Faces are lit up — store faces, that is. Main street Vineyard Haven has filled up for the 2012 summer season, complete with a handful of new shops that add some previously missing color to the harborside village. And the new stores are hard to miss.

Above a bright blue awning hangs a matching sign with the name “Juliska” scribbled in a white and stylish cursive. In the window, hundreds of strips of ribbons hang over an old, paint-chipped bike and several stacks of teacups. What kind of store is it? According to manager Robert Cropper, it’s a “tabletop shop.”

Juliska is a Connecticut-based company that sells European tableware. The company usually works in wholesale, selling at big-name stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, but Mr. Cropper thinks Juliska is “a great fit for Main street.” Mr. Cropper also managed the shop’s forerunner, Bramhall & Dunn. He expects a similar, upscale clientele in the new store, although the clothing racks have been replaced with hutches full of glinting Czech glass and polished Portuguese ceramic.

Next up heading north is Freebird Market, a “bohemian-chic resale market place,” according to storeowner Ashley Gilbert. Customers can find home items, clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. The store sells consignment, retail and one-of-a-kind products created by independent designers. “Just about everything in the store is at least 50 per cent off retail price,” said Mrs. Gilbert. “I wanted to open a store on the Vineyard that would offer year-round access to vintage and designer labels for less.”

And if the wall-sized shelf of flats, boots and sandals doesn’t catch customers’ eyes, Mrs. Gilbert’s artwork will. She displays her multi-media, vintage-inspired wall art in the store, and just about everything in sight is for sale.

The new stores are partially the fruits of a busy winter in which Vineyard Haven business owners and workers brokered leases, renovated facades and hatched plans to breathe new life into the long-ailing downtown. Even the Chamber of Commerce building got a facelift.

Bunch of Grapes Bookstore certainly isn’t new to Main street, but its new location in the Bowl & Board building is generating steady interest and approval. “The new store has a rustic, down-to-earth feel to it. Locals like it—eyes have been lighting up when people come through the doors,” said Clarissa Murphy, now working at Bunch of Grapes for her fourth year. Claire Hilsinger, another fourth-year bookstore employee, pointed to the natural light that didn’t quite reach the old store. “It’s brighter and more comfortable. People keep coming in and saying that it feels like we’ve always been here,” she said.

Last up on the new-store tour is a narrow shop filled with a wide variety of items that have one important thing in common—novelty. AquaNaut, the store recognizable by the large analog clock hanging outside, sells intricate, rare, and artistic versions of everyday items. There are knives with handles produced by world-renowned scrimshanders. There’s one with a blade forged from a partner saw and a handle made from found mammoth tusk. Paintings of Vineyard scenes done on local maps by artist Michael Protiva hang on the walls above ship models and cases of cufflinks, clocks and belt buckles. There are also some not-so-common items for sale — like the 19th-century bronze cannon that sits by the entrance. “It’s not quite a watch store, not quite a jewelry store, not a knife store, art gallery, men’s store or women’s store,” said storeowner Rubin Cronig. There’s something for everyone, and for every economic bracket. “I want everyone to be able to pop in and buy something special,” said Mr. Cronig.

And there certainly may be more people popping into downtown Vineyard Haven stores this summer. “I think Vineyard Haven is completely different than last year,” said Mr. Cronig. “There’s a vibrancy that hasn’t been seen here in recent years.”

Mr. Cropper attributes the enhanced livelihood in town to the nearly full array of storefronts this year. “The town feels more vital,” he said, “Especially with the Bowl & Board building filled this year. As people walk down the street, they have something to look at in just about every window.”

As the ferry starts bringing the summer crowds into the harbor, visitors will be greeted by the air of excitement emanating from the shops up the hill. Storeowners—newcomers and veterans to Main street – hope that the successful Memorial Day weekend set the tone for the upcoming season.

This past winter, Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously to shift the town’s tax burden away from commercial property owners. The action was intended to give an encouraging economic signal to current Tisbury business owners and make the town more attractive for prospective new businesses.

Judging from the flurry of bold new establishments, the plan may just be working.