Elio Silva: Like father, like son
It is his history repeating itself.
Elio Silva grew up on a farm in Brazil, and worked at his parents' grocery store in Ipacinga. Mr. Silva's father, Nicodemos, progressed from being the owner of a small farm to opening a small business. Elio Silva remembers the business as being a candy and tequila store, explaining, "He sold candy to kids during the day, and at night it was a bar."
The small store grew into a good-sized grocery, and the elder Mr. Silva was eventually able to finance a 400-hectare (close to 1,000 acres) farm that after about 10 years became financially self-sustaining.
But Elio Silva ventured further. After working in Boston for a while, he migrated to Martha's Vineyard 22 years ago. "I came for a visit to Martha's Vineyard, then went back and gave my boss my two weeks' notice," he says, explaining his reaction to the Vineyard.
Mr. Silva spent the first few years here working at a number of odd jobs: restaurant work, landscaping, and a stint with Island Food Products. While working as a line cook at the Ocean View, he formed a friendship with his landlord, Ed Charter, which led to a business partnership. Says Mr. Charter, "I could see from the very first meeting that he was a very dynamic and hardworking guy."
The two opened the original Tisbury Farm Market in 1991, with the plan of buying directly from produce markets and passing the savings on to customers.
Mr. Silva went on to open three other local businesses, Martha's Vineyard Coffee Company, E & E Deli, and North Star store before resurrecting the Tisbury Farm Market this past fall, in its original location on State Road. The store offers fresh produce, in-store fresh roasted coffee and meats, as well as a number of Brazilian products. He says, "I found that people wanted to eat healthier. They were going in the direction of gourmet and healthier options."
And in response to that, Mr. Silva has embarked on his most ambitious project to date. The Martha's Vineyard entrepreneur's latest venture, Vineyard Grocer, is loosely based on the Trader Joe's model, offering gourmet and healthy foods at reasonable prices, along with plants, flowers, and a few household items.