Tisbury businesses change with the season

M.V. Bagel Authority, located below LeGrenier restaurant on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, sold off fixtures and equipment last week before closing on September 30. — Photo by Janet Hefler

The transition from summer to fall has brought several notable changes to Vineyard Haven businesses. Over the last few weeks, MV Bagel Authority, Riley’s Reads, and the Menemsha Blues Deli and Take Out closed their doors.

MV Bagel Authority at 82 Main Street closed last Friday. Owners Anthony and Sylvia Cappelli opened the bagel shop in May 2010, with a goal not only to sell bagels over the counter but also to build up a wholesale market for Island restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and inns.

Unfortunately, those plans did not pan out, according to building owner Jean Dupon, who leased the Cappellis the space below his restaurant, Le Grenier.

Mr. Dupon said the couple had not paid rent for 10 months, and that Mr. Cappelli said it was because the business did not make enough money. The Cappellis did not return several phone messages from The Times asking for comment.

Given that this was his second experience with non-paying tenants in the space, Mr. Dupon said he has decided to take it over and open a café that serves breakfast, lunch, and light dinner. He plans to spend the winter doing renovations and possibly open the cafe next April.

Many Islanders may remember Patisserie, a pastry shop and café he previously ran below Le Grenier for about 10 years. He closed it in the early 1990s because he found it difficult to find employees.

“I’m not going to make croissants, breads, and all those pastries,” Mr. Dupon said of his new venture. “I’ll do something that is affordable for people, something that will be fun. It will definitely have a French flair to it, but be more international. Since Le Grenier means ‘the attic’ in French, I’m thinking of taking a friend’s suggestion and calling it Le Cave, which means ‘the cellar.'”

Mr. Dupon said Le Grenier would remain open for the winter, since he now has a year-round license for beer and wine.

The Menemsha Blues Deli and Take Out, rolled up its last wraps and also called it a wrap on September 23. Robert and Paola Fuller launched the deli in July 2010, next door to their store Menemsha Blues, adjacent to the Tisbury Police Department. In a phone conversation with The Times on Monday, Mr. Fuller said they were not sure whether the deli would be closed for the season or closed for good, and that he would know more in a few weeks.

Tucked around the corner at 29 Main Street, the children’s bookstore Riley’s Reads closed on September 30 after almost eight years in business. The Times was unable to reach owner Zoe Pechter this week.

Looking to the future

In contrast to recent closings, other long-established Vineyard Haven merchants are looking towards the future. Last May, the Stop and Shop Supermarket Company purchased the property and building that houses the Golden Dragon Restaurant and a clothing retailer adjacent to its Vineyard Haven market, with a goal to expand.

“We’re still going through the planning stages with the town,” assistant manager Peter Morey said in a phone conversation with The Times on Monday. “There are no concrete plans yet, but we’re very excited about it.”

Options for expansion are also on the minds of April and Michael Levandowski, owners of LeRoux at Home at 62 Main Street, which sells cookware, kitchen tools and appliances, gadgets, and housewares. They are exploring the possibility of relocating their store from downtown to the building that formerly housed Vineyard Home Center on State Road.

As a preliminary step, their tentative proposal is on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s meeting agenda tonight for possible review as a development of regional impact (DRI) modification, since the State Road property is already permitted as a DRI.

“Preliminary is the key word here,” Mr. Levandowski said in a phone conversation Tuesday. “We have a five-year lease until 2014, and are thinking about our future from that point forward.”

The Levandowskis do have the option to keep leasing their Main Street location and have a good working relationship with their landlord, Mr. Levandowski added.

“We’ve been here about 14 years, and we like it here,” he said. “We would miss being downtown and the tourists that walk in off Main Street, but after talking with other business owners who made the transition up to State Road, it seems to be a good fit for us,” he said.

The lack of parking on Main Street has been a major drawback for LeRoux, and has worsened since the limits were changed from one hour to two because there is less turnover, Mr. Levandowski said.

“Considering that real estate is of reasonable value today, interest rates are at historic lows, and the State Road building is bigger, which would allow us to increase some categories of merchandise, we would like to look at expanding our opportunities,” he said.

“Again, this is all very preliminary,” Mr. Levandowski emphasized. “We have a lot of hoops to get through before it would become a reality. Another option we’re considering would be to maintain both locations, but change the downtown store to more of a general store.”

In flux

Other Main Street properties remain in transition. Ben Hall Jr. and his family own several that are vacant, including the former Bowl and Board and Che’s Lounge locations.

Tisbury approved a zoning permit for a 48-seat restaurant in the former Che’s Lounge site in March. Mr. Hall said at that time that the Bowl and Board property also had raised interest as a potential restaurant site.

“We’ve got all kinds of people looking but nothing firm yet,” Mr. Hall said in a phone conversation Tuesday. “Vineyard Haven could and should become a little restaurant mecca on the Island. We have several experienced Island restaurateurs looking at the Main Street area, and hope we can come to terms to get them settled.”

When asked if he thought the economy is making potential tenants cautious, Mr. Hall said, “I really don’t know. I can tell you this; the tax rate in Tisbury is a huge disincentive for businesses in general.”

Businesses are taxed at a rate of $9.49 per thousand dollars of valuation, according to the assessor’s office.

In the meantime, there is the long-awaited return of the former Café Moxie, next door to the Bunch of Grapes bookstore. A fire destroyed the café on July 4, 2008, and badly damaged the bookstore.

A lengthy insurance claims process, town limitations on the construction schedule, and issues with NSTAR delayed work at the café site.

Construction of the new Café Moxie made good progress over the summer, property owner and builder Mike Ryan told The Times in a phone conversation yesterday.

“We’re moving forward, and I think within next two months we should be open,” Mr. Ryan said. “As I’ve learned, though, it’s not over ’til it’s over.

“It’s the first restaurant I’ve ever built, so there is definitely a learning curve, he added. “We’re doing pretty good, though, and the work will exponentially go faster, now that the rough plumbing and rough mechanics are done.”