Just as they do every day, Louis Larsen and Jeffrey Maida arrived to work at The Net Result fish market in Vineyard Haven before sunup on Thursday.
And as they have for the past several days, the business partners set about a new routine: not putting out the friendly fisherman chalkboard with the daily special but instead picking up the pieces from a weekend car crash that left the market in ruins and closed to its customers.
Recovery is taking longer than anticipated but Mr. Larsen remains optimistic about opening again. He said he hopes to reopen part of the market by Good Friday next week.
“We just want to sling fish,” Mr. Larsen said.
Inside the Net Result on Thursday, the empty 500-gallon lobster tank and bare shelves of the custom-built wall freezer and display counter gave the impression that Mr. Larsen and Mr. Maida were just moving into the building at the Tisbury Marketplace. A glance at another metal counter, crumpled and dented on one end, and at the blue tarp hanging over what used to be the front door, told a different story.
The market’s automatic fire alarm went off at 1:48 a.m. Saturday. Police were sent to the scene, Tisbury Sgt. Timothy Stobie said, and after the initial dispatch a second call came in, reporting a crash. A 2004 Toyota 4Runner had driven clear through the wall of the Net Result and into the building itself.
Abraham Torres Rendon, 25, of Edgartown was arrested and charged with drunken driving, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, speeding, reckless operation, leaving the scene of property damage, wanton destruction of property, resisting arrest and attempted bribery of a public official, Tisbury Lieut. Eerik Meisner said Monday morning.
Mr. Rendon and a female passenger were driving from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven, Lieutenant Meisner said. As the road curves by Net Result, he said, the Toyota 4Runner left the roadway and drove through the front entrance of the store. In addition to the damage to the Net Result building, the car also knocked the One Way sign that points into the Tisbury Marketplace from its post.
Lieutenant Meisner said Mr. Rendon and the passenger left the scene, and police searching on foot located them in a room at a hotel across the street.
Both were checked by medical personnel and were not seriously injured, Lieutenant Meisner said. The female passenger does not face charges.
Mr. Rendon allegedly resisted arrest and offered money to be released from police custody. Police did not release his name or information about the charges until Monday morning.
Mr. Larsen told the Gazette Saturday that major repairs will be needed before the fish market can reopen. He originally estimated damages at about $250,000 based on the cost of the custom-built equipment, but new wrinkles have cropped up since the weekend: nicks in the floor, cracked sheetrock in the walls.
He said he was just glad the accident had not happened during business hours.
“It gets crowded,” he said. “Thank God it was two in the morning and not two in the afternoon.”
When the Toyota crashed through the side entrance of the building it hit the large lobster tank, breaking the tank’s water pump and pushing the tank itself into the metal counter behind it. The counter crumpled on impact.
“You could drop that thing out of an airplane and it wouldn’t dent,” Mr. Larsen said. He said the force from impact also pushed a display counter into the 10 by 14-foot wall freezer unit at the opposite side of the room, moving the freezer back.
The lobsters “were all over,” he said. “There were lobsters in the showcase, lobsters in the corner.” In a photo Mr. Larsen took as Tisbury emergency crews were moving the car out, a lone lobster is visible beneath the dislodged tank.
The tank is capable of holding one ton of lobsters. At the time of the crash there were about 700 pounds of lobsters inside.
“We were stocking up for Easter,” Mr. Larsen said.
The surviving lobsters — not all made it — were at first moved to a different storage unit in the back of the building, but the respite was short-lived: the thousands of glass shards coating the floor and tank meant that the entire supply had to be thrown out.
Though the lobsters are gone, Mr. Larsen has retained his sense of humor throughout the week.
“I wasn’t thinking,” he joked on Thursday. “I should have taken them across the road and let them go.”
For safety reasons, none of the other food items in stock, purchased in anticipation of a busy weekend, were sold. The board of health made an initial visit Monday morning and is expected back early next week. Insurance adjusters are also making the rounds, along with cleanup crews from Oceanside Restoration. Staffers, meanwhile, are staying home during cleanup, but still being paid. “It wasn’t their fault,” Mr. Larsen said.
A new lobster tank, shipped in from Canada, has been ordered, but the custom-made counters will take weeks to repair or replace.
Some services are already back. The Net Result is still shipping locally-caught bay scallops off-Island, and taking orders to deliver to restaurants. But the retail operation cannot resume until a final board of health stamp of approval is given. For the time being, the goal is to move the fish market operation over to the takeout area, which was relatively unscathed, by the end of next week.
“We’re trying to get the whole place open,” Mr. Larsen said. “That’s the plan.”