Sean Ogden, Lindsey Scott, her son Tristan, Daryl Owens, and baby Charlotte Scott
Relaxing at Che's Lounge are (from left) Sean Ogden, Lindsey Scott, her son Tristan, Daryl Owens, and baby Charlotte Scott. Sean is the DJ for the weekly salsa night. Photo by Ralph Stewart

Sit, sip, enjoy

By Julian Wise - May 3, 2007

Duck back in the alley opposite Bowl and Board in Vineyard Haven and you'll notice the entryway to Che's Lounge. Step inside and you enter a cool, calm, stimulating coffee shop where people sit, sip, mingle, enjoy tasty baked goods, access the internet via wi-fi, and engage in the timeless art of conversation. The atmosphere is fresh, comfortable, and welcoming. For owner Daniele Dominick and her partner Protase Woodord, the lounge represents their vision of a place where people can relax and converse in an open, unrushed setting.

"I woke up one day and had nowhere to go on my day off. I thought, 'where can I go to sit and relax, where they don't want you in and out?' " recalls Ms. Dominick. "There are so many interesting people on this Island. I wanted to get them gathered in a place to talk about ideas and have a community."

Ms. Dominick is the owner of The Scottish Bakehouse, an establishment she took over three years ago when the business was placed on the market. Prior to that, the Long Island native worked at the ArtCliff Diner and ran the kitchen at the Bongo coffee shop. Starting a second business represented a leap forward in her career.

"It wasn't that I wanted to add more hours to my day," she says. "A bunch of opportunities opened up, and entertaining the thoughts around these opportunities led to morphing this idea and led to this."

Ms. Dominick and Mr. Woodford selected the site for Che's Lounge based on location and ambiance. Ms. Dominick recalls her first encounter with the space, which previously housed the Hattitudes hat store and an antiques shop. "I stood in here and I knew this was it. As soon as I saw it, it all came together."

Under the steady hand of carpenter Drew Kinsman, the space has been transformed into a cozy lounge. The room has different zones, each with its own aesthetic and vibe. The bar area has an industrial warehouse look, while the sitting area has the feel of a Victorian sitting room. Mahogany and soapstone line walls and surfaces while a wood pellet stove keeps the room warm on cold nights. The plank wood flooring and open wood beams give the space a warm, earthy atmosphere. A blend of color schemes in different sections varies from moonlight yellow to black and maroon. Swivel spotlights shine onto original artwork by Richard Lee, the first in a series of rotating art displays. Comfortable couches and chairs invite leisurely conversations. A sound system plays diverse styles of music at unobtrusive volume levels.

After securing final permission from the town, Che's Lounge officially opened on March 9. Visitors can enjoy prepackaged foods from the Scottish Bakehouse such as salads, side dishes, soups, muffins, scones, cakes, cookies brownies, and other delicacies. Tea, hot chocolate, and fair trade coffee from Indigo Coffee Roasters are available, as well as water and juices.

Che's Lounge has already hosted successful salsa and poetry nights, with overflow crowds spilling into the alley. The open floor space can be cleared for dancing or live music. The potential for arts and entertainment is just beginning to be explored.

"There seems to be a need for an outlet, and I think this may be able to serve that need," says Ms. Dominick.

Some greeted the news of the lounge's construction last winter with a skeptical "do we need another coffee shop?" But Ms. Dominick is quick to point out that coffee is just one facet of the lounge and not its sole dimension.

"I've encountered the preconception of what this is," she says, pointing out that it's not a restaurant and not solely a coffee house.

"I want it to be a community center," she says. "Think how nice it is to be able to go somewhere after a movie and be able to talk about it. You might not want to go to a bar or drop $200 on dinner. It's an alternative setting. It's a meeting place for people."

In reference to the title character in the lounge's name, Ms. Dominick says the choice has less to do with radical politics and more to do with open dialogue.

"I wanted to create a space where everyone feels welcome to come and talk about whatever they want to talk about and feel free to express themselves."

While the lounge is ready for business ("the shell is pretty done," Ms. Dominick says), there are still innovations that will evolve in the future. Ms. Dominick plans to offer merchandise, add a sound system that will allow live and acoustic music, and utilize the outside terrace during the warmer months. For now, she is pleased with the current state of the project.

"I'm pretty content with how it is right now," she says. "I would love it if everyone came in and took a look and enjoyed the space. I want people to get the most out of it that they can."