Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer
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From left: chef Dana Rezendes, Jenny Dowd, Doreen Rezendes, and Tony Rezendes in front of their restaurant, The Square-Rigger, in Edgartown.

The Square-Rigger is a traditional New England style restaurant at the triangle in Edgartown, owned and managed by Tony and Doreen Rezendes and their family. Son Dana is the chef, and daughter Jenny Dowd helps manage the front. They specialize in classics like quahog chowder, mussels, stuffed mushrooms, boiled lobster, baked stuffed shrimp, New York strip steak, and prime rib.

The “Rigger” as it is known, serves surf and turf from a menu that has seen little change in over twenty years. “We have a large, vocal clientele who lets us know if we take things off the menu,” said Dana. “Adding new items is difficult because a menu can only be so big before you can’t handle it, and we have one of the biggest menus on the Island.”

“We did add a take out menu three years ago, and we have slowly made small adjustments to the menu,” Dana said. “But there has not been a change in the concept of the menu since we took over the Rigger almost twenty years ago.”

Dana said that his focus has been staying consistent and not getting caught up in the hustle of reworking the menu to fit popular trends. “We are a place where people can find the same thing they ordered last year or the year before.”

Tony worked for the post office and had no restaurant experience when he and Doreen bought the restaurant in 1995 from the previous owner William Holtham. Doreen was managing the Rigger at the time and had managed the dining room at Mr. Holtham’s other Island restaurant, the Homeport in Menemsha. Elder daughter Amy and Dana also got their starts in the restaurant business at the Homeport.

Dana began to work at the Homeport when he was eleven, washing dishes and helping clean up. At fourteen, he was cooking at the takeout line. Six years later, when the family bought the Rigger, he started working as a line cook before moving into the head chef position a few years later.

Jenny Dowd and Doreen manage the front of the restaurant with help from the only non-family member in a management position: Nina Ferry. Jenny is also in charge of the wine list and keeps the shelves stocked with a wide variety of select wines, including good moderately priced wines. Tony fills in wherever he is needed.

Dana said there are always new challenges popping up, usually with employees and customers. “One night a former dishwasher showed up to work wearing nothing but an apron,” he said. “That made us laugh. And there are the situations you find yourself in in the dining room. We had a customer loudly shushing a child at another table, over and over, and yelling at his parents. She told them to tell their child to shut up. You just think, ‘is this really happening? What do we do?’ It just happens. Dealing with people who are drunk and rude to the staff is never fun but we just look back and laugh.”

He said there are new things he would like to try in the kitchen at some point in the future, but he won’t say when or if that will ever happen.

From father to son, and onward.

Long-time employee TJ Giegler, left, poses with Daniel Larsen and Dan Larsen.

edgartown-seafood-market-wide.JPGDaniel Larsen owns and runs Edgartown Seafood Market with the help of his son — Daniel Jr., or Dan, 38 years old — who has been working at the market for 19 years. The market is open 11 months of the year. It sells fresh fish, and during the summer has a takeout menu. Danny, as the elder Mr. Larsen is known, grew up fishing with his dad, the late Chilmark fisherman Louis Larsen, before opening the market in 1986.

Danny Larsen, here in 1970, has been fishing all his life. (Courtesy Trisha Spring).
Danny Larsen, here in 1970, has been fishing all his life. (Courtesy Trisha Spring).

Danny’s sisters, Betsy Larsen and Kristine Scheffer, run Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha. His brother Louis owns Net Result in Vineyard Haven, and his cousin Stanley Larsen owns Menemsha Fish Market. The family’s markets are independent of one another. “We are not related by the wallet,” Danny said, “we are only related by the name.”

In a recent interview, Danny spoke to The Times about losing his dad in March and his mother four years ago. “That adds a new dynamic to my life,” he said. “I’m still sortin’ things. We’ve had a lot of help from family and friends. I’m pretty fortunate.”

Danny is a tall, large man — like his dad — and it is often difficult to tell if he is preoccupied or just moody. Ask him a question, though, and you get to hear one of the driest senses of humor around. He has even been known to crack a smile from time to time.

The Times took the chance and asked him a handful of questions.

When you were fishing, what did you fish for?

What did you think we fished for, king crab? I grew up fishing for all the things you go fishin’ for around Martha’s Vineyard: dragging in winter, swordfishing in the summer, scalloping, lobstering, all of it. I fished before it became fashionable to just fish for one kind of fish, when you had to go after everything to make your whole living out of fishing.

Why did you decide to open the market?

Danny (left) and Albert Fisher.
Danny (right) and Albert Fisher.

I needed something to do, and since I had done it with my father since he opened Larsen’s in Menemsha, that’s what made me decide. My dad built his store the year I got out of high school, 1968. We first opened in a garage down the road where the Depot Corner was, and when we got a chance to buy where we are now, we did, in 1994. I try to hire local kids because I think they need jobs. It’s fun to watch them grow up.

Did you go to school after high school?

I was the only kid in the first grade at the Chilmark school. Oh, this is for the paper? I got my law degree from Harvard.

Your son Dan works for you. What does he do there?

He plans to take over quickly, I hope. It’s what’s keeping me hanging on. Retirement has never worked well for my family. I plan to work for Dan. It will be like a role reversal, I’ll get paid to do practically nothing. I’ll just come in to pick up a check. I would like to travel and spend some time with old friends and my six grandkids. I want to see them play little league, watch them grow up.

