55 Circuit Ave. across from Slice of Life. The store is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm.

MV Allston is next to Rouge Luxe on Kennebec Ave. in the space formerly occupied by the vintage store Aequinox. Open Sunday through Thursday, 10 am to 7 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm.