When Molly Coogan came to work at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on Thursday; it was not in her longtime managerial role, but as the new head of ship.
Having been the bookstore’s manager for the past nine years, Coogan is certainly in tune with the ins and outs of the shop’s operations, which, she explained in an interview with The Times, will definitely come in handy in this new chapter.
An avid reader since childhood, Coogan said she often found herself at Bunch of Grapes as a kid, on the search for new reads. She told The Times that owning a bookstore — especially on Martha’s Vineyard — “has always been a dream.”
Now, as she finds herself heading a popular Island staple, the dream has become a reality. “It’s unbelievable,” she said.
Located on Vineyard Haven’s Main Street, Bunch of Grapes’ offerings encompass a surprisingly wide variety of books — for all ages and interests — puzzles, craft supplies, and gifts, all of which are crisply displayed in the quaint two-story shop.
A frequent summer vacationer on the Vineyard growing up, as her grandfather purchased property in Oak Bluffs in the ’50s, the Connecticut native moved to the Island in 2011 with her husband Brendan, an arts and sculpture teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and business partner in the new endeavor. The couple lives in Oak Bluffs with their two sons, Henry and Gus.
When asked if she plans on making any big changes to the store, Coogan said that she’s open to experimenting with new ideas — one idea she’s been mulling over is possibly offering to host book groups, where like-minded readers can come together in a comfortable, neutral space. In the past, Dawn Braasch, the previous owner, often involved her in decisionmaking regarding how the store is run — something she is immensely grateful for.
“Dawn has mentored me so well,” Coogan said, “that any changes we’ve made have really been made together over the years.” She added that Braasch’s support has been paramount during the beginning stages of the transition.
In emphasizing her appreciation toward her former boss and shop owner Braasch, Coogan said she “couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and boss.”
Coogan may be the new owner, but she plans to continue working with the now semi-retired Braasch. Coogan said the former owner will still be around, lending assistance when needed. “She’s not going anywhere,” Coogan promised.
Coogan said although she’s well versed in book purchasing for the store, it was Braasch who had been responsible for purchasing nonbook items, of which there are many. But Coogan’s excited to take on the role. “I think we’ll be seeing some new lines coming in,” she said; “we’ll see.”
Aware of the potential downsides of owning a small business responsible for catering to such a massive audience, Coogan said she’s been pleased with patrons — returning and new — who continue to support their local shops. “It’s a choice,” she said, and for that loyalty, she’s grateful.
With Braasch’s guidance — and blessing — Coogan has the freedom to add her personal touch to the store’s offerings, but stated emphatically, the name of the shop “will always be Bunch of Grapes.”
In a Facebook post, Braasch announced the sale. “I often worried about who would buy the bookstore when it was time to retire, and whether they would love it as much as I have. Thankfully, I found that person in Molly, who had been with me for nearly nine years,” Braasch wrote. “I will miss the day-to-day running of the store, but am looking forward to retirement and more time with my seven grandchildren. Please stop by and wish Molly well if you are in town, and thanks from the bottom of my heart for 15 great years.”
Coogan declined to release the purchase price.