Do you close for the winter?

Daniel Larsen, left, with his dad, Dan, behind the counter at Edgartown Seafood Market.
Daniel Larsen, left, with his dad, Dan, behind the counter at Edgartown Seafood Market.

People think we close for the winter, but we only close for about a month to clean and make repairs. We stay open until the day after Valentine’s Day and open on St. Patrick’s Day.

What are your bestsellers?

In the summertime we probably sell more swordfish, a lot of lobsters, a lot of everything really.

Do you have any memorable customers?

Oh no, you’re not doing that to me, no way.

Have you had any funny experiences while in business?

Oh, yeah, I’ve had quite a few. But I’m not a squealer.

Do you have any business goals?

Just tryin’ to make a living, no gimmicks, no contests. We are trying the best we can. What else is there? Every day is a new day.

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A trio of friends hoof it around Martha’s Vineyard as summer wanes.

Austin Chandler, Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark, left to right, began their walk around the Vineyard in Menemsha.

Last year, Benjamin Clark, then a sophomore at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, thought about walking around Martha’s Vineyard, but he didn’t get around to it. This year, now a junior, the 16-year-old and his two best friends, Austin Chandler and Jacob Cardoza, both 16 and fellow juniors, just about made it around the entire Island. If it hadn’t been for summer jobs and a visiting president, they might have made it all the way around. Friends since grade school, all three are members of the high school football team.

The path the boys took.
The path the boys took.

The trio thought the walk might be a good way to take advantage of the waning days of summer before school started, and before reporting to hell week — the tough first week of MVRHS football practice.

“We just wanted to see the Island,” Ben recently told a Times reporter, “and when we told people about it, they said we couldn’t do it. So it became more [about] trying to prove them wrong.”

Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark strike out on Lobsterville beach the beginning of a three day, 50 mile walk (photos courtesy of Ben Clark).
Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark strike out on Lobsterville beach the beginning of a three day, 50 mile walk (photos courtesy of Ben Clark).

The round-the-Island walk has been made by many people over the years, but it is often done in segments — sometimes over as many as two or three years — taking the tides and the weather into account, and usually in the off-season, when the issue of crossing private beaches is less of a problem.

The friends mapped out a route that included three days of hiking over sandy beaches, and rocky beaches, swimming across several inlets and camping out for two nights. They consulted online weather sites.

Each one asked for a day off from his summer job. Ben, son of Tim and Dori Clark of Oak Bluffs, worked for the Oak Bluffs harbormaster. Austin, son of Christopher and Jane Chandler of Edgartown, worked at Wheel Happy, a bike rental company in Edgartown, and Jacob, son of Christine and Paul Cardoza, also of Edgartown, worked at Karpet Kare in Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Clark, Ben’s father, dropped the circumambulators off in Menemsha early Thursday morning, August 14, with backpacks of food, cooking gear, sleeping bags and fishing rods.

The Island hikers pitched camp with a driftwood fire their first night on Lucy Vincent Beach.
The Island hikers pitched camp with a driftwood fire their first night on Lucy Vincent Beach.

Heading west, counter-clockwise around the Island, they crossed the Menemsha opening on the bike ferry. Walking, sometimes barefoot, the three quickly put Lobsterville and Dogfish Bar behind them, before they got to the Gay Head cliffs. There, they were pushed up off the beach by what Ben called “a crazy high tide.” They continued on along Moshup Beach and Philbin Beach around Squibnocket Point and pitched camp near Lucy Vincent Beach, a Chilmark private town beach.

They hadn’t bothered to bring a tent, simply spreading out their sleeping bags under the night sky. They collected driftwood, broke out the granola bars, and started a fire to heat up Boston baked beans and Progresso soup.

The fire attracted a nearby property owner, who asked what they were doing there on the beach.  “We told him we were walking the Island, and he just asked us to clean up after ourselves before we left,” Ben said.

At about three in the morning, it began to rain, heavily. It poured for 30 minutes, extinguishing their fire and soaking just about everything they had. “We had checked the weather and it was supposed to be clear skies. It was a real surprise,”

Friends since preschool and all members of the M.V. Regional High School football team, Ben Clark, Austin Chandler, and Jacob Cardoza walked around the Island this summer. — Ben Clark
Friends since preschool and all members of the M.V. Regional High School football team, Ben Clark, Austin Chandler, and Jacob Cardoza walked around the Island this summer. — Ben Clark

The sleeping bags were waterproof, but the storm crept up on them so quickly, and with so much rain, that they had little time to keep their clothes from getting drenched. “My shoes were pretty useless after they got wet,” Ben said.

The group had brought cell phones to keep their parents informed of their progress. Ben called home and got some motherly advice. “Mom, this sucks,” he told his mother.

“Spread everything out on the beach and go for a swim,” Ms. Clark replied. “It will dry.”

They started another fire in the morning, hoping to dry out a little, then started walking east along the south shore.

Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark walked away from the beach to avoid an extraordinarily high tide while hiking around Gay Head.
Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark walked away from the beach to avoid an extraordinarily high tide while hiking around Gay Head.

Ben said that the key to their success was to focus on completing the walk. “We stayed in the zone while walking,” he said, “and didn’t talk much until the nights. We tried to keep up a steady pace and we never took breaks of more than about 15 or 20 minutes.” It was not enough time to fish, he added, though they made a few casts a couple of times and caught nothing. They did manage to swim a few times.

