By Riis Williams, Thomas Humphrey and Brooke Kushwaha

In the face of increasing worker shortages and uncertainty still lingering in the post pandemic business landscape, the Island retail and restaurant scene continues to adapt and, in many cases, expand. As Memorial Day weekend and the traditional start to summer arrives, the operative word is change, with several downtown favorites revamping under new ownership and new faces looking to make their mark.

Starting a business is always difficult, but at seasonal destinations, where the bulk of income needs to be made in just a few short months, the stakes are higher to open early and strong.

In preparation for the weekend rush, the Gazette toured Island towns this week, talking to business owners about the shifting scene and their hopes for the coming season.

Vineyard Haven

C.B Stark recently refreshed its Vineyard Haven storefront. — Ray Ewing

Vineyard Haven Main street received a facelift during the offseason, bringing freshly paved roads and improved walkways to the central thoroughfare.

“Everything in town looks really great,” said Sarah York, general manager of C.B. Stark Jewelers. “The town reinvesting in businesses in Tisbury is really paying off.”

In addition to the street redesign, said Ms. York, C.B. Stark’s Vineyard Haven outlet has been remodeled for the first time in 20 years.

“We just needed to lighten it up,” she said. “This has been a really big refresh.”

Further up on State Road, the Black Dog Bakery Café has also had an interior remodel. Ms. York said she anticipates a big season for the town’s business scene, as she feels that updates to the town’s liquor laws have “evened the playing field” for Tisbury businesses. In the fall, residents voted to allow alcohol to be served without meal until 11 p.m.

A handful of new eateries plan to open in Tisbury. — Ray Ewing

Several new dining establishments are also slated to open soon in Vineyard Haven. La Soffitta was recently rebranded as The Attic at Waterside. Across the street, the restaurateurs behind Salvatore’s are opening a 30-seat lunch spot called La Strada, and behind the old Stone Bank property, developer Sam Dunn hopes to open a taqueria later this summer.

Down by the water, the Tisbury Marketplace has also become a locus of activity, with bustling businesses new and old.

“It’s coming together, it’s kind of been business as usual for us,” said the Net Result manager Mike Holtham, who has been excited to offer fresh sea scallops brought in on the Menemsha Rose.

Mr. Holtham said he has noticed a rather earlier crowd at the fish shop, which he credits to the recent opening of Catboat Coffee. The cafe opened in March and features cheese boxes, Lebanese sandwiches and spreads and, of course, coffee.

Next door at the Toy Box, work continues on their new planned ice cream shop, which store co-owner Kate Salop said they plan on opening in June.

“We’re excited about what’s happening at the marketplace,” she said.

The renovation of the nearby Art Cliff Diner is ongoing, though attempts to reach the owners were unsuccessful.

Much of Vineyard Haven remains unchanged, however, as Vasska Fondren of Brickman’s clothing store noted. The location was started as a cobbler shop back in 1913 and it largely continues to offer clothing essentials and basics year after year.

“That’s how it has gone, and that’s how we will proceed,” he said.

Sandro Silvio stands inside the revamped Square Rigger in Edgartown. — Ray Ewing


Edgartown welcome back two beloved hallmarks this weekend when The Newes From America and The Square Rigger reopen.

The Newes, which operates in the former Kelley House building, returns after construction shuttered its doors in January 2022. Now called Faraway MV, the greater hotel complex will reopen later this summer, according to Jason Brown, the managing partner of the investment firm that bought the hotel.

Mr. Brown said the firm made it a priority to get the Newes open in time for the start of the summer season. The look and menu will be virtually identical to the original restaurant, he said, but with a greater reliance on local food sources.

“Everyone including my parents wanted us to keep it the same,” he said. “They said they were going to kill me if we changed anything.”

The hotel’s sushi and cocktail bar, The Pelican Club, will also reopen later this summer with an enhanced look.

Just outside of town, the Square Rigger has reopened under new management. Sandro Silvio started serving out of the restaurant’s takeout window earlier this winter, but this weekend’s debut marks the first time the long-running restaurant has opened its doors since it was purchased by Carlos Teles. 

Blackbird Cafe brings a new breakfast and lunch spot to downtown Edgartown. — Ray Ewing

Mr. Silvio said he had received considerable feedback from regulars not to change too much.

“We have all the old favorites,” Mr. Silvio said, pointing to items on the “House Specials” section of the menu. “I didn’t touch them.”

The expanded menu does include a few new attractions — notably, the “lobster lollipops,” two half-tails of beer-battered and fried lobster served on a stick.

The space itself has been significantly reworked, featuring a sleek, black marble bar top and new paint and flooring.

“I hope people still get the same feeling they had before,” Mr. Silvio said. “A place to bring your family, a place to bring your elders...when you come here, I want you to come out better than you came in.”

