Parking lots are filled and people are once again crowding the restaurants, shops and fish markets of Menemsha.
But the village did take a hit to business, at least in the few days following the fire.
The Galley restaurant owner Frank M. Fenner said Friday that he’d lost a significant amount of business due to the fire, and that while it was back on the increase four days after the incident, things still had not returned to normal. He cited a loss in revenue of roughly 60 per cent the day the blaze occurred, when Menemsha was evacuated for safety reasons. On Tuesday, the Galley saw a 40 per cent drop in revenue compared to the same date last year, and on Wednesday, a 33 per cent drop.
“We were having a pretty good summer,” said Mr. Fenner on Friday afternoon. But he worried that the fire had threatened that.
Menemsha Fish Market owner Stanley Larsen said business has been unpredictable. “Days we think we’re going to be busy we’re not, and days we don’t think we’re going to be busy, we are,” he said.
But has there been an overall drop in business since the fire? “I’d say so, yes,” said Mr. Larsen.
Commercial fishing out of the harbor has been turned upside down as well. “A couple of fishermen were just so shocked from it that they didn’t bother going fishing,” said Mr. Larsen of the days following the fire. Shellfishermen have also been hurt; the state ordered Menemsha Pond closed to shellfishing due to fire debris in the water. “I just think the guys that have got the bulk of it right now are the shellfishermen. I’m not sure when it’s going to reopen. It’s been flushed really well several times,” Mr. Larsen said.
At an emergency meeting of the Chilmark selectmen held Friday afternoon, selectmen Jonathan Mayhew, a commercial fisherman in Menemsha, and Mr. Fenner both said that they believed businesses were suffering greatly due to the fire. According to Mr. Mayhew, some commercial fishermen were facing significant losses.
“I’m sure every one of our businesses is affected,” said Mr. Fenner at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Mr. Larsen lost three boats in the fire, at least one of which sank to the bottom and needs to be removed because it poses a hazard to boat traffic in the area. “I really don’t have the resources to clean them up myself,” he said. He still hasn’t filed claims for the three boats, but plans to when he has the chance.
“Somebody had mentioned that they had heard on the radio and read in the paper that Menemsha was closed and that is absolutely not the case,” said Menemsha Texaco owner Katie Carroll. “Everybody is there ready and willing to accept customers [and] answer questions.”
Mrs. Carroll and her husband Marshall stayed at their Menemsha gas station for the duration of the fire, helping to fuel boats involved in the firefighting effort. She said that business was certainly affected by the fire, and the evacuation of Menemsha Monday afternoon, but this weekend saw things starting to return to normal.
“We were definitely not operating normally,” Mrs. Carroll said of the hours during the fire. “It was not a safe place for people to be. We were not open, but . . . we were there. We were there for coffee, drinks, and anything that anybody over there that was fighting the fire needed.”
Menemsha Texaco’s location on the harbor across from the fire site and next to the Menemsha beach parking lot allows the Carrolls to see firsthand how everything is operating in the village. “The harbor is functioning pretty well,” she said. “I would like to think that everyone is trying to work really hard to work together. Obviously at the moment there’s a bit of a shuffle going on because there are boats that are displaced and the parking spaces on the fill dock are obviously unusable at this point. There’s a bit of a parking crunch for the bass fishermen. But everybody’s really doing their best to make do and work together as a team to get things back up and running the way they should be.”
Mr. Larsen said he was surprised that the incident didn’t draw more curious tourists to check out the charred rubble in the days following the fire. “You’d think it would have been drawing people in,” he said. “This weekend the harbor wasn’t even half full,” he said. “I saw some recreational [boating] but I did not see very many transient boats, like boats that come in for the weekend.”
But Mrs. Carroll had a different report. “It’s pretty much feeling as close to back to normal as it can be I think,” she said. “We don’t have quite as many slips available at the moment, obviously. Some of the local people have been displaced but they’re working on trying to come up with a solution to open up a few more transient slips. But there were definitely friends from the other side that came over for the weekend,” she said.
And the usual crowds flocked the beaches, especially at sunset. “The parking lot was full, the beach was covered with families enjoying the sunset, having their Bite food or their lobster rolls or their chowder, for dinner. There was a lot more boat traffic, people out on the water. It really felt a little more like summer,” Mrs. Carroll said.