Alley’s General Store to remain closed

Vineyard Trust cites unexpected repairs for delays in reopening.


Updated July 8

Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury will not be opening this summer, a representative of Vineyard Trust told the West Tisbury select board Wednesday. Sarah Rorer, the acting CEO of Vineyard Trust, told the Times in an email the store was last open during Memorial Day weekend for a “closeout sale.” Alley’s is under the ownership of Vineyard Trust, which owns 20 historic properties across the Island, and Michael Levandowski, owner of LeRoux in Vineyard Haven, is the new tenant of the store. The West Tisbury select board put Alley’s on its agenda to get an update on the historic store’s status after hearing complaints from the public that it was closed.

Alley’s is the oldest retailer on the Island, and is a staple store of West Tisbury for residents and a must-stop for Island visitors. 

“No one wants Alley’s to open and return as the mainstay of the village more than the Trust,” Rorer told the board. “We realize it’s important in everyday life, and the frustration the community feels in not having it available to them.”

The store came under the management of Levandowski in April, but he did not have access to the store until mid-May. According to Rorer, he found many problems with the property: Structural, plumbing, and electrical problems rendered the building “not functional at this time.” Rorer said the store had broken coolers, and under them deteriorating floors, mold issues because of poor coolers, electrical systems not up to code, and nonfunctioning plumbing. During a visit to the store on Thursday, where contractors were busy at work, Levandowski told The Times the computers are also being adjusted. The only positive has been that the Post Office inside Alley’s has not missed an order yet, according to Rorer. 

These problems and the global supply chain interruption because of the pandemic have made it difficult to get three weeks’ worth of provisioning, which the store needs to reopen. So it’s unlikely to reopen this summer.

Levandowski said he plans to open the store as soon as possible. Alley’s is a “cherished place” to him, and he has plans for the store. One of them was changing the asphalt area behind the store into a landscaped patio area customers can relax in. Of course, he would need to work with the Trust and the town to figure out what is allowed and feasible. 

Rorer said a soft reopening was planned about a month ago to serve the community in a limited capacity, but it was “not practical or efficient” to do so. 

Once open, Alley’s will operate as a general store, with no interruption to goods and services to the community, selling a variety of products from groceries to toys. “Everybody is working as hard as they can, and long hours, to get work done and get Alley’s open,” said Rorer. 

Debi Crews, another representative of the Trust, echoed these sentiments: “It was so many things that [Levandowski] has to deal with to have a functioning retail operation that will satisfy the community. We are all working very hard to get this done.” 

Cynthia Mitchell, a select board member, said the store’s situation was “somewhat understandable” after hearing from the representatives. Alley’s is a needed institution in West Tisbury, and the community will feel its absence more as the tourists increase the population this summer. “We just ask in the future you keep us posted,” said Mitchell. 

Skipper Manter, the select board chair, suggested a monthly status update through email. 

Mitchell agreed. 

Alley’s absence has made some in West Tisbury frustrated, according to Crews. “There have been people that have been very critical of [Levandowski] and April [Levandowski], and not nice to them at all in the grocery stores and restaurants,” said Crews. “When you’re taking on a project of this size and you start to see all these problems you were really blinded by, it’s very overwhelming.”

Alongside frustrations, there are people who understand the difficulties Alley’s is going through. Judy Young, an Island resident who was in West Tisbury on Thursday, told The Times while it’s frustrating, “you get it.” She said “tremendous amounts of changes” are happening on the Island, among them being Alley’s. 

Mitchell assured this meeting was just to see what the store’s status was, not a criticism of Levandowski. Mitchell said many Vineyarders know the Levandowkis are good shopkeepers. 

Rorer said they have a better handle on the situation now than before. 

All of this comes as Vineyard Trust is part of a criminal investigation. Last month, CEO and president Funi Burdick resigned amid allegations that applications submitted for projects for the Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs and the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown were altered before they were submitted for Community Preservation funds.

Updated with information from Sarah Rorer, acting CEO of the Vineyard Trust. 


  1. How can an owner of a property who was managing and running the business of the same property be surprised by what is going on there. It seems many people of this once cherished institution were asleep and the whole organization needs a huge wake up call. Time for bright sunlight on this group is needed before the moniker Vineyard Distrust is erased.

