For Island businesses and contractors, this is a pivotal time of year — crunch time, you could call it. Ferry traffic picks up; the seasonal Steamship Authority port in Oak Bluffs is now open for the summer and privately-operated passenger ferries will begin running their late spring schedule this weekend. Stores will see the first big push of summer and contractors clock some of the busiest weeks of the year.
Many are optimistic about what the season will bring. And if Steamship Authority bookings are any indication, it’s shaping up to be a busy one.
“We’re expecting another big weekend like last year,” SSA general manager Wayne Lamson told the Gazette. “Everything was sold out for this [Thursday and Friday] so we ended up adding some additional trips.”
But if you needed a contractor on the Vineyard this week, you may have found yourself out of luck. Between pruning ocean views, adding fresh coats of paint to walls and doors, shingling and the hundreds of other things that need doing to get houses ready for summer, tradesmen on the go were found grabbing lunch up-Island.
“I am a little frazzled right now,” said Nick Warburton, co-owner and operator of Atlantis Hardscape of West Tisbury. “Gotta have everything sweet and new by Friday.” He said he has projects under way from Edgartown to Aquinnah.
Roberto Ribeiro of Edgartown works for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, painting and fixing up structures.
“Our schedule is about the same every year,” Mr. Ribeiro said. “There’s always something to be fixed.”
Ted Perry, 35, is a subcontractor who has built homes on the Cape and Islands for more than a decade.
“My work has been consistent this year,” he said. “That means a lot.”
Richard Green is a West Tisbury carpenter who has been doing jobs on the Island since 1969.
“People try to get as much done as they can in a few months,” Mr. Green said. “You only do what you can do. I try not to let the stress get to me.”
Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers are hiring, getting advertising ready, and in some cases expanding. Those that are open year round look forward to the pickup in business that Memorial Day weekend brings. Seasonal businesses must sand, paint, stock up and practice salesmanship — sometimes in a hurry.
Managers at Mocha Mott’s and Edgartown Books have been putting in time with web developers in order to get their websites clean-looking and operational. Patrons of Edgartown Books can now reserve beach reads online and pick them up on the way to the shore. Along with a new Buddha-themed T-shirt, Mocha Mott’s will be selling yogurt, granola and lemonade.
Past and Presents of Edgartown sells antiques and wedding gifts, many bought in England. Janice Wooden, who has worked at the store for 10 years, is hopeful that the cruise ships docking in Edgartown this summer will boost sales.
“Pink and Green Weekend really opened things up,” said Mrs. Wooden, referring to the Mother’s Day weekend of community events in Edgartown. “It seems much busier than last year.”
At the Boneyard Surf Shop just up the street, manager Triche Lyman said she and her staff are finally settling into their Main street Edgartown location. For Ms. Lyman, making sure that store shelves are stocked and neat in the busy season can be a challenge.
“Most of the time it’s keeping up with the flow of products in the springtime,” she said. “Often we have to stay until 10 and 12 at night to get the big orders.” Ms. Lyman is excited about the Boneyard carrying GoPro cameras, wearable devices suitable for image capture at high speeds.
“I’m really looking forward to working with those and getting to learn about them,” she said.
For year-round stores, warm months are about striking a balance between having goods for vacationers and still keeping what year-round residents need.
Luke DeBettencourt is always thinking of ways to improve his business, The Corner Store in Oak Bluffs. He was on vacation with his wife in Hawaii when he got an idea.
“People forget their chargers on the mainland,” Mr. DeBettencourt said. He decided to stock up on cell phone chargers to sell at his shop. Finding a reputable distributor proved to be a challenge but he got it done. The Corner Store is also selling DVDs because, he said, they can be hard to find in Oak Bluffs. At the suggestion of a customer, he doubled the size of his greeting card section.
Edgartown Books is opening a cafe on Saturday called Behind the Bookstore. The menu includes cold-pressed juices and pastries. Phillip Kim has been teaching new hires to make excellent espresso drinks. Passersby have trickled in, sampling the goods.
“People have been receptive,” he said. “We’re excited to get a little geeky about coffee and invite people to join in on the experience.”
Business at Vineyard Grocer and Tisbury Farm Market is up 20 per cent from last year, Elio Silva wrote in an email to the Gazette. Along with the usual summer products, he is introducing local produce, meat and natural sunblock.
Jarek Peters has been putting in long hours for Island Wide Landscaping. Competition in landscaping is stiff right now, he said. Getting lawns and gardens in shape involves long days until things slow down and most of the work turns to upkeep. “I just had a 65-hour week,” Mr. Peters said. “We usually grind it out until Memorial Day. Then it lays back.”