The Bunch of Grapes, the landmark Vineyard Haven bookstore that has been the go-to place for Islanders and summer visitors alike — including sitting U.S. presidents — to buy their books for more than 40 years, will relocate, owner Dawn Braasch said.
Ms. Braasch has signed a lease with the Hall family to take over the Bowl and Board building across the street from the bookstore. The move will be complete by Memorial Day or at the latest mid-June, she said.
Ms. Braasch said the decision was driven by the need to downsize in changing economic times for independent booksellers everywhere.
“I think everyone is aware of how hard the book business has been hit in the last few years in terms of how the market has been falling and the impact from e-books, and I realized that I needed to be little bit more proactive if I wanted to keep a bookstore on the Island,” she told the Gazette in a phone interview Saturday.
The new space is about 3,300 square feet and on one floor compared with the current 5,000 square feet of space on two floors in the Bunch of Grapes building, whose owner is Ann Nelson.
“It’s great over three months [to have so much space] but the rest of the year it’s a lot of stock to carry,” Ms. Braasch said. “I wanted to reduce my space and my landlord where I currently am was not in favor of that.” She said she has been negotiating with the Halls for two months and she praised them for their cooperation in the business deal. “The Halls were great to work with,” Ms. Braasch said.
She said the bookstore will remain open year round and renovations to the building will include installing heat and insulation and replacing windows along the front. Long-term plans include some kind of coffee bar, but not for this coming summer, Ms. Braasch said.
But she said the space feels right and she is excited about the move. “Other small independent bookstores that we see doing well are 2,200 to 3,000 square feet so I think this is going to work well,” she said.
Ms. Braasch bought the bookstore in 2009 from Jon Nelson, Ann Nelson’s son, following the devastating Main street fire on July 4 2008 that gutted the building. The historic bookstore reopened a year later under new ownership.
Ms. Braasch, who is now president of the Tisbury Business Association, said she is equally committed to Main street and her bookstore.
“I live here year-round; I just cannot imagine life without a bookstore here and that’s just a selfish thing on my part,” she said, adding: “The bookstore does a great business still; it just isn’t the business it used to be and we just don’t need 5,000 square feet. I hate to leave the location and the space where it has been for some 40 years, but at the same time I am excited about this change.”
She said she sees many positive business changes happening around her in the main port town for the Island. “New restaurants are opening; it looks like there is a potential renter for the [recently closed] Bramhall and Dunn space. I feel like things are starting to fill up again. I’m re-energized and hoping for the best this summer.”