From Lucy Vincent Beach the three hikers headed to Katama, swimming across the opening to Tisbury Great Pond at Quansoo. They had decided not to cross the breach at Norton Point, thinking that adding Chappaquiddick to the hike would add another day or two they didn’t have.

They also avoided the crowded Edgartown summer shoreline by catching a ride with parents from Katama to Cow Bay on the east edge of Edgartown. From there, they hiked State Beach to near Hart Haven in Oak Bluffs and set up camp for a second night.

Saturday, the third morning, they hiked into Oak Bluffs and got a ride in a dinghy across the Oak Bluffs harbor opening with a fellow employee of the harbormaster, Ben’s summer employer.

At the East Chop Beach Club parking lot, they met Ben’s mother, who brought them clean clothes and more sunscreen. Then they started walking again.

A woman on East Chop told them they were on private property and were killing her beach grass. “We apologized,” Ben said, “and told her we were walking around the Island and she let us walk through.”

They walked around Vineyard Haven Harbor and out to West Chop, where parents met them with refreshments. From there, they headed west, swam across the Tashmoo opening and stopped after they crossed the Seven Gates beach, just over the Chilmark town line, thinking that the Secret Service might make it difficult to pass the area where President Obama was staying a little farther to the west, blocking their route back to Menemsha.

It was Saturday night. They were picked up about 8 pm, walking from the Seven Gates beach.They were tired and sunburned, but triumphant, Ms. Clark said.

When Ben got home, he jumped into the shower. “My toenails were all broken,” he said. “My toes had been stubbed a couple of times. I went barefoot for most of the walk, which was kind of a bad decision, but my shoes got wet the first day and weren’t good to wear. It wasn’t too bad up-Island. It was pretty sandy but the north shore was pretty rocky.”

“We were pretty impressed,” said Ms. Clark. “They said they were going to do it and they did. I got home about 9:30 Saturday night and Ben was out like a light. He woke up Sunday morning, sunburned and his feet were a mess. He got up and went to work at 8. It was a hell of a way to get ready for hell week.”

The trio plan to do it again next summer, to add Chappy and to take five days. “I will be considering a better form of footwear next year,” Ben said.

Christine Seidel, Cartographer/GIS Coordinator at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, calculated the distance around the outer beaches of the Island at about  57 miles, not including Chappaquiddick. Including Chappaquiddick it would be about 64 miles.

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After 55 years in the restaurant business Chef Jean Dupon still has a smile and a twinkle in his eye. — Michael Cummo

After working in restaurants for 55 years, French chef Jean Dupon is retiring. On Sunday, October 12, he will close the doors of Le Grenier, his signature second-story restaurant on Main Street, Vineyard Haven,  where he has been the chef for 36 years. Le Cave, his two-year-old French style bistro, downstairs from Le Grenier will close September 8.

He has a purchase and sale agreement for the building and a deposit in hand from Steve Bowen, owner of neighboring sandwich shop Waterside, The Blue Canoe on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, and a restaurant, Parkside Market in Falmouth. The sale is scheduled for November 28. Mr. Bowen told The Times he plans to open a seasonal, family style, old school Italian restaurant upstairs in May called La Soffitta. “We are trying to maintain some continuity with Le Grenier which means attic in French,” he said, “la soffitta is attic in Italian.” He said he will probably open a year-round casual eatery downstairs.

“I just turned 71 and I’m done,” Mr. Dupon said to the Times recently, in  his locally recognizable French accent. “Even if the sale does not go through, I will shut it down and wait until something happens. I do not want to spend another winter like last winter here on the Vineyard.” Referring to the harsh weather, he said, “It was horrible.”

He plans to spend part of the year on the Vineyard where his three grandchildren, his son Jean-Marc Dupon, and daughter-in-law live, and where he will be closer to his daughter and two grandchildren in Malden. He will spend part of the year in Florida with his two sisters.

“I will miss the customers,” he said. “It is really rewarding when you have made something that contributes to somebody’s happiness and satisfaction, especially here when they are on vacation.”

He has served celebrities and the families of presidents but never a president, and once had to ask two well-known comedians to leave because they were so rude to their dates.

“I have met many, many people,” he said. “I am dealing with three generations now. Grandchildren of people I served years ago are now eating here. I have so many memories. I have kept all my reservation books for the last 25 years and many of the entries bring back memories.”

At 16, while a high school student and soon after his family moved to Malden from his native France, Mr. Dupon got his first part-time restaurant job at the French restaurant where his stepfather found work. “When we came here I was the only one in the family that spoke any English,” he said. “The only place to work when you only speak French in this country is in a French restaurant where people speak French.”

He worked in a half dozen or so French restaurants in the Boston area, gaining experience until becoming a chef for some of Boston’s finest establishments. He eventually opened his own restaurant called Fromages Import, a small cheese and gourmet food shop in Harvard Square where he sold 250 types of cheese and cooked lunches.

In the late 1960s Mr. Dupon received a phone call from Martha’s Vineyard from an Eleanor Pearlson, a realtor who owned Tea Lane Associates, an up-Island real estate business. “She must have been in my shop,” he said, “but I didn’t know her. She talked to me about the Vineyard for about a half an hour and asked me if I would consider opening a shop on the Vineyard. I had never been to the Vineyard.”

“I drove down. She met me at the ferry. I spent the whole day with her. It was March. I don’t remember seeing another car on the roads the entire day. She showed me Martha’s Vineyard like I have not seen since. I fell in love with the Vineyard.”

