The impact of the fire at the Tisbury Inn and Health Club can't yet be measured in time or money. How many dollars and how many months will it take to rebuild?
While owners Sherman and Susie Goldstein meet with architects and insurance adjusters to answer such questions, the impact of Saturday night's fire can be measured in other terms - in jobs lost, routines upended and in a Main street economy sure to suffer.
"Think of how many people they employ, how many people belong to the health club," said Tisbury selectman Ray LaPorte as he stood in a crowd of onlookers Sunday, watching in disbelief as firefighters continued to douse the roof.
What was lost last weekend was not just a hotel complex. It was a year-round anchor to a business district that functions yearround. And it was a community center, whose rooms housed visiting youth hockey teams, whose pool hosted birthday parties and whose gym, sauna and Jacuzzi gave hundreds of Islanders a place not just to exercise, but a home away from home to socialize.
"You realize how huge the impact is," said Anne Milstein, owner of Rainy Day, a nearby home furnishings and gift shop. "It was so multi-functional."
"This is definitely a community tragedy that goes beyond Main street Tisbury," Mr. LaPorte said Tuesday as he sat in BonGo, a cafe just two doors from the inn. Others in the coffee shop couldn't help but share their anguish. "I have my gym clothes on and no place to go," said one woman.
Health club members total well over 500, according to hotel manager Bud Raymond. In the course of a year, thousands make use of the gym or the Island's only indoor pool open to the public.
The hotel had 32 rooms, and the restaurant Zephrus, which opened just two years ago and quickly established itself as a top draw featuring one of the Island's most sought-after chefs, Joe Dasilva.
For now, all that is gone. While the Goldsteins promise to resurrect the restaurant first, hopefully in time for summer, no one doubts that the ripple effects of the fire will be felt in shops up and down Main street for as long as it takes to rebuild the complex.
"It's devastating for the town," said Jeff Kristal, president of the Tisbury Business Association. "We're looking at a loss of hotel rooms and Zephrus, which was the genesis of revitalization in the town."
Ann Nelson, owner of Bunch of Grapes bookstore, said no other business in town has powered the economy like the Tisbury Inn, the health club and its restaurant.
"Each morning practically every day of the year," she said, "I have recognized people in exercise outfits coming in and out of the store." And with the bookstore open evening hours, the spillover from Zephrus was just as noticeable, she said.
"A browser one day and a buyer the next," she said. "It's going to be a tremendous loss."
But while shopkeepers brace for the economic impact in town, people who relied on the Tisbury Inn for their living are faced with the more serious question of their own economic survival.
Zephrus employed 15 people, and between the inn and health club, another 12 people held jobs there. Mr. Raymond said he'll be able to keep them on the payroll through New Year's Day. Past then, most of them will be out of work, but at least eligible for unemployment benefits.
Three employees who had housing in the inn have been displaced, but Mr. Raymond said they have found new places to live.
But for those who worked at the health club - not on the inn's payroll, but as self-employed personal trainers and swim instructors - there are no safety nets.
"I just bought a house, and that was my only means for making money," said Nisa Counter, who lives in Oak Bluffs and has worked as a personal trainer at the health club for the past 15 years. "It's a precarious situation. I was just settling in for the long haul."
Others, like swim instructors Ron Wooley and Jennifer Fragosa, are now thinking about finding other work. But they are also lamenting the loss for the hundreds of kids who now have no place to learn how to swim.
"I'm looking to the community to see if anyone with an indoor pool will let us do lessons," said Mr. Wooley.
And for people who are accustomed to getting consistent physical exercise, there is almost a level of panic about losing that opportunity, especially at the onset of an Island winter.
"For my own well-being, I wonder what am I going to do," said Ms. Counter. "Plus, it's the biggest social interaction I have. Unless you're a big-time drinker, there's nothing healthy for young people to do here."
Renaldo Faust, the owner of Muscle Discipline,a gym in Oak Bluffs, has offered Tisbury Inn health club members free use of his club for the next 10 days. Mrs. Goldstein said she and her husband are still trying to figure out how to handle the issue of health club memberships.
Meanwhile, on other fronts, there are offers of help. Dick Clark, Tisbury fire chief and owner of Brickman's across the street, has allowed the Goldsteins to use a small storefront space in his building. Dorothy and Pat Gregory, owners of EduComp, have done the same, clearing up office space to give the displaced innkeepers a makeshift command post.
Mr. LaPorte said selectmen will offer whatever assistance they can to the rebuilding effort. There may be grant money the town can win for the project. But beyond costs, there will be serious logistical details to work out in trying to demolish and construct something so close to two main roads.
"There will be some hardship," the selectman said. "The interruption of free-flowing traffic in a town that is already flooded in the summer."
But while the project will require some sacrifices, there could be some gains in the end. Mr. LaPorte said that with the advent of sewers in town, a newly built hotel could be bigger.
And Mr. LaPorte said he would even encourage the Goldsteins to ask town voters to consider allowing beer and wine sales at their restaurant as a way to ease the debt burden of rebuilding.
The Goldsteins, though, aren't talking about those details. They're grateful no one was hurt and committed to reviving the anchor to Main street. They already have met with the same architects who designed Zephrus.
"It's our belief that the restaurant suffered the least amount of damage," said Mr. Goldstein. "It is our hope that we can rebuild the basement and the first-floor areas very soon, but I need several weeks to find out what the insurance can cover, how much to demolish and how much it will cost. I am sure that we are going to create a structure that the town and the Vineyard can be proud of."