Chappy Store provides unique service to loyal customers and visitors alike
Chappaquiddick, the island east of Edgartown and connected to the parent community by a strip of barrier beach, offers a serene isolation that allows residents and visitors alike to escape from the bustle of town. Chappy may be an exclusive island retreat, the island beyond the island, because the most common way to get there is via the On Time ferries, which shuttle passengers and several cars at a time back and forth across Edgartown harbor from 7 am until midnight.
But that enticing seclusion becomes more like an inconvenience when Chappy residents need to run into town to pick something up. A trip to the Stop & Shop for milk or a paper can turn into a time-consuming trek, once the ferry line time is factored in.
That's when the Chappy Service Station, more commonly referred to as the Chappy Store, comes in handy. It is the only store on Chappaquiddick.
Alex Rossi, manager of the Chappy Store, stands proudly next to the shop's familiar sign. Photo by Samuel Rukeyser
Gerald Jeffers, a longtime Chappy resident, started the Chappy Store in 1971. Mr. Jeffers ran the store for more than 20 years with the help of his wife and children, and although he doesn't run it anymore, he owns the plot of land where it is located. He also does occasional auto repairs in the adjoining garage.
"I started out the store mostly for tourists," Mr. Jeffers explained on Monday. "I had ice cream and soda, just the basics. But I kept expanding."
Today, Mr. Jeffers estimates that the store caters evenly to both residents and day-trippers, and sells more than just ice cream. Although the store doesn't sell any produce, most other essentials may be found within the cool, shady, one room shop. The store now carries everything from milk and eggs to candy bars, sandwiches, and even boogie boards for beach-bound visitors.
Despite the tight confines, maintaining the store requires a tremendous amount of work. This year, that responsibility belongs to Alex Rossi, a 20-year-old Edgartown resident. Mr. Rossi is a junior at Assumption College in Worcester, where he is an accounting major.
"Last summer I worked at Donaroma's doing landscaping," Mr. Rossi said on Monday. "This year my boss left, and I didn't really want to go back. My dad gave me the idea of running the Chappy store, and it looked like the best opportunity."
The management position was open this year because Dick and Judy Diamond, who had run the store for about 10 years, moved off-island. Mr. Rossi was attracted because he saw the chance to make some money, gain experience, and build up his resume.
"It's been a lot more work than I thought it would be," Mr. Rossi said. "I'm working in the store five days a week, but even on my days off, I'm running around and getting things for the store." Not only does he work behind the counter, where he greets customers with a charming and boyish smile, but he also keeps the store's books.
The fact that Chappy is home to such a small, close community makes the store more difficult to run. Mr. Rossi said that while he is unable to please everyone, he does make certain efforts to gratify the requests of specific customers. For example, every morning on his way to work, Mr. Rossi buys several Wall Street Journal newspapers that a few regulars in the store pick up that day. Since The Boston Globe and the New York Times are the only papers normally sold in the store, this is evidence of Mr. Rossi's desire to satisfy loyal customers. It also shows how Chappy's small size enables the store to provide much more personal treatment to its customers.
"It's all about demand," Mr. Rossi said. "If only one person wants something, I'm not going to carry it. But if I hear that a lot of people want something, I'm going to get it." Mr. Rossi said that about a dozen people have requested that he sell lighters, and he is now in the process of supplying them.
While the store often saves Chappy residents a trip into town, some customers squawk at the prices. Mr. Rossi explained that the prices have to be slightly higher, but since residents don't have to travel all the way into town, it ends up being a fair deal. "People complain," he said, "and I could explain to them the economics of it all, but I just have to bite my tongue."
On days when Mr. Rossi isn't in the store, his brother Matthew and their father, Edgartown police officer David Rossi, help out. The store manager leaves the Island for school at the end of August, and when he does, his father will most likely run it for the last few days of summer, after which it will close until next summer. While Mr. Rossi said that running the store undoubtedly provided him with a worthwhile experience, he is not sure whether he will return as manager next summer. Mr. Jeffers hopes he will. "He's done a wonderful job," he said.
"People here on Chappy really appreciate the store," Mr. Rossi said. "I've developed a good relationship with a lot of the customers." Those relationships, good as they are, may be more functional than conversational. For instance, as Mr. Rossi reflected on the store's significance to Chappy folk, a customer came in, put down a dollar on the counter and, without a word passing, Mr. Rossi reached behind him, grabbed a Wall Street Journal, and handed it to the customer.
"Have a nice day," the manager said.