“We are huge coffee fanatics. Our first date was at a coffee shop, and we just really loved finding all these little gems of coffee spots when we lived in Connecticut,” Jennifer Straub, co-owner of Aquila MV, told The Times during a visit to the Gay Head Cliffs. Straub said she and her boyfriend, Del Araujo, would travel around to different coffee shops early on in their relationship, and had always been interested in owning their own shop.
Araujo grew up on the Island, and is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). He moved to Connecticut a while ago to do event planning, but when he and Straub saw that one of the buildings up at the Cliffs was for sale, they both knew it was their dream to move to the Island to start their own unique business.
At first, the couple wasn’t sure what they wanted their business to be. All they knew is they wanted to highlight local products, and somehow incorporate coffee into their plan. “First it was figuring out the layout and figuring out how to make the space feel natural, with a good flow, even with a smaller space,” Straub said. “We decided to have one side be a coffee counter, some grab-and-go food and quick snacks, then the other side be souvenirs, jewelry, and other Island crafts.”
The tiny building overlooks perhaps one of the most stunning and beautiful vistas on the whole Island — the surf crashing over Moshup Beach. It’s an element that isn’t lost on Straub and Araujo. “It’s pretty hard to beat that view, and the location is already pretty popular. We are already doing some good business, and it’s exciting to think about the summer,” Straub said.
Landowners at the Cliffs must be of Wampanaog heritage, and when Araujo decided to start a business there, he knew it would be important to celebrate all the talented craftspeople and artists of his tribe.
Some native creations inside Aquila include cutting boards and other carved wood pieces by Woody Araujo, along with baby boots knitted by Tyler Araujo. JK Designs makes gorgeous pottery like glazed mugs and cups, and Tracy Leigh Adams of MV Native Wampum crafts intricate jewelry pieces out of wampum, precious stones, and other colorful shells.
Islander Jack Yuen painted a vibrant landscape portrait of the Gay Head Cliffs, complete with swirling pastel clay, that is now displayed at Aquila, and is available for purchase.
As for the coffee shop aspect, Straub and Araujo only use Martha’s Vineyard Coffee Co. for their freshly brewed coffee. They can whip up a mocha, a French vanilla, or an original, and serve both iced and hot coffee. They’re keeping the coffee and food offerings simple right now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t expand the menu later on, once they get solid footing.
“We definitely are thinking about ways we can expand here, and continue to highlight more Island people who make cool artwork, crafts, food, and drinks,” Araujo said.
In the future, Straub said she would like to use the new location to help facilitate some events up at the Cliffs, like musical performances, dances, tours, and picnics. “People aren’t really used to doing things like that up here, so being able to bring some attention to this incredibly beautiful and historic place would be a huge benefit,” Straub said. “Maybe we could do some little food truck events, or have some live bands, and just kind of tie everything together.”
For Araujo, it’s all about providing a unique experience to shoppers and coffee lovers by highlighting the vendors and craftspeople that embody the creativity and artistry of the Island community. “It takes all this amazing work and brings it into the open for everyone to see,” Araujo said. “If people can find something that really represents how special this place is, that’s more than enough for me.”
Aquila will try to extend its season for as long as it can, most likely until January or February, then they’ll close down for a few months to get things ready for the busy summer season.
“We will be putting up Christmas lights and other decorations, and just trying to be a resource and a stop for people during the off-season who just want to grab a nice cup of coffee and look around at some local artists and vendors,” Araujo said.