A new secondhand store is coming to Main Street in Tisbury that will serve as a community center and a place where folks of all levels of need can turn to for support.
Kevin Ryan and Alissa Keenan, who ran the Edgartown Boys and Girls Club Second Hand store, are focused on creating a whole new experience with their new store, called Act Two.
For eight years, Ryan ran the Edgartown store with his good friend, Keenan. It was successful in its mission to make money for the Boys and Girls Club, and quickly became a bustling center where folks could say hello to friends and neighbors, or have a hot cup of coffee and escape the cold. “We wanted it to be a place where everyone stops when they are in town, a place where everyone feels welcome,” Ryan said. “And I think we accomplished that.”
While Ryan and Keenan worked, they would almost always be chatting about what the Island Theater Workshop (ITW) was doing (Ryan is the artistic director), what the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse was doing, and the entire Island arts scene overall. With that constant thread of discussion, Ryan and Keenan eventually came to the realization that they had to create some kind of benevolent fundraising effort to benefit the arts, theater, and music community.
Ryan retired from the club thrift store; Keenan stayed on for another year and a half, and at that point, the store became yet another casualty of COVID — it was forced to close its doors, and then the club administration made the decision to close the thrift store for good.
“Just the other day there was someone helping move furniture into the new space who was saying how much he appreciated the sense of comradery in the old store, and the central feeling of everyone being connected,” Ryan said. Right when the decision was handed down to shutter the store for good, Ryan and Keenan began pounding the pavement trying to actualize their dream.
Ryan went online and applied for a license for a nonprofit organization. He didn’t know if the process would take two days or two years. From the fall of 2019 to the winter of 2021, the two community devotees made baby steps toward their goal. It soon became clear that they would need a brick-and-mortar location, and began their search for real estate. It proved to be an uphill battle that paid off only recently.
Ryan and Keenan discussed their situation with Frank Folts from Sundog, who was a staunch supporter of the old Edgartown location and a good friend of the two. He decided to donate his entire store inventory to the soon-to-open Act Two in order to seed the organization and get them the start they need.
After about a year of dedicated work and miles of red tape, Act Two got its 501(c)(3) status approved, and continued the search for real estate. They eventually found an opening next to Rainy Day and LeRoux on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, and began to settle in.
At the conclusion of their first year of business, Act Two will have residual income to give away to qualifying entities and causes. “We will probably do some kind of independent grant system. People will approach us and ask us for funding, and it’ll all be public,” Ryan explained. “There will be a simple application, then we will make a decision among our small board of directors. Within 15 business days of closing the books, we will be able to say we have X amount of dollars going to this location, and X going to this location.”
He noted that ITW currently has no financial backing, and the directors have to scrimp each year to put on the quality productions they do. What funding they receive from events and donations simply keeps ITW afloat for the year.
ITW is far from the only organization that will benefit from Act Two. Any local public nonprofit that supports community theater, arts, music, and education can get a piece of the pie. “If, for example, Featherstone needs art materials, or the M.V. Film Center needs a new projector screen, they would come to us and ask, ‘Can you pay for all of it or some of it?’” Ryan said.
He noted that he and Keenan have seeded Act Two with their own money, and draw no salary from operating the organization.
Especially starting off, the two are going to be picky about what people donate. They will carefully curate items that will sell within two weeks or so, in order to prevent wasted space and throwing things away. “We want to be able to help everyone and take stuff from people, but it costs us out-of-pocket to put stuff in the trash,” Ryan said.
When Ryan and Keenan were in Edgartown, they saw a variable cross-section of the Island population, including those who were most needy — those who were homeless and didn’t have money to buy warm, clean clothes. “They would come in and might have $4 in their pocket. They’re not wearing a coat, and it’s blowing in February,” Ryan said.
Act Two will operate under a slogan of “Doing well by doing good,” just as the old Edgartown store did. Ryan told a story of when a man was released from the jail in the dead of winter after being incarcerated in September. “When you have someone come in during a sleet storm wearing flip-flops and a tank top, that is enough to just stop you dead in your tracks,” Ryan said.
After many of these experiences, Ryan said, he and his employees tried to stress compassion at every turn, and treat everyone with respect, regardless of situation or socioeconomic status.
Act Two will also serve as a net for those who are most vulnerable in the community, and Ryan and Keenan will work closely with Island police, Harbor Homes, and other necessary partners. “That’s a big part of what we do. Making sure that our friends and neighbors and people who shop with us are safe and comfortable. With this new store, I want to do an even better job,” Ryan said. “When you help someone, that person can go on to help the next person, so it’s this circle of reciprocity that is so unique to our Island community.”
Keenan said that when the Edgartown store was up and running, folks who had houses on Water Street would be shopping right next to homeless people and young families that needed clothing for themselves or their children.
“And that’s the kind of space we wanted to have. A place where there’s something for everyone. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, you can come in and say hello, maybe have a cup of coffee and a snack,” Keenan said. She said Island schoolchildren and their families would come in for costumes and props to use for performances, and many more would stop by to pick out a white dress shirt or a pair of slacks for a special occasion.
“It’s all about helping the community while we are raising money for it, and while that hasn’t changed, we can now have a more specific aim for the income we receive,” Keenan said.
Clothing and furniture will be the two mainstays in the new location, along with some quality housewares, and thousands of dollars of fine jewelry to open their doors with.
For Keenan, seeing the smile on a child’s face who is trying on a dress shirt and blazer as he prepares for eighth grade graduation is worth more than any salary. She wants to provide that same experience to anyone who enters Act Two.
She added that the store will never try to compete with other secondhand and thrift stores in Tisbury, and that instead she looks forward to working collaboratively with other benevolent organizations like Chicken Alley.
“We don’t want to bring back the Edgartown store, but we hope that people will come here and experience the same warmth and sense of belonging they felt at the old location,” Keenan said.
Act Two Second Hand is located next to LeRoux at Home and Rainy Day, and anticipates opening officially around March 14, with a soft opening potentially earlier.