This compact block of shops on Edgartown’s Main Street housed the Hatch & Co. Express office on the near end and a dry goods store on the far. Sandwiched between is W.J. Mendence’s cigar and confectionery shop; the gentleman standing outside the shop appears to be Mr. Mendence himself.
His father, John Mendence, was one of the Island’s first Portuguese immigrants, having arrived in Edgartown from the Azores aboard the whaleship Champion. He retired from maritime life to open this shop in Edgartown in 1879, and it quickly fell under the management of his son, William. Originally a fruit store, the business soon expanded into chocolate, candy, ice cream, and cigars. The interior housed a large glass case filled with penny candy, and later alighted mahogany “back bar” for his soda and ice cream parlor.
W.J. Mendence and his store were well-respected Main Street fixtures for decades, but his family life was troubled. His marriage ended in divorce, and their only child, Edna, estranged from the family, married eccentric loner Harold C. Look. In 1935, Look was committed for life to the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater after murdering Knight Owen of Vineyard Haven with four pistol shots at Tashmoo’s Herring Creek, in one of the Island’s few murder cases.
Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.