It’s a Saturday morning in May, and Main street Vineyard Haven is a ghost town. Metal signs clank and awnings snap in a cold gale blasting out of the northeast. Stores are shuttered. There are parking spaces aplenty and hardly a soul on the sidewalks. If the tableau weren’t surreal enough, snowflakes begin to fall.

Ms. Barse began her store as a skate/surf shop 26 years ago. — Jeanna Shepard

About the only sign of spring is the yellow and white flora blooming in the flower boxes at the Green Room — a clothier/surf shop/skate shop that’s become an Island institution. Green room is a surfing term for riding in the barrel of a wave, an ephemeral experience that lasts a few seconds. This Green Room has lasted 26 years under the guidance of owner Elaine Barse.

Ms. Barse and her Boston terrier Sam enter the empty store, where signs read “New Spring Products” and North Face down sweater vests are marked 40 per cent off. The track lights are off and the ceiling fans are still. There hasn’t been a customer in the 4,000-square-foot store since St. Patrick’s Day.

Sam stands, statue still, staring into the distance.

“He’s a little confused,” Ms. Barse said. “I think we all are. It’s funny to be in a spot that usually has vitality that’s now so quiet. Spring is challenging on the Vineyard but this is a different world.”

Ms. Barse said before Governor Baker ordered businesses to close in March, she had already reduced the store hours to three days a week.

“I tried to adapt to my employees. We had a staff meeting and I asked who was comfortable coming in, who wasn’t,” she said. “Some people wanted nothing to do with dealing with the public and that was fine. Other people were okay with it, some said they’d come in and not deal with the public.”

When the Green Room shuttered, Ms. Barse was already in the process of redesigning the store website, and she worked quickly to expand the store’s online offerings. “We set up an ecommerce site as fast as we could. But it’s been a challenge to get all of our products on there,” she said. She estimates e-commerce has brought in about five per cent of what the store would normally make this time of year.

“We’ve seen some interest but it’s really not in my business plan. It’s not that easy,” she said. She has also filled orders by text. “A mom wanted a [skateboard] for her son’s birthday. I texted her pictures, we worked it out over the phone and delivered it. She sent me a picture of him with this big smile. It made my day.”

Ms. Barse estimates lost revenue in 2020 will be “over hundreds of thousands of dollars” and for the year, she anticipates revenues will be down about 30 to 50 per cent.

In mid-April, she obtained funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, part of a $376 billion relief program for small businesses, administered by the Small Business Association.

“You’re allowed to apply for a certain amount contingent on quarterly earnings,” she said. “The application process was challenging at first but I worked with Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank and they were great. They made it as streamlined as they could. I also give the bank a lot of credit for creating the Lift Certificates. It’s a brilliant idea.”

“Tomorrow’s another day and we’ll be here for it.” — Jeanna Shepard

Lift Certificates for local businesses are sold on the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank website. When a business offers Lift Certificates to customers at a discount, the bank matches the discount up to 10 per cent. So if a business provides a 15 per cent discount on a $100 Lift Certificate, the bank will provide a 10 percent match, meaning the consumer will pay $75 for a $100 Lift Certificate, the business will receive $85 for it, and critically, the business will get the money right away.

Ms. Barse said the program is an example of a spirit of collaboration among Island businesses. “I’m on [the Vineyard Haven] business association, along with Sarah York [C.B. Stark Jewelers general manager]. We’ve been working with other Island business associations and that’s been a positive. It’s been heartbreaking for many of us to watch Amazon deliver the same products Island stores would be selling if they were allowed to open. But there’s been a good exchange of ideas about how to move forward.”

Invariably, moving forward will involve a lot of guesswork.

“I’m in the process of working out a back-to-work plan. It’s going to be phased no matter what, but the game keeps changing,” Ms. Barse said. “Trying to anticipate what the public is going to want is really hard; both with products we offer and safety measures. Some people have said they feel more comfortable going into a retail store than a restaurant. That seems to be a pretty common sentiment. It’s easy to keep people socially distanced here.”

Right now, Ms. Barse is guessing that the Green Room doors will open in early to mid-June. “If we’re allowed to open before Memorial Day, my plan is to have limited access to the shop. I don’t want to push,” she said. “You have to be respectful of your community. I know that people want to shop. I hear from them all the time.”

And despite the doom and gloom of the past two months, Ms. Barse said she’s cautiously optimistic about the future.

“I feel confident that if I am allowed to open, even if my revenue is down 50 per cent I’ll survive,” she said. “If I’m not allowed to open, we’ll see. There’s only so many months I’m willing to pay rent. Maybe I’ll sell out of my garage.”

Meanwhile, the Green Room will sell online, take phone orders and project optimism on Main street.

“People ask why I’m doing my windows if nobody’s there,” she said. “It sends a message. It sends a symbol of life. It’s a message I want to put out there. Tomorrow’s another day and we’ll be here for it.”