Chicken Alley reopens to the public

More than just a thrift store, beloved Island fixture opens its doors once again.


Chicken Alley is now serving the Vineyard community in-person once again.

The popular Island thrift has been doing online sales ever since employees were forced to close up shop due to the pandemic. 

The shop will be open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 am to 5 pm. They are not currently offering senior or at-risk shopping hours, but Chicken Alley manager Jessica Tartell said that may change soon. 

Tartell said the opening went “really well,” and there were over 40 people in line when they first opened the doors, all wearing masks. 

“We had a record day in sales our first day, then another record in sales the following day,” Tartell said.

There was a contest for anyone who made an online donation to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the organization that runs the thrift store, of $5 or more from June 17 to June 21. Contestants were entered into a drawing to be the “first customer in the door” at the grand reopening, and Teresa Manning was the lucky winner. She was allowed into the store for 15 minutes to get first dibs on some of the hidden gems.

According to Tartell, everyone in the store is required to wear a mask or face covering, and hand sanitizer stations are located at the entrance. Employees are cleaning heavily touched surfaces regularly throughout the day. 

Only eight people are allowed in the store at a time, not including parents with children. Employees spray-painted large X’s in the parking lot and by the entrance to designate areas for people to stand. “We are looking to get a chicken stencil for those,” Tartell said.

Any donations are by online or call-in appointment only, and all items donated are left to sit for three days before bringing them into the store. 

“We are seeing a large amount of donations these days,” Tartell said. “We appreciate all the generosity, but are asking people to be understanding that we need to let each item rest before bringing it inside.”

Even though Chicken Alley is open again, they are still going to be doing their online sales, and will be moving the annual Chicken Alley art show online this year.

For the most part, Tartell said, customers understand they need to wear a mask, and follow all the rules laid out by the store. “They know it is in everyone’s best interest. We will ask you to leave if you can’t follow our rules,” Tartell said. 

The fitting rooms in Chicken Alley are currently closed, as trying on clothes is not permitted by the state. 

Tartell said that these guidelines will be in place for the foreseeable future, until restrictions regarding social distancing, mask wearing, and maximum occupancy are loosened.

According to Tartell, the social element of Chicken Alley is a huge part of the service it provides to the community.

“People would normally come into the store and say hello to friends and just hang out and enjoy themselves,” Tartell said. “Many of our customers have been coming here for decades to find hidden gems, or simply catch up with people in the store.”

The past few weeks have been a challenge for thrift store employees, but Tartell said she is happy that Chicken Alley will be able to continue providing this essential service. “I am feeling excited, but I am also tired. We don’t want to close again, we want to keep serving this Island year-round,” Tartell said. “If we do close again, we will have plans in place to provide service, because we know the need is so strong here.”

For both treasure hunters and families who are in genuine need of secondhand items, Tartell said, Chicken Alley will be there to fill that need.

Before the shop reopened, Tartell said people would constantly ask when they were going to be back in business — a testament to how vital the thrift store is to the community.

Although Tartell said it is difficult to watch their customers wait in line outside because of the maximum occupancy requirements, she is proud to be able to serve customers and donors, and hopes for change soon. “We are never going to stop working, because we simply can’t,” Tartell said.

The shop is going to look for a way to provide some shade to customers who are waiting in line.

“This is obviously not a normal way to operate any retail establishment. But Chicken Alley is not just a thrift shop, it’s much more than that,” Tartell said.