West Tisbury: Alley’s General Store

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— Kyra Steck

Alley’s is open! I went up to check it out and found the store open, filled with customers, looking much like itself. The shelves aren’t yet filled with everything, but April and Michael Levandowski have made a start. Stocking the store in the original Alley’s General Store tradition while adding their own stamp will be their challenge and, hopefully, their gift to West Tisbury. The store will be open Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm.

I was glad to see the bench outside and coffee set up inside. My husband had already been there to check if SodaStream refill canisters would be sold there and came home happy to report that they were right behind the counter. I was grateful for a selection of LeRoux oils and vinegars and tins of every type of tea one could wish for. I was surprised to see Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray tonic, something I remembered from my childhood. Otherwise, there are toys for kids, cast iron pans and other basic housewares, groceries, ice cream, and empty shelves awaiting hardware and other goods that hadn’t yet arrived. Newspapers will be available after the holiday weekend.

Shoppers were asked if there was anything they didn’t see that they felt was important. I miss the big wheel of cheddar cheese that was always on the counter during Charlie and Teena Parton’s tenure. Of course, I dearly miss Lambert, their resident cat, who was usually only partially visible with his front half hidden in a big bag of Meow Mix that was kept on a bottom shelf. Lambert would snag the bag with his claws and dig right in. He also kept the store dog free. I don’t think there was a dog in town willing to step inside Alley’s after a first encounter with Lambert.

Life was so much more interesting and colorful then. I don’t know that anyone ever got sick  because there was a cat in the store. Regular readers of this column know that I can get a little sentimental about how things were. Some of these modern regulations seem a bit much.

The other welcome reopening news is that the library will begin Sunday hours on Sept. 12, from 1 to 5 pm. Now that school is starting, there will be some afternoon drop-in hours for kids and families to use the children’s room. Changes are: Monday through Thursday appointments will still be required between 10 am and 2 pm, with drop-in hours from 2 to 6 pm; Friday appointments required from 10 am to 2 pm, with drop-in hours from 2 to 5 pm. Appointments are required for the children’s room 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday and 1 to 5 pm on Sunday. Masks are required at all times for everyone.

The Howes House will resume in-person Yoga with Shanta at 9:30 am beginning this Thursday, Sept. 9. The Thursday Writers’ Group led by author Jill Scheuer will meet at 11 am. There will be an exhibition by the Friday Afternoon Painters, a group of artists who have met and painted together for years at the Howes House. Hours are 10 am to 2 pm. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10 and 11.

As this is Labor Day weekend, I looked up the history of the holiday on the Labor Department website, dol.gov.  Labor activists proposed a holiday in recognition of the contributions of workers to the American economy. The idea was raised in 1882, but there is some disagreement as to who was the original instigator. Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, supported a holiday to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” The other contender is Matthew Maguire, a machinist and secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. He eventually served as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York City. By 1894, municipalities in 23 states had adopted Labor Day as a holiday. Congress passed the law making Labor Day a federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland on June 28, 1894. And here we are.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida brought approximately 3 inches of much-needed rain to parts of West Tisbury. No one knew what to expect, so gardens were hurriedly harvested. I suspect most kitchens have window sills lined with tomatoes. Either that, or those hurriedly harvested tomatoes have already been turned into sauce for the winter. Tomatoes have been amazing this year; I don’t ever remember seeing so many different varieties.

As I am writing this column, a pot of chicken soup is simmering on our stove. It will be dinner tonight, as it always was the traditional holiday meal when I was growing up. Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5782. I love the feeling of a new year, a clean slate to fill anew with hopes and promise, for better days ahead. L’Shana Tovah — a good year. That is my wish for everyone everywhere.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.