That day he signed a lease with Ms. Pearlson for space in a building she owned near Beetlebung Corner in Chilmark, where the Chilmark Tavern is now.

That summer, he opened a shop similar to the Cambridge shop and operated it for five summers, while camping in a tent at Webb’s Camp Area, an Oak Bluffs campground that closed in the late 1990s.

“What was there not to like about summers on the Vineyard, Jungle Beach, Lucy Vincent Beach? I was in my twenties, separated from my wife. It was beautiful, free this and free that. How can you not enjoy that?” His parents managed the Cambridge shop while he was on the Vineyard.

In 1973 Mr. Dupon opened a full service French restaurant in Lexington called Le Bellecour, the same year he got his American citizenship, which he needed in order to get a liquor license. He gave up the shop on the Vineyard. “I don’t even remember living during the five years I had Le Bellecour. It was work, work, work. I got sick of it.”

He sold the restaurant, bought a trailer and spent the next seven months with a friend traveling the entire outline of the United States, 70,000 miles. “I thought about living on the West Coast, but I came back east because of my family and kids.”

A friend from Boston Mr. Dupon had introduced to the Vineyard, Tony Matta, bought the Vineyard Haven building and opened Le Grenier in 1978. Mr. Matta asked him to run it. “I took the job. A girlfriend and I used to go to the beach every single morning. It was paradise. One time we took a picnic to Lucy Vincent beach we got back after a little wine and too much sun. I fell asleep on the floor about three in the afternoon. At six I heard a knock on the door. People were lined up to eat. I never did that again.

“By the next year I had the reputation as the best restaurant on the Vineyard.” He signed a five-year lease that ended in 1985 when he purchased the building and the business from Mr. Matta.

From 1981 to 1992 Mr. Dupon also ran the French bakery downstairs called La Patisserie Francaise. “Wow, we were so successful,” he said. “We were the only place that made croissants on the Island. I remember one Sunday we did over 2,000 croissants by hand. I once had five bakers.”

The two businesses were a success. He paid off the building in 2005, bought a house on the Island, and satisfied a lifelong passion to learn to fly. He bought a plane which was destroyed in a crash on an Oak Bluffs beach three years ago when a he ran out of fuel due to a faulty gauge near the end of a trip back from Hyannis. He and his passenger walked away unscathed.

“I sometimes kid that I am Afro-American,” Mr. Dupon said. His father was in the free-French Air Force in Dakar, Senegal, then French West Africa when he was born in 1943. After the war, the Dupon family lived in Dijon and Lyon. Tragically, Mr. Dupon’s father was killed in a car accident. The nine-year-old Jean was a passenger in the car, and after a two-week recovery in a German hospital the young Dupon was sent to the first of two French military schools.

“The first military school was awful. The second military school was an air force school and I loved it. That was when I decided I wanted to be a pilot.”

He was pulled out of school against his will when the family moved to Malden, where he spent three years at Malden High School.

At 18, Mr. Dupon applied and received a provisional acceptance to the United States Air Force Academy. “I even had a room assignment,” he said. “A week and a half before I was scheduled to report the SAT scores came in,” he said. “I scored in the high 700s in chemistry, math, physics. In English I got a 450. Half the words I had never seen in my life and that kept me out. I was so depressed. I decided if I couldn’t fly I wouldn’t go to school. If I had known what it meant to go to MIT or Harvard I might have tried. I didn’t know.”

He married at 19 and soon became the father of a girl, nine months to the day from the date of their wedding, he said.

“This has a been a hard life, the restaurant business is really hard, a lot of hard work,” Mr. Dupon said, “but it is all I really know how to do. I quit the business twice. Once I parked cars in Boston for six months. I began to miss it. I love to cook, but I was fighting it. It is like an addiction.

“The restaurant business is hell on a family life unless the two of you are really made for it, and it’s in your blood — although there will always be problems. The restaurant business is always a love-hate relationship.”

He said that the upside of the restaurant business is pleasing the customers, and the relationships he has developed with employees over the years.

“Many employees have gone through these portals,” he said. “Some of them, because of their experience here, have become chefs.

“When I used to work under French chefs, they were the worst — old men with attitudes. Most of them drank a lot and would treat you like dirt and some it rubbed off on me.

“I remember one time, I was quite young, 19, I was in charge of lunch and there was a Canadian waitress in her fifties who was like a mother to me. We had a disagreement and I hit her with a chicken. Tears poured from her eyes. I went over and hugged her and we both cried. That day I swore I would never treat an employee like I had been treated by other chefs.

“This has been my philosophy here. I may be the chef, or whatever, but I will do the dishes or serve a customer. In my restaurant we are all equal, this has been the most rewarding part of what I do.”

“When I started I was so shy you couldn’t get me out of the kitchen. I would never talk to a customer. I would step out the back door rather than have to meet a customer, but that has changed 180 degrees. I am now willing to talk about my life and my work and I am ready to move on.

“I will miss the customers and my employees.”

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Agreement with abutters to old police station building is reached.

West Tisbury's solar panel array is poised to begin drawing power from the sun. (Photo by Susie Safford) — Susie Safford

The West Tisbury solar voltaic panel project at the old town dump is nearing completion and is awaiting NSTAR to plug it in, town administrator Jennifer Rand said at the selectmen’s meeting on Wednesday, August 27.

