Alley’s General Store is back in business to serve West Tisbury and the rest of the Island. The store reopened Saturday morning, just in time for the last few days of summer.
Michael Levandowski, manager of Alley’s, said the opening has been going well, and the store had a very busy Labor Day weekend. “It’s been super-good,” said Levandowski. “The response has been very positive. People are very excited.”
Levandowski, who owns the LeRoux stores in Vineyard Haven and off-Island, said Alley’s will remain a general store, which means it will carry a variety of products. The store will feature giftware, hardware, children’s toys, and more. Alley’s will also have “a stronger focus on groceries,” which is what Levandowski has heard people want. He also intends to add more postal boxes to the Post Office located inside the store.
Alley’s has had a difficult time getting to this point. Levandowski became the store’s tenant in April, but did not have access to the property until May. A variety of structural and systemic issues with the building required a large amount of renovations, forcing the delayed opening. During those renovations, the Post Office remained in operation. The delayed opening caused quite a bit of frustration among West Tisbury residents, since the staple general store in the town was unavailable to them for months.
But its return is already prompting a reaction. In a Letter to the Editor, Linda Levy of Chilmark welcomed Alley’s back. “You will find it a real pleasure to explore the store, whether you are shopping or showing houseguests around the Island, because this is something that should be added to the list of sights to see,” Levy wrote. “Welcome back, Alley’s — we’ve missed you!”
The store changing hands came during a period of unrest within the Vineyard Trust, a nonprofit that oversees about 20 historic Island buildings, including the Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs and the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. Levandowski had been a member of the Trust’s board, but stepped down after taking over Alley’s. Meanwhile, the Trust’s executive director, Funi Burdick, resigned amid allegations that quotes for work in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs had been altered. Those allegations remain under police investigation.
Levandowski said the trust has been very supportive in the process of reopening Alley’s, abating rent and helping in financing repairs. “Contrary to what you may have been hearing here and there, the Trust has been 250 percent behind us here,” said Levandowski. “It’s been a wonderful relationship with them.”
“Free Alley’s” stickers and bumper stickers have been floating around, referring to the Trust’s stewardship of Alley’s, according to Levandowski. He clarified that the Trust is the landlord, and the daily operations of Alley’s run independent of them.
There are still hurdles Levandowski needs to tackle for the store. Currently, Alley’s has up to 60 percent of the desired amount of inventory, although it is slowly building up its supplies. This is primarily due to the global supply chain disrupted by COVID-19, Levandowski said. The store is waiting on giftware orders he placed months ago that are delayed. Levandowski also had difficulty acquiring hardware and personal care products from his distributors, so he has been trying to source these products elsewhere.
“It seems everyone is out of those small convenience-store sizes,” said Levandowski. LeRoux has also been feeling the squeeze of the supply chain disruption.
Levandowski hopes to be back to normal operational levels by the fall. He expects that customers will be patient with them.
Finding help has also been a challenge for Alley’s, a predicament faced by many Island businesses. Levandowski said there is a core team of employees, but he is still looking for more workers. “If someone’s looking for a job, we’ve got jobs,” said Levandowski.
Levandowski adjusted store hours to account for the lack of staff. Alley’s will be open from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday; and from 9 am to 4 pm on Sundays. When staffing levels allow, Levandowski plans to open from 7 am to 7 pm on most days.
Alley’s will sell “less eclectic and more general merchandise you’d find in a general store,” Levandowski said. He is introducing more sustainable business practices, such as data management, to make sure Alley’s remains open for the West Tisbury community.