The Ritz rallies for Houston

Ritz owner Larkin Stallings organized a weekend-long fundraiser for Houston. — Britt Bowker

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25, and Ritz owners Larkin and Jackie Stallings aren’t ones to idly stand by. The couple are from Houston, and own three bars in the heart of the city, although only one is back up and running after last week’s disaster. With three companies, over 130 employees, and a sister still in Houston, Mr. Stalling and his wife knew there was some love to be sent in true Martha’s Vineyard fashion — rockin’ the night away.

Jaime Hamlin and her husband Paul Lazes walked into the Ritz on Friday around 8 pm. Dave Willis was playing guitar and singing for the early evening crowd. A bucket, or “boot,” rested on the bar’s surface. It was decorated with a bold outline of the Lone Star state, wearing a tilted cowboy hat, and filled in with the iconic colors and star of its state flag. A sign read, “Rally for Houston, this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.” Ms. Hamlin snuck in a $100 bill without hesitation.

“I was sitting at home wondering how I could help. My husband and I decided to come out for a drink, and there it was,” she said. “I keep thinking, Imagine if it happened to us.”

Ms. Hamlin and her husband are from the Island, and live in Vineyard Haven. Shortly after, Clare DeBriere, a visitor from Los Angeles, made her way over to the boot and fed it, followed by a line of other generous Ritz-goers.

“It’s great to see a local spot like this being a platform for the community and visitors to contribute to something that moves our entire country,” Ms. DeBriere said.

According to Mr. Stallings, silver linings are what we’re left to take away from Hurricane Harvey. “Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country,” he said. “Religiously and racially. Anglos are a minority, believe it or not. But everyone shows up for everyone else. All other things in the news have been wiped to the sidelines.”

The Edbury All-Stars and Crooked Coast took the stage on Thursday, followed by David Willis and the Chandler Blues Band on Friday, and Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish on Saturday.

“Last night was the busiest night of the year,” bartender Tara Hussey said of Thursday night’s crowd. “Busier than the Fourth of July. It shows how the community really comes together in times like these.”

Mr. Stallings’ goal was to reach $5,000 by the end of the weekend. They hit $5,350.

“The people on our Island are truly kind and truly generous,” Mr. Stallings said. “Folks lending a hand to people they’ll probably never meet. Got to admit, I teared up a little.”

According to Mr. Stallings, the best organizations to donate to are the Houston Food Bank and the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Dollars are the best way to donate, as opposed to sending supplies and volunteers, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

For more information on donating after Hurricane Harvey, visit