“We are now going to enter a holding pattern waiting for NSTAR,” she said. “It can take as long as NSTAR feels like taking.” Ms. Rand said there is a deadline NSTAR is supposed to meet that she thinks is about 60 days, and she hopes the connection will happen in that time frame.

Selectman Richard Knabel expressed frustration over the length of time it has taken to complete the project. A change in electrical contractors was required after the first contractor hired went out of business.

“Theoretically this should have been on line on July 1,” he said. “So we are losing revenue while they take their time.”

Ms. Rand agreed but said, “It is all moving forward, and it is very exciting.”

In other town business, selectmen agreed unanimously to changes Peter and Beatrice Nessen proposed to an agreement under which the town now maintains a septic system for the old police station, which was built on a lot so small and so close to the Mill Pond, that the septic system was sited on an adjacent residential lot owned by the Nessens with the condition that the lot would only be used for the police station.

Police vacated the small, 1,000 square foot building, their home since 1974, when they moved into a new $2.5 million, 5,600-square-foot headquarters at 454 State Road in North Tisbury, behind the Public Safety Building, in March.

An agreement to change the name of the building from the police station was first on the list.

“Building by the Mill Pond,” suggested chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a police sergeant. That name was quickly dismissed by his two associates. No decision on a new name was reached.

The amended agreement includes a requirement to provide an annual report of water flow to insure that flow to the septic system stays below a limit now set at 45 gallons a day, and a reevaluation of the 45 gallon limit to determine if it is a reasonable limit that does not strain the septic or adversely affect the Nessens’ property. The agreement also limits parking on the town-owned lot to three cars.

The selectmen plan to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to rent the old police station after the new agreement is finalized and several other issues are ironed out.

One concern is whether to replace the furnace, another is to decide on the rental conditions. Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said that it is important to establish conditions that are in the best interests of the town. Last month, a committee appointed by the selectmen to study the building’s use recommended that the building be leased to a nonprofit group.

Two soundproofing issues were also on the Wednesday night agenda. Ms. Rand reported that she had received an approximate price of $20,000 to install two-inch-thick sound-damping panels in the town hall to help reduce the level of distracting noise generated in the offices, an expenditure that she said would have to go before the town at town meeting. Selectmen decided to address the issue more thoroughly at the next meeting.

Also sound-related, Ms. Rand said that Animal Health Care had reported that it had completed the installation of soundproofing designed to help reduce the noise of barking dogs in the facility’s kennel adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The dog noise had generated complaints from residents of a nearby subdivision who brought their complaints to the selectmen and asked for relief.

The meeting ended with what has become an annual seasonal event. Mr. Manter presented Mr. Knabel, who was unable to attend the Fair for the second straight year, with an Ag Fair tee-shirt he had purchased for his fellow selectman. Mr. Knabel expressed surprise that the shirt was the correct size.

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There’s a gem in the woods of West Tisbury. Just don’t tell too many people.

Mike Gambone and Donnie Morgan manage Hostel International USA's Manter Memorial Hostel in West Tisbury, the Vineyard's only hostel. (Photo by Michael Cummo) — Photo by Michael Cummo

The Manter Memorial Hostel on the Edgartown Road in West Tisbury is surrounded by lush trees that have all but hidden it from the road. But travelers from all over the world have no trouble finding the Vineyard’s sole hostel, according to co-managers Donnie Morgan and her husband, Michael Gambone. This year, the couple will provide accommodations for close to 3,000 people before the season is over.

MCOH0033.JPG“By far the majority of our guests are from the United States,” Ms. Morgan said. “The Vineyard can be a difficult place to get to.” But Mr. Gambone pointed out that they have guests from all over the world; many European travelers who are experienced hostelers often make reservations well in advance for trips with stays in hostels throughout New England, including the Vineyard and Nantucket.

The hostel also hosts bike groups, Scout troops, and programs for the FARM Institute and other local organizations that bring in people from off Island. Now and then, there’s even a wedding.

Dan Usher, a longtime hosteler, talks with Sally Denais, who was visiting a hostel for the first time. (Photo by Jamie Stringfellow)
Dan Usher, a longtime hosteler, talks with Sally Denais, who was visiting a hostel for the first time. (Photo by Jamie Stringfellow)

On a recent summer morning, guests mingling over breakfast in the big common room included a man named Russ Kane, who’d ridden his motorcycle from Wethersfield, Conn., and praised the “clean rooms, breakfast and the full kitchen available to us.”

Paul Metzler, from Chicopee, had parked his car in Falmouth and put his bike on the ferry. There were close to a dozen guests at the hostel for the African American Film Festival, including two women, Jalisa Goodman and Kim Townes, who spoke about the camaraderie among guests, and that “filmmakers could mingle here, unlike in a stuffy hotel in a city.” The night before, half a dozen of the film festival guests decided to go to a party in Oak Bluffs together. Kim, a Hampton College alumnus, joked that it was “actually sort of treasonous” that she had made friends at the hostel with Jalisa, an alum of Hampton arch-rival Howard University.

A typical dorm room at the Manter Hostel.
A typical dorm room at the Manter Hostel.

It was the first time that Sally Denais, an elegant middle-aged woman from Nahant, had ever stayed in a hostel. She’d spent previous Vineyard visits in a timeshare. “This is great!” she said. “The rooms are comfy, and okay, I sleep in a bunk bed, but I like my bunk bed.” She reported being surprised after going out to a party with three “girls” she’d met and returning to the hostel, not a raucous dorm room, but to complete quiet. “The other girls in my room were like mice!” she said. “Just sleeping lumps in their beds!”

