A small coffee shop tucked under a row of shops on Circuit Ave is known as Mocha Mott's. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, it has become a coffee institution for Islanders - year-round, seasonal, or day-trip - who are drawn to the shop by their love of coffee.
"I get it every day except Saturday; it is the best coffee on-Island as far as I can tell," said Mary-Jean Miner, a secretary at the Federated Church in Edgartown, who was leaving the shop on Wednesday morning holding a refillable Mocha Mott's mug. The informal ambiance, with an eclectic mix of booths, tables, stools, and a bar along the window, gives java drinkers lots of room to stay and relax.
The "Mottley Crew," a group of about 10 summer and year-round residents who meet at Mocha Mott's every morning between 8 and 9 to discuss political, social, and economic issues concerning Oak Bluffs. "We discuss political polemics," explained Abigail McGrath, a member of the morning discussion board.
"We solve the daily problems of Martha's Vineyard every morning," joked Bob Dumas, a retiree from Oak Bluffs, as he took a sip of his coffee.
The lively group chose Mocha Mott's as its meeting place not only because of the coffee, but because of its relaxed atmosphere and year-round service. "This place is cool," said Ms. McGrath.
More than that, said Donna Allen, a local artist from Oak Bluffs, "the workers always have an extraordinarily positive attitude, considering how busy" the shop can get. The group also loves the atmosphere, which represents the local culture.
"They play great music from local musicians and always display artwork done by local artists," said Jenifer Parkinsal, a private chef and artist on the Island, adding, "that is the most important thing." Board member Donna Allen's paintings happen to be gracing the shop's walls currently.
The crew is not an exclusive club: all local coffee drinkers have
a shot at membership. "We meet great people here," said
Ms. Parkinsal. "Every year we add to our group."
While some folks choose to sip their caffeinated concoctions in the café, others like to take them to go. Staffers at the East Chop Beach Club either make a stop in the shop before work or make a "Mott's run" to get them through their midmorning slump.
"That is so good," exclaimed Lindsay Bryan, the activities director at the club, taking a sip of co-worker Nicole McCue's iced chai. "That is what I love about Mocha Mott's," she said. "There is always room to branch out and try something new... and it's always good."
Gilbert Patterson, a beach club lifeguard who is partial to Mocha Mott's bagels, which are imported from the Cape Cod Bagel Company every morning, said, "Mocha Mott's is a pretty good spot." His only suggestion? "They could really use a back door at night."
Freshness is what sets Mott's apart for lifeguard Zach Tattersal-Hill, who stops in at Mott's on his way from Edgartown to East Chop. A vegetarian, he skips the bacon in the morning; he wants a Mocha Mott's egg and cheese bagel sandwich.
"They grill their egg and cheeses," which makes them much better than other places where they are just microwaved, he said. Mott's isn't really comparable to Starbucks, he added, because it's more than a coffee chain..., it's also a bakery.
The shop workers must agree because behind the counter a bumper sticker on the wall says, "friends don't let friends drink Starbucks."
On a Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Gallo speaks in a bubbly tone, as she folds the store's signature T-shirts. The tees have phrases commemorating the anniversary - "ten years of serving damn good coffee" and shirts that say "every damn day," which alludes to the shop's year-round service. "We are open every day except Christmas; even on Thanksgiving we do a half a day," said Ms. Gallo.
Tim Dobel and Meredith Gallo purchased the store from the original owner, Mott Hinckley, in June of 2001. This is not the partners first experience working together. They became friends at the Tisbury Inn Café in Vineyard Haven, where Mr. Dobel was the owner and head chef, and Ms. Gallo was the pastry chef. After the cafe closed Mr. Dobel began looking for a new business.
We had always wanted to start something together, so when we found out the space was available, it caught our eye," said Ms. Gallo.
In the last three years they have made many changes.
"Basically the only thing made in the store when Mott owned it was the coffee," said Mr. Dobel, "we added all the homemade baked goods, bagel sandwiches, and breakfast burritos.
"Meredith really is Mocha Mott," said Mr. Dobel, "she runs the show."
Every morning Ms. Gallo prepares all the huge muffins, chewy cookies,
buttery-looking biscotti, and even dog biscuits, herself.
One of the things Ms. Gallo enjoys about the shop is the constant change of pace: every day it's different, different people come, and different music is playing.
"The place really rocks," said Mr. Dobel adding, "some people come in as much for the music as the coffee."
Providing their customers a hip, friendly environment with "damn good coffee,"(brewed with organic, fair trade beans) and great service is their goal. "We always try to get people in and out quickly," said Ms. Gallo. "Sometimes people look at the line and get nervous, but we make sure no one waits long."
Looking over her shoulder, she asks a server behind the counter, "How is the order coming?"
"I'm getting the last two now," said Beth Blankenship, who has been working at Mott's for a year. As if on cue, two EMTs come in for their order. Ms. Blankenship sets three trays of piping hot double mochas, iced mochas covered in whipped cream and drizzled in fudge, a steamer, and a few plain joes in front of them. The perfectly orchestrated coffee purchase seems too planned to be true. Ms. Blankenship rings them out and the ladies are on their way.