Café Moxie sold, ice cream and sandwiches on the way

The new owners plan to combine a Mad Martha’s and Skinny’s operation.

William (Bill) Coggins, co-owner of Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Oak Bluffs (left), Patti Roberts, co-owner of the Mad Martha's Homemade Ice Cream shops, and Al King, owner of Skinny's Fat Sandwiches in Oak Bluffs, outside the former Cafe Moxie. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Café Moxie building and property at 48 Main Street in Vineyard Haven has new owners who plan to open a combined restaurant and ice cream shop at the prime corner spot.

William (Bill) Coggins, co-owner of Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Oak Bluffs, told The Times in a phone call Wednesday that he and Patti and Paul Roberts, owners of the Mad Martha’s Homemade Ice Cream shops in Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown, closed a deal with former Café Moxie owner Michael Ryan. The news ended weeks of speculation and rumors about who the new owners would be, generated by Café Moxie’s closing over the winter.

Mr. Coggins said that Mr. and Ms. Roberts and Al King, owner of Skinny’s Fat Sandwiches in Oak Bluffs, will run the businesses on the property. The Café Moxie name will be replaced with signs for Mad Martha’s and Skinny’s. Mr. Coggins said the seating inside will be kept the same, and the floor space divided. The Robertses will run a Mad Martha’s operation on one side, and Mr. King a restaurant on the other.

“Hopefully they’ll be open just before Memorial Day,” Mr. Coggins said. “A sprinkler system is being put in, and once that’s done they’ll be able to get their places set up.”

Mr. Coggins said that Mr. King will definitely be serving sandwiches, but he also has bigger plans.

“He’s a very good chef, and considering that there is a full kitchen available, eventually he is going to offer more restaurant fare,” Mr. Coggins said.

As Ms. Roberts scraped the Moxie stencil off the window on Friday, Mr. King told The Times that for now he will concentrate on his sandwich shop located in The Lampost in Oak Bluffs and likely open the Vineyard Haven location in the fall. “I don’t want to spread myself too thin,” he said about this summer season.

The Robertses and Mr. Coggins already are in partnership as owners of properties in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs buildings, where Mad Martha’s shops operate.

“Paul and Patti had their Vineyard Haven location on Union Street so long, so when they lost their lease, they were scrambling,” Mr. Coggins said. “And they found the perfect spot. They’re good owners, and they’ll run a great business there.”

The Mad Martha’s former space at 20 Union Street will undergo a transformation into a take-out eatery, operated by Fella and Jane Cecilio, owners of a well-known, longtime Island catering company and Fella’s Take Out in West Tisbury. They plan to take over the lease in January and open in March or April.

Mr. Coggins said his involvement as a new co-owner of the Café Moxie property reestablishes old family ties there. His uncle, Paul Trahan, owned the Café Moxie property in the 1960s and 70s, where he ran a store called Trahan’s Candies. Mr. Coggins said he and his brother Ben, who owns Ben and Bill’s with him, are happy to have the property back in their family again.

In its later incarnation as Café Moxie, Paul Currier purchased the restaurant and property in 2001. Fire destroyed the building on July 4, 2008, only weeks after a complete interior renovation.

Mr. Ryan, owner of Island Woodworks, joined Mr. Currier as an equal investor in the Café Moxie rebuilding effort in October 2008. About two years later, Mr. Currier sold his remaining share in the restaurant to Mr. Ryan, who undertook completion of its reconstruction himself.

Work at the Café Moxie site, however, was delayed by a drawn-out insurance claims process, town limitations on the construction schedule, and issues with NSTAR. Mr. Ryan reopened the cafe in October 2012, and closed it in January this year. He put the restaurant and property on the market for $1.25 million on February 1. Mr. Ryan said at the time his decision was prompted by a job opportunity in California.