Back in town, Lucy Dahl’s Untamable Gallery has moved from Dock street to South Summer street, next door to Rosewater Cafe, and the Blackbird Café will open in the space formerly occupied by Murdick’s Café on North Water street. Co-owners Luke and Katie Kenney previously operated the Blackbird food truck on Chappaquiddick before acquiring the brick-and-mortar location last year. The new café will offer a full scope of espresso options, as well as breakfast and lunch.

Oak Bluffs

In Oak Bluffs a pink glow coming from the windows of 6 Circuit avenue signals the arrival of Mikado Hawaiian BBQ & Sushi. The restaurant opened last week, an offshoot of its Vineyard Haven location. The Oak Bluffs menu doesn’t stray far from the original Vineyard Haven location, but owner Xi Yu said customers will also have a selection of various barbecued meats, seasoned with a marinade of garlic, ginger and other spices.

Mikado just opened a new location on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. — Jeanna Shepard

“Hawaiian barbecue is very popular on the West Coast,” he said. “But if you search for it on the East Coast, you’ll probably see nothing . . . Now people from our area can try it as well.”

Just across the street, restaurant and bar Eleven Circuit is making its debut just in time for the holiday weekend.

“We’ll have breakfast, lunch, dinner and then party,” said owner Ralston Francis.

Mr. Francis formerly operated the business as Flavors MV, alongside co-owner Sonny Chhibber. He rebranded the restaurant after purchasing Mr. Chhibber’s share and runs it with his wife and two daughters. He said he plans to have DJs and live music performances in the evenings.

Mr. Francis also owns the Edgartown Diner, and will split his time between the two restaurants during the busy season.

The Strand Theatre has long been a hallmark in Oak Bluffs, and new owners Steve and Dorothy Capers plan to keep the location vibrant after its prolonged closure during the pandemic. Mr. Capers owns the production company that produces the annual Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Festival, now headquartered at the Strand. He also envisions jazz concerts, educational workshops and perhaps even video game competitions, along with movies.

Aalia's has expanded past morning coffee and will enter the Oak Bluffs nightlife scene. — Jeanna Shepard

“We’re really thinking outside of the box than just movies and concerts,” said Mr. Capers.

The Capers are also transforming the theatre lobby into a daytime coffee shop, to open in mid-June.

On Kennebec avenue, a new produce market is in the works. The Notalot Farm Shop is still under construction, but owner Julie Keefe hopes to welcome customers next month.

“We’ll have a lot of produce, pre-made salads — things like that,” said Ms. Keefe. “People can come here to get their groceries, some premade pastries and more.”

Ms. Keefe first thought about opening a farm shop four years ago, after purchasing a home that came with a garage facing Kennebec. Ms. Keefe and her brother have been designing and renovating the garage ever since. After a pandemic delay, she plans to open June 15.

Up the street, something new is brewing at Aalia’s AM/PM, formerly Aalia’s Coffee. After opening last year, Aalia’s presented itself as a classic early-morning coffee shop but with a Lebanese twist. Now, with a brand new dinner menu and a beer and wine list to accompany it, Aalia’s is ready to join Oak Bluffs’ nightlife. The new food selections include cauliflower shawarma, spicy shrimp, horiatiki salad and a banana cream pie with tahini for dessert.


In Menemsha, new is not the order of the day. Rather, tradition leads as the weathered wooden benches at Larsen’s Fish Market fill up with customers enjoying a cup of chowder or oysters on the half shell.

The Homeport restaurant in Menemsha will be open for the first full summer under its new owners. — Jeanna Shepard

“It’s definitely going to be an easier season this year,” said owner Betsy Larsen, recalling that last year and the debut of their shop’s redesign. “We’ve got the space figured out and we are ready right out of the gate.”

Next store at Menemsha Fish Market, Stanley Larsen is also expecting a busy season.

“I’ve been selling a lot of lobster so far,” he said.

Despite their excitement for the season, both Larsens predict that the recent pattern of traffic gridlock in town, especially during the rush at sundown, will not improve much this summer.

“I just hope some people will take the sunset shuttle,” said Ms. Larsen.

Also on the waterfront, the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust is ramping up efforts at their Seafood Collaborative building off Dutcher Dock. 

A new gin boom, a large crane-like piece of equipment, was installed by the bulkhead at the Seafood Collaborative building this week. The piece of infrastructure was installed with money from a grant program run by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, said trust executive director Shelly Edmundson.

“It allows you to lift heavy stuff from the boat, so you’re not breaking your back,” she said.

The trust also received a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Bank to purchase a flash freezer, also housed in Menemsha.

“The freezer circulates the cool air very quickly. It freezes the fish quickly enough so that ice crystals