Tisbury businesses trade spaces and change faces
Whether it's just a typical off-season slowdown, the global recession, or the desire for a fresh start, several Vineyard Haven businesses will trade spaces and change faces before this winter gives way to spring.
After 12 years in business, Fancy That owner Emily Coggins plans to close her Union Street shop after February 15. Although she has been running a storewide 50 percent off closing sale for several weeks, Ms. Coggins said on Monday, "We still have lots and lots of jewelry - perfect for Valentine's Day - and we gift-wrap."
After juggling motherhood and running a business,
Photos by Steve Myrick
Ms. Coggins says the main reason she is closing the store is to be able to enjoy her and her husband Bill's young children, Matthew, three and a half, and twins Carly and Grace, 18 months, to the fullest.
Ms. Coggins said the recession also factored into the timing of her decision. With her lease coming due, she said, "I thought about whether to sign on for another three to five years, and with the uncertainty of the economy, and weighing that with my already busy schedule at home, it was a good time for me in terms of having my options open."
Ms. Coggins said she plans to start up Fancy That again in a few years. "It's been a wonderful experience having this store. I met fantastic people and made some of my dearest friends, who started out as customers."
Fancy That's space won't be vacant for long, however, as Mix will make a move there. Last week owner Emily Milstein and employee Phyllis Williams inventoried and closed Mix at 65 Main Street to start packing up.
"I'll have pretty much the same merchandise as before," Ms. Milstein said. "I've always sold vintage clothing, but I will be adding more in our new location. I'm aiming for April 1 to reopen."
Citing the economy and the July 4 fire that destroyed Café Moxie and severely damaged the Bunch of Grapes bookstore, Ms. Milstein said, "It's been pretty scary, but I'm hoping things will get lively again on Main Street."
Adding to the Mix - or rather its store space - will be the Two Susans gift shop. Owners Susan Morency and Susan Leland, in business together for five years, plan to move their store upstairs from their basement-level quarters below Mix on Union Street. Last week, they also did inventory and closed their store to prepare for moving and reopening on April 1.
"The new space is about twice the size of where we are now - I'm happy," Ms. Leland said. "So we're expanding a bit. We'll still have our handmade pottery and our garden items, and that sort of thing, and we'll be including more accessories and starting to include some clothing."
Ms. Leland said she and Ms. Morency went ahead with plans to expand their business this year, despite the recession.
"I'm hopeful - I think it will turn around," Ms. Leland said. "I think the Island is somewhat insulated in bad times, because we are a tourist destination. People maybe aren't going to go out and buy a second house, but they'll still come in and buy a hostess gift or a wedding gift."
Shibori, a store featuring one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed clothing for all ages and sizes, will relocate from Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs into the Two Susans' space. Owner Margot Parrot, also a practicing attorney, has been working in fabric art for 35 years. She designs and makes all the clothing.
She is closing Shibori after January 31 and plans to reopen on Union Street on April 1. Although she loves Oak Bluffs, and her business did well last summer, Ms. Parrot said she wants to move to Vineyard Haven because it offers more of a year-round community, plus it puts her within walking distance of her daughter Chrysal Parrot's children's clothing shop, L'Atelier, above Che's Lounge on Main Street.
Gourmet to stay
Up a few doors on Main Street, newspapers cover the windows at the Vineyard Gourmet while it undergoes extensive renovations under new ownership.
After 20 years, former owners Dilly DeBlase and her mother-in-law Helen DeBlase turned their business over to one of their most valued employees, Krista Marinelli.
"Helen was getting ready to retire, and I've got a three-year old daughter, and I thought, I'm going take a little time for the next couple of years to be with her before she has to be in school," Dilly DeBlase said.
Not wanting to leave an empty space on Main Street, Dilly and Helen decided to hand their business over to Krista, who impressed them with her work ethic over the past three years.
"She's buying a little of the leftover inventory, and we're transferring the lease," Dilly said. "We just would rather see it go on, and she's going to need her energies and monies to put into renovating and things like that."
"I thought I was losing my job," Ms. Marinelli said, "but I was gaining a business." She is renaming the store Krista's Gourmet Café. "I'm so grateful to them for this opportunity."
Ms. Marinelli is seeking approval from Tisbury's board of health to add seating. In the meantime, her fiancé Greg Leland, a contractor, is renovating the store's interior.
Ms. Marinelli is adding a salad bar and keeping the store's signature broccoli and chicken salads on the menu. "We're shooting to open Feb. 1, on Super Bowl Sunday," she said. "We're going to have a big open house, and I'm hoping people will stop by."
At Le Grenier Restaurant at 96 Main Street, owner Jean Dupon had contemplated closing part of the winter, after his business was down last summer. Last week, however, he said he decided to remain open all winter, serving Thursday through Tuesday. A few months ago he added music and dancing, along with special menus, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Rising from the ashes
Bowl and Board owners Maria and Garry Metters also are looking for innovative ways to improve their Main Street business by restructuring and downsizing.
"Where it stands today is we are seeking other businesses that would like to possibly sublet within our space, to make it a more affordable lease, given the state of the economy," said Ms. Metters. Cutting overhead in all areas to make the numbers work has been a challenge, she added.
"For the first time ever, we've had an ongoing storewide 30 percent off sale, and it's brought questions from the community whether we'll be closing," Ms. Metters said. "It's a matter of just weeding out inventory to add new products - and if you don't have a sale in today's economy, people won't come flocking in."
Noting that the absence of Bunch of Grapes and Café Moxie has impacted customer traffic at her store, Ms. Metters said, "We truly felt the loss in the Christmas season. Our numbers have never been worse in the 12 years I've been here."
Despite cutting staff, working the counter herself, and decreasing the hours of her manager, who is like a member of her family, Ms. Metters said she has strong hopes for the summer, as she watches the bookstore and café being rebuilt. "This store is truly a passion for me. My dad has been in this location since 1972," she reflected. "Bowl and Board has been a staple on the street, and I would hope to continue."
Ann Nelson, owner of the Bunch of Grapes building at 44 Main Street, said last week reconstruction is moving forward, although she is still dealing with insurance adjusters. In the meantime, Dawn Braasch, to whom she sold the bookstore business, is running a small, temporary store in a building next to Beadnik's off Center Street.
"Leo DeSorcy is making great progress, and I'm very appreciative that he has had the cooperation of the various Tisbury town boards and officials," Ms. Nelson said. "I am hoping for, but not committing to April." Next door at 48 Main Street, work is proceeding on a new building for owners Michael Ryan of Island Woodworks and Paul Currier, to house another Café Moxie. Last Thursday, the Martha's Vineyard Commission voted to forego a development of regional impact review of the project, returning it to local permitting officials and boards. Mr. Ryan aims to finish the building in time for a July 4 opening, the one-year anniversary of the fire.