  2. How much of a “handle” do they have (or not) on the rest of the properties that they use donations, town funds, and grants for? This is distressing on so many levels, not just for Alley’s but for this organization and the properties they steward. No one should dispute the fact that they have done good work, but more clarity surrounding their actions and less board members who aren’t primarily connected with the island seems to be a start in regaining the public’s respect and trust (and future funding). I have read in the reports in both papers more than once that the Trust has said it is not in the business of running a retail operation; why then were the reins handed over to a board member? Perhaps they should divest themselves of the property if it is a burden/ money loser for them. I feel there would be someone on island, with all the people who moved here during the pandemic, who could take the bull by the horns here and run it correctly and make it profitable. i bet these people had no idea the opportunity was available. Yes, I admit this is an emotional situation for me, because I can’t help but know my relatives are spinning in their graves over this.

    • Great comment Jamie , and let’s not forget Arthur Monington and Gretchen ,… Gretchen is undoubtably laughing hysterically.

    • Well spoken (as usual), Jamie. As I get older, and more appalled by summer traffic, I admit my visits to West Tisbury and environs are fewer, but even us down-Island folk miss Alley’s General Store. This is an appalling situation, and as much as I like to wander through, if not buy, stuff at Leroux, I wonder if the owners of it have enough time/interest to reestablish Alley’s to what it was and what it should be instead of a tourist trap selling things we don’t need.

    • Agreed! Jamie, we do not know if Alley’s was run profitably, we only have the Trust’s Executive Directors word that “it barely broke even”. Ms. Burdick’s word does not carry any weight these days based on her falsification of work estimates submitted to two towns. Alley’s was up and running in April when the press release announced the leasing to the Levandowski’s. Alley’s would be up and and running today if it was still managed by the Trust. It appears the Levandowskis control the terms of the lease, when the lease will start and the Trust has no say. How embarrassing! This is what happens when you do not put the lease contract out to bid and offer it to a Trust Board member. All the excuses sounds like more BS! My guess is that the Trust has lost $100,000,s in inventory with its 3 day fire sale and giving the rest away. The loss of revenue by not being open this season is inexcusable. Alley’s run by Trust management/direction and listening to the comments from the customers “arugula and rat poison” and just “selling goods that you might just need” sounds like a winning formula even if it does not make a tremendous profit. “Barely breaking even” sounds pretty good if it lives up to the Trusts mission of “preserving the —CHARACTER and the scenic qualities of the town in which the property is located in” Mr. Levandowskis mission is to make a good profit for himself not the Trust and we already see the loss of control that comes with leasing. The Trust Presidents promise of “more transparency going forward” rings hollow when the lease is not made public for scrutiny. The MV Times should obtain a copy of the lease so the public can see!

    • I bet there’s someone already making their life here who would love the opportunity to breath life into Alley’s again. Maybe someone who remembers how great it used to be

  3. Hopefully, when Alley’s opens back up, it will go back to where it was before all the changes a few years back. It went from being a store selling goods you may actually need to just another over priced tourist trap.

  4. A store open year round! including Christmas and thanksgiving, with things you need? It is difficult but I am doing it….but than again I don’t have a college degree so I am probably doing it wrong?

    • Marshall,
      You are doing so many things right! My children and I LOVE Menemsha and your filling station/store. William, my almost five year old, asks to go to Marshalls every time we are on island. We get a beautiful sunset, look at the boats and get everyone an ice cream or candy for less than ten dollars!

  5. This article and the Selectmen’s approach was just glossing over reality: Burdick’s “altering” bids (vs what it really was: a criminal act of FORGERY); giving sympathy to the Board for the state of disarray the building is, when the ONLY thing the Trust is supposed to do is to PRESERVE buildings; and feeling sorry for the Trust as it’s “barely breaking even” when it should NOT be a business making money, but rather RAISING money from fundraising; and, by not advertising properties to the public if a lease is needed and instead GIVING leases to their own Insiders, the Trust is breaking their 501(c)(3) covenants. These people are all a disgrace. And, speaking from a personal note, given my and others’ efforts to start the organization in 1980, I’m just incredulous that this horrible group is still “running the show”…. it’s more like “ruining” the show – not “running” it. Why doesn’t the paper act like investigative journalists? There’s more here than meets the eye.

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