Along the Katama bike and walking path in Edgartown sits a small red wagon loaded with pitchers of cold water and lemonade. Signs at either end invite passersby to help themselves and “enjoy a nice cold drink.”
What began as a kid’s lemonade stand more than 15 years ago has evolved into a gesture of hospitality from an Island visitor new to this country who appreciated how easy it was to meet people at a good old-fashioned lemonade stand.
When Gertie Collins, a year-round resident of Austria, first began visiting the Island with her husband and children she found herself in an unfamiliar place — Katama, the windswept, often foggy portion of Edgartown adjacent to South Beach, quite different from her native surroundings.
“In the first 15 years I was here, nobody talked German,” Gertie said. “I had nothing to read in German, I was on the end of the world.”
Gertie’s nephew and children began the lemonade stand. Once the kids in the family were no longer kids and their attention turned to more lucrative pursuits, Gertie took over the stand.
It was not long before rather than selling drinks, she gave them away. Gertie found she profited more from her interaction with a cross-section of people she met.
“It’s not a volume business … The money is inconsequential,” Gertie’s husband, Gary Collins, explained.
The drink stand provided an opportunity for Gertie to interact with people and get to know the community. Gertie talks about meeting all nationalities, from near and far away — Canadians, Germans, Dutch, Belgians — just to name a few. Every day new and return visitors stop at the stand.
In addition to lemonade, there is a variety of homemade drinks available, such as black tea, mint water, cucumber water, and a special blend of strawberry and raspberry fruit punch.
When the stand first began, it was a way for their kids to get out of the house. Now, it has transitioned into more than that.
“She just had this idea, because every year the people are so appreciative,” Gary explained. “They just love it and they think it’s great.”
Many passersby take the opportunity to express their admiration for Gertie and her stand in a guest book left for that purpose.
Harvard professor, PBS host, and seasonal resident Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote, “What a generous gift your family gives to the Island. I admire your noble spirit.”
Samantha and Angela Williams wrote, “Thank you so much. Just what we needed on this hot day!”
A Spanish speaker who signed his name “Jose” wrote, “Gracias, it is a wonderful idea. I love it.”
And a woman named Julie simply wrote, “Thanks Gertie, you’re an angel.”