There's plenty of seating in the common room.
There’s plenty of seating in the common room.

Sally, who confided she’d packed popcorn and cookie mix to make later in the kitchen, had just met Dan Usher, who has stayed in hostels all over the world and the country. “You never have to travel alone,” he said, as he and Sally stood at the counter with coffee, sharing travel tales. “In hotels, you don’t meet people the way you do in hostels.” After sharing their enthusiasm for hostels, and in particular the Manter hostel, Ms. Denais and Mr. Usher had second thoughts about letting a reporter know “how great the place is. We’re not sure we want you to write about it!”

MCOH0043.JPGThe building, named to honor Islanders Lillian and Daniel Manter, who built the hostel in 1955 and ran it for many years, is operated by Hostelling International USA (HI USA), a nonprofit founded in 1934 to promote international understanding of the world. HI USA owns and operates 50 hostels and is affiliated with Hostels International, which oversees over 4,000 hostels worldwide. The Manter hostel is open to travelers between mid-May and mid-October. As with hotels, most reservations may be made online on their website. Hostels range from urban high-rise buildings with hundreds of beds, to scenic and more remote locations like the one in West Tisbury.

The Manter Hostel has look and feel of a rural summer camp, with a big communal kitchen and dining room, and a large living room but with the added benefit of a decidedly un-camp-like Wifi. It has 67 beds for visitors, in rooms including singles, doubles, and mixed dorms, and accommodations for staff in a variety of combinations, many of which can be changed according to need.

Only travelers, meaning no locals, may rent, in keeping with hostelling’s mission, and may only stay for a total of one week during a season.

The Manters based the Vineyard hostel on a model developed in Europe, first catering to traveling students and youth who once were required to  arrive on public transport, bicycles, or foot. It is the first hostel in the United States that was deliberately built for the purpose, and it has been used as a model for many hostels built since.

Curfews and wake-up calls were once the rule, and it was common for hostels to keep log books where travelers would leave messages to those following in their footsteps about places to go and things to see in the area as well as critiques of hostels visited.

“We no longer have curfews or wake-up calls,” Mr. Gambone said with a laugh, “and have not had a logbook in about 15 years. Travelers now communicate with each other via social media on their cellphones.”

The hostel’s mission is to serve travelers of all ages. “We’ve had no age limit since the 70’s and 80’s when most hostels dropped ‘youth’ from their names,” he said. “Basically if you are old enough or young enough to handle a dormitory and a bunk bed you can stay in a hostel.”

And Manter, as with all hostels, now welcome guests via any mode of transport. There is even parking for guests’ cars.

In addition to co-managing the hostel, Ms. Morgan is also regional manager and Mr. Gambone is maintenance engineer for the Northeast Region of HI USA, which means they oversee the running of seven hostels in New England and New York.

Ms. Morgan loves to travel, so when she left a 20-year career as an educational administrator in Virginia, she took several long trips around North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. “I stayed in hostels for months at a time. Managers would invite me to work after I had developed a sense of what the hostels were all about,” she said. She was not entirely unschooled in the hospitality business, having been responsible for residence halls as a college administrator.

She met Mr. Gambone at Randolph-Macon college when she was about to graduate and he had embarked on one of his first jobs as a college professor. They kept in touch over the years, and both married others. He cycled through a number of jobs over the years, picking up a variety of skills, rebuilding homes, becoming an electrician and even an electrical inspector. Twenty years after they first met, both of their marriages had ended. Mr. Gambone visited Ms. Morgan, who was working for a hostel in Buffalo, and their relationship became more serious.

In 2000 and 2001 Ms. Morgan worked as a seasonal employee at the Vineyard hostel and in 2003 returned to the hostel in Buffalo. After a long distance relationship, Mr. Gambone eventually joined Ms. Morgan in Buffalo; the couple came to the Vineyard in 2010 after a couple of seasons on Cape Cod.

They have experienced a consolidation of the Hostel organizational structure in the last couple of years from one where many hostels were owned and managed by local nonprofit boards to a nationwide organization of hostels with a national board with more standardized rules. Ms. Morgan said that there are several for-profit, much smaller companies unaffiliated with HI USA that operate on a similar model to theirs in the United States.

They open the Vineyard hostel first each year, and only after making sure the staff of five to six is in place. Once the annual town health and building inspections are complete, they oversee the opening of their other hostels. Both Ms. Morgan and Mr. Gambone said that by far most visitors to the Vineyard hostel have a wonderful time.

“One reason our guests have such a good experience at the hostel is because they have such a good experience on the Island,” Ms. Morgan said. “They find people on the Vineyard to be very friendly and helpful. They love the bus system and how helpful the bus drivers are. In most areas of the country where there is a youth hostel no one is aware where the hostel is, but that is not the case on the Vineyard. Here everyone knows where the hostel is. Islanders built it and that helps make it a unique place and quite different than other hostels.”

Information on the Manter Memorial Hostel can be found on their website, www.hiusa.org. Reservations can be made by phone or online (the preferred method), just like most any other hotel. Beds rent for $35 a night during the week most of the season, $39 a night during August, and $42 a night on weekends for members of Hostel International, $3 more for non-members. Membership costs $23.

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West Tisbury volunteer fireman Bruce Haynes sprayed foam to extinguish the remnants of a brush fire that broke out in a wooded area on Beaten Path in West Tisbury Tuesday. — Tony Omer

West Tisbury firefighters early Tuesday afternoon responded quickly to a report of a brush fire in a wooded lot on Beaten Path in West Tisbury and doused the flames before they could spread.

Firefighters sprayed foam on trees and soaked the ground to put out the smoldering brush fire that sent smoke wafting through the rural neighborhood just west of the Tisbury town line off State Road.

The fire was contained to less than a half acre. Two brush trucks, including one new truck on its maiden voyage, a tanker truck and about a dozen firefighters responded.

Fire chief Manuel Estrella said he responded to a call reporting smoke in the area of Buttonwood Farm Road next to Beaten Path about 1 pm. The trucks began to pull away less than an hour and a half later. He said the cause of the fire had not been determined.

Boat mechanic Keith Maciel, owner of the property where the fire started, said a tenant who rents an apartment above one of his two garages had a party on Saturday night. There was a large barbeque fire built on the ground in a parking area near the location of the brush fire, he said. The charred edge of the underbrush was within two feet of the edge of the area used for the barbeque.

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At the Grey Barn Farm event Sunday, 200 invited guests competed for five houses in a demonstration of the severity of the crisis. — Randi Baird

More than 250 invited guests gathered at the Grey Barn Farm on State Road in Chilmark Sunday morning on a beautiful Vineyard summer day under a huge tent to support the Island Housing Trust (IHT), a nonprofit that creates affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard.

Grey Barn Farm owners Eric Glasgow and Molly Glasgow, sponsors of the event, which included a sumptuous brunch, welcomed the guests and said that finding housing for their summer help was the farm’s biggest problem.

Owners Eric and Molly Glasgow welcomed guests to the Grey Barn Farm on Sunday.
Owners Eric and Molly Glasgow welcomed guests to the Grey Barn Farm on Sunday.

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi told the assembled guests that IHT has developed a multi-faceted approach to creating affordable housing that has produced over 60 affordable homes in its eight years, relying on a model that uses inexpensive long-term land leases, while building affordable energy-efficient homes for sale and for rent. Mr. Jordi emphasized the continuing need for more affordable housing. He said that IHT is now working on 15 units and has set a goal of 100 homes by the end of 2015.

To give people a sense of the housing crisis on the Vineyard, IHT volunteers handed out 200 envelopes that contained fictional housing applications based on real people. The applicants included teachers and health care workers, construction workers and retirees, retail employees and landscapers.

Mr. Jordi said that these 200 would be competing for five available homes, a scale similar to what the 500 families on the IHT waiting list face.

“Why is there such a housing crisis on the Vineyard,” Mr. Jordi asked, ”when there are as many houses as there are people?”

He said that second homes account for 53 percent of all Island homes, and that 25 percent of all homes are rented seasonally for an average of $2,500 a week and only 5 percent of Island housing is multi-family housing. “It’s no wonder that you are not able to find something that you can afford as young person or couple living on a modest income or a senior living on a fixed income,” he said.

He provided examples of people who hold down steady jobs but cannot find affordable housing and asked those in the audience whose housing applications described similar people to stand.

Former IHT board member Victoria Haeselbarth, an Edgartown social worker working with senior citizens, recounted her own story of raising a child on an income not big enough to buy or rent an adequate home until she was given a chance to buy an affordable home.

“I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to stand before you and ask for your support to make a donation to Island Housing Trust,” Ms. Haeselbarth said. “Every homeownership and rental opportunity requires between $100,000 and $200,000 in grant funding. IHT’s goal is to raise $1,000,000 annually in order to increase affordable housing for Island residents.”

She asked people to read over the donation forms that were handed out and pointed out the opportunity available to donors to increase the impact of their donations. She said that not only are donations over $1,000 tax deductible but they would also qualify for the state’s community investment tax credit that would return 50 percent of their donation from the state. “I ask that you give until it feels good,” she said.

Many envelopes were returned. Mr. Jordi told The Times that he would not know how much had been pledged for a week or two.

“We are grateful for the support of over 160 individuals, businesses, foundations, and Island towns this past year,” he said, “and we are proud to acknowledge that over half of our donors are year-round residents.”

He said IHT’s goal is to raise $1 million with the help of the Community Investment Tax Credit program, and to leverage these funds to secure competitive state grants for rental projects.

For more information on IHT, call 508-693-1117.

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On Their Way reacquaints MV Times readers with people who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have moved on to establish themselves in careers on or off Island. We are looking for young people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, business, in social services, in the military, in academics, in fact in any meaningful way. We welcome your suggestions.

The Huffpost Live is an online video streaming news/interview network that focuses on celebrities and current events, highlighting stories that appear on the parent website huffingtonpost.com. Twenty-three-year-old Melora Armstead of Edgartown now lives in New York,where she is an associate producer for the show. “One of the few times that an interview stopped everyone in my office was when the English comedian Russell Brand was on,” Ms. Armstead said, “because truly, the entire interview was insane. It got crazier and crazier.”

As an associate producer one of her jobs is to help line up questions for the guests, often celebrities with online viewers.

“I get to do something different every day. We are responsible for producing one or two segments every day, so we are constantly working on a range of different topics, from politics to celebrity, to lifestyle. No two days are the same. There’s always something exciting happening.”

The Huffington Post hired Ms. Armstead soon after she graduated (magna cum laude) from Northeastern University in May of 2013, with a major in communications — concentrating in media studies — and a minor in production. She took courses in television studio production and producing for the entertainment industry, as well as in media culture and society and public speaking.

Her job is just the type of work she hoped she would find after graduation,  Ms. Armstead said. She is pretty sure she got the job based on the strength of her resumé, which includes working as a videography intern with the New England Conservatory, filming live sports as a production intern with the Northeastern University athletics department while maintaining statistics and scores using onscreen graphics and setting up instant replay segments, working as production assistant and online content intern on the WGBH radio Forum Network, contributing to the website’s social media presence. She served as the head casting intern at Boston Casting and worked with the casting director for a television pilot for ABC’s Boston’s Finest. She also worked as a production assistant for a TV comedy pilot called MV Blues, filmed on the Vineyard.

When she was ten, in 2000, Ms. Armstead’s parents purchased the Arbor Inn in Edgartown and her family moved to the Vineyard from New Jersey. She entered the sixth grade at the Edgartown School soon after. She lived in the inn with her younger sister Emelia and her parents. Her father, Kenneth Armstead, is a portfolio manager with a Boston financial services company and her mother, Lorna Giles, is a trained architect who runs the inn. Her parents met while students at MIT.

“My sister and I were happy to make the move to Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “We used to vacation there and we liked the idea of moving to our favorite place.”

Growing up in the inn had a good side and a bad side, Ms. Armstead said. “I enjoyed meeting the variety of people who came through during the summers, but it was hard to fight with my sister because we couldn’t make much noise.

“I remember as a kid we had to be really quiet all the time so as not to disturb the guests, but luckily we started going to camp or working in the summers so we weren’t cooped up all day. We got to meet the guests sometimes, which was nice, and it’s cool seeing the guests that come back year after year.

“On busy days my sister and I used to help put out and clear up breakfast and/or do some light cleaning. I got to see what it looks like firsthand to own and run your own business.”

Ms. Armstead spent two summers with the Island Theater Workshop (ITW) summer program when she was a pre-teen. “Not necessarily memories I want to repeat,” she said, “but all the kids at the camp were really close during the summer, and it was always a lot of fun to gather backstage before a show. It was really exciting. It was my first introduction to theater, which for a while made me want to become an actress, but then when I started applying to colleges I realized I’d rather be behind the scenes in production work.”

As a teenager, she worked summers scooping ice cream at Mad Martha’s and had a job at the Flying Horses Carousel, worked at Brickman’s, interned at WMVY radio, and babysat. She spent her high school years commuting to Falmouth Academy, where she took drama as an elective class and was in the annual school play.

Her current job fits her goals. “I knew I loved television and the entertainment industry, so I figured if I could still have a hand in informing and entertaining people in some way, that would be the best job I could possibly have,“ Ms. Armstead said.

“I hope to still be producing 20 years from now. Either in online media, like I am now, or some sort of television, my first love. I definitely think HuffPost Live is innovative in the way we merge informative segments with community and social media engagements, and I think in this digital age that this is the way of the future. If I’m able to keep producing work on any platform that informs and entertains and can utilize community and social media engagement in some way that helps enhance the content, that would be great.”

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— Mae Deary

Chairman of the West Tisbury selectmen Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter announced that Tuesday, September 16, is the deadline to submit nomination papers to the registrar of voters to fill the position of West Tisbury town moderator.

Voters will chose a new moderator at a special election on November 4 in conjunction with state elections. Tara Whiting, town clerk and registrar, said 20 signatures are required on the nomination papers. The last day to register to vote is October 15.

The special election is needed to fill the vacancy left by the murder of longtime moderator Pat Gregory on May 16 in northern California. Mr. Gregory, 69, and his hiking companion, a 76-year-old male friend from the small nearby town of Manton were just off heavily traveled Highway 36E, north of the county seat of Red Bluff in Tehama County, when they encountered a man who robbed and then shot them. There have been no arrests in the case.

In other town business Wednesday night, selectmen granted Animal Health Care Associates (AHC), located adjacent to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, an extension to October 14 for the completion of work to add soundproofing material to its kennel facility in order to reduce the noise of barking dogs. The barking dogs have been a source of complaints from neighbors in the nearby Coffin’s Field subdivision.

Rosemary Haigazian, AHC attorney, requested a 30-day extension of the August 24 deadline. In a letter, homeowner Gary Friedman, representing Coffin’s Field neighbors, requested that selectmen only grant a seven-day extension.

Selectmen extended the deadline until October 14, 50 days, to reduce the likelihood that AHC would return for an additional extension. Ms. Haigazian said the materials for the work were delivered but that a health issue prevented owner and veterinarian Steven Atwood from doing the work he had planned to do with his son. A builder has been hired who will begin the work as soon as his schedule permits, she said. She added there was a delay in receiving permission from the airport commission, the holder of their lease.

Also Wednesday, town administrator Jennifer Rand said the Massachusetts department of transportation (DOT) will construct a sidewalk along both sides of a short section of State Road in front of the Howes House on one side and between the two entrances to the Alley’s Store parking lot on the other. She said that the DOT has indicated it will not be brick but either asphalt or concrete and that the town must agree to maintain the sidewalk after it is built. Selectman Richard Knabel said he would prefer concrete. Selectman Cynthia Mitchell and Mr. Manter agreed. They said that the sidewalk should end at the western end of the Howes House and not extend to the Field Gallery where it might reduce the number of parking spaces in front of the town-owned property.