New life for Edgartown Board of Trade
After years of inactivity, a group of local Edgartown businesspeople has revived the Edgartown Board of Trade, whose goal is to bolster business and revitalize the heart of downtown Edgartown.
The board of trade began meeting in January and is steadily gaining members drawn from the Edgartown business community. Tuesday evening, about 30 people, mostly business owners, attended an open house hosted by the board of trade at the Navigator restaurant. Charlie Blair, Edgartown harbor master, gave a presentation on the latest news from the harborfront, which drew plenty of discussion. Board of trade members also chose officers, and discussed plans for a fall festival, the popular Christmas in Edgartown events, the annual Fourth of July fireworks, and hosting another Jaws Fest in the spring.
Yesterday, Fred Mascolo, owner of Trader Fred's in Edgartown and co-president of the board of trade, said that he is encouraged by the response he has seen from the business community. "I was very happy to see the turnout we had last night," he said. "Last year it started with just a concept with eight people, and now we are up to 130 members. I think that this was a long time coming. A need has been created, and we are working to meet that need."
Maggie White of the Hob Knob Inn, and board of trade co-president, said, "I'm extremely encouraged by the turnout, and I look forward to being able to do wonderful things with the town of Edgartown. I think there is a lot of enthusiasm. It's a new beginning, and we have a lot of direction."
The board of trade has already begun work in several areas. A subcommittee has begun the planning for the Christmas in Edgartown events, one of the events the board of trade was best known for organizing. The board is also considering a fall festival of some sort. Talk is already underway for another Jaws Fest in the spring. Although board members said they don't expect the same turnout as they got from this year's Jaws Fest, they said it could make a good annual event.
The board of trade has also taken over the annual Fourth of July fireworks, after the Edgartown Firemen's Association announced that it would not be able to fund the event. Edgartown voters will be asked at a special town meeting tonight to contribute $25,000 for the fireworks show. Board of trade members said that the event will cost about $50,000. They said they plan on fundraising to cover the remaining amount.
Along with the numerous events, the board of trade is working to spruce up the downtown area. Proposed improvements include everything from new trash barrels and more street sweeping to revamped parking plans and architectural upgrades. Patrick Ahearn, an Edgartown architect, has created an architectural guide that illustrates to business owners how relatively minor changes like new shutters and fresh paint can greatly enhance a building's character.
With fall officially underway, and many businesses closing for the season, at Tuesday's meeting board members discussed keeping storefronts attractive through the winter.
Claudia Canerdy of Claudia's, board of trade treasurer, said, "We're trying to make the closed businesses look as nice as possible."
She encouraged business owners not to leave trash in their windows, and to post attractive signs letting the public know that they are closed for the season.
Other board members also suggested that the board look for ways to encourage businesses to stay open through the winter.
The next board of trade meeting is scheduled for Nov. 15, at 5 pm at the Harbor View Hotel. Businesses have until Jan. 1 to become a board of trade member. Board dues are $200 annually for retail businesses, restaurants, hotels and inns, and $150 annually for professional services, such as attorneys, accountants, contractors and real estate brokers.
For more information on the Edgartown Board of Trade, visit edgartownboardoftrade.com.
Harbor issues discussed
Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair was the guest speaker at Tuesday's meeting. He began by telling the board that he supports business. "I'm pro-business, I always have been, and the harbor is pro-business," he said.
Mr. Blair encouraged the board of trade to give him input and suggestions for ways to improve the harbor and to bolster business. "I'll be glad to listen to your recommendations," he said. "I don't have blinders on."
Mr. Blair gave a rundown of this summer season in the harbor. He said June and July were slow, but August was very busy. He said 11 yacht clubs visited the harbor over the summer, more than average. Yacht clubs bring a lot of business to town without taxing harbor services, he said. He said the New York Yacht Club has already scheduled a lay day in Edgartown in July, which will bring as many as 265 boats to town. "That will be great," he said.
He also addressed the recent debate over several proposed changes along the harborfront. The Edgartown marine advisory committee is working to settle the controversy that erupted in August in response to rumors stemming from a published report that town officials had agreed to shift the location of the public dinghy docks and move charter fishermen to Memorial Wharf.
Mr. Blair said the advisory committee is preparing several possible changes that they will present to the selectmen.
Several audience members asked about the closing of Katama Bay, or "down harbor," to overnight anchoring, back in the spring of 2004. "Closing Katama gave the impression of an unfriendly harbor," said one audience member.
Mr. Blair said that the selectmen chose to close the area because the volume of boats, which included 120-foot yachts with dishwashers, macerators and helipads, had created "a small city" that had become too difficult to manage. He said he had an average of three or four collisions a day when the area was open to overnight anchoring. He said he still opens Katama Bay whenever the wind blows out of the north to provide a protected area for boats.
Audience members asked why a compromise couldn't be reached by limiting the size or number of vessels that are allowed down harbor. Mr. Blair said that he is open to any suggestions that could be reasonably implemented.
In other business, Mr. Blair said that mooring reservations will be done online, beginning March 1. He said a calendar will show what days are available and what days are already booked.