Tisbury Business Association may fold, resigning president warns

Ralph Stewart

Tisbury Business Association (TBA) president Dawn Braasch announced her resignation in an email to members Tuesday, along with a warning that unless someone comes forward to assume her office, she would have no choice but to dissolve the association as of November 30.

“I had hoped someone else on the board would come forward and take the reins of the association, but no one has,” Ms. Braasch, the Bunch of Grapes bookstore owner, wrote. “So I’m putting out a plea to the other business owners of the TBA hoping that someone will come forward and take over the position. I am happy to help in any way, but can no longer assume the responsibilities of president.”

The demands of the volunteer position, combined with a dwindling number of board members and a lack of participation by members overall, led to her decision to resign, Ms. Braasch told The Times in a phone conversation Tuesday.

“I love the business association and I’m 100 percent supportive of it,” she said, adding, “I’ve put a lot of time into it. But I have aging parents who live in Texas, four grandchildren who live in North Carolina, and a big business here, and I need to spend more time on all of them.”

Ms. Braasch said the November 30 end date is not cast in stone. “It’s an arbitrary date, in terms of dissolving the TBA, but at some point, if no one comes forward to do it, there is really no point in continuing the association,” she said.

If it comes to that, Ms. Braasch said she would call for a meeting of the board to formally dissolve the TBA. “We’re required as an organization to file annual reports and things like that, so the longer it drags on, you’re into another timeframe,” she said. “So hopefully before the end of the year, someone will have come forward.”

No one to take the reins

Ms. Braasch has served a year and a half of what is usually a three-year term as president of the TBA. She admitted the term length made her initially hesitant to take the office, but then decided she would do it for a year.

“I really did it because Pat [Gregory] was stepping down,” she said. “It seemed like no one else was coming forward to do it, and I thought the association was important enough to make the effort. But it’s been, as everyone knows, a tough couple of years for the bookstore, trying to survive in this eBook world and having to move again. There’s been a lot on my plate, and I’m tired of trying to do too many things and feeling like I’m not really doing any of them very well.”

Although Ms. Braasch’s letter may have caught some TBA members by surprise, she said she discussed her intention to resign with the board several weeks ago. She emphasized that her email was not intended to be “dramatic” or give the impression that she is “anti-business association.”

“It’s not that I’m disillusioned or don’t want the TBA to go on,” Ms. Braasch said. “There has been a lack of participation, and so that is kind of why I wanted to put a date on it, to try and encourage people, if they do care about the TBA, so that someone would come forward and take on the president’s job. And that just seemed to be the easiest way to do it. Rather than call an open meeting and discuss it, I felt like sending an email to everyone.”

Part of the dilemma Ms. Braasch’s resignation poses for the TBA is that its board has been inactive for several months and also is missing some key members that might have succeeded her. Rainy Day owner Heather Kochin stepped down as vice president and Waterside Market co-owner Susan Bowen resigned as events chairman in early summer, due to their many other commitments, Ms. Braasch said.

Impact on TBA events

Ms. Braasch’s withdrawal from her usual level of participation has already impacted the TBA’s activities. There was no Halloween parade on Main Street last night, an event the TBA started last year, because no one volunteered to organize it, she said. And there will be no Christmas Friends and Family Nights in Vineyard Haven, a TBA tradition for the last few years, unless there is a new president to see it through.

In the absence of the Halloween parade, Ms. Braasch said she encouraged Main Street businesses to continue their tradition of handing out candy to kids, as they have done for many years independently of the TBA. She also suggested parents organize a parade themselves.

“But the Christmas friends and family night, I would be sad to see that go away,” Ms. Braasch said. In years past the event offered many fun activities, including hayrides around downtown Vineyard Haven, puppet shows and carols singers, and a visit by Santa, along with food and merchandise specials in restaurants and stores.

“I put the TBA’s end date of November 30 so that anyone serious about wanting to do something about Christmas activities could do so before it gets too late to plan anything,” Ms. Braasch said.

This year the TBA sponsored two “celebrate the arts strolls” on Friday nights in July and August and a Columbus Day sidewalk sale. The association also supported the Tisbury Street Fair in July, the Sail MV regatta weekend, JAWSFEST in August, and the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival in September. Unfortunately, only a few TBA members pitched in. Ms. Braasch said art gallery owner Nancy Shaw Cramer provided invaluable help in publicizing the art strolls.

“Events are hard,” Ms. Braasch said. “Everyone thinks they’re a great idea, but everyone’s busy. A lot of people want to do events and have good intentions, but when the time comes, it’s hard to find people that can give their time.”

Ms. Braasch, however, devoted a lot of time to being TBA president. In addition to organizing and overseeing the association’s events, she regularly attended the Tisbury Selectmen’s meetings to keep informed about issues that might impact businesses.

In February Ms. Braasch organized and hosted two brainstorming sessions to provide TBA members with an opportunity to share concerns and propose new ideas. A total of about 30 people attended the two sessions, which dovetailed with a membership drive.

The TBA sent out membership applications to a list of about 700 “active” businesses obtained from the town. Ms. Braasch was pleased that the TBA, which started with mostly Vineyard Haven retail owners, gained many new members from a variety of businesses throughout Tisbury. She said the TBA currently has about 80 members. Annual dues of $95 are the association’s sole source of funds for events and advertising. Serving on the board and helping with events are strictly volunteer efforts.

Unfortunately, the uptick in members did not translate to an increase in active participants. “It’s too bad, because if a number of people would commit to the TBA, the presidency wouldn’t become such a big job,” Ms. Braasch said. “But that’s the hard part, getting people to commit. It has to come from more than the board and me. There has to be a bigger level of community interest and enthusiasm among other business owners, more than five or six of us doing all of this work. I hope someone else out there can motivate people better than I have as president to get people involved.”

Ms. Braasch said she would be happy to help out in the transition period and to continue to work for the association as a board member or in some other capacity.

She said she would be sad, if it does happen, to see the TBA come to an end. “I think surely there is someone out there that has a little time that they could devote,” Ms. Braasch added. “And I’m not going anywhere, but I just don’t want the responsibility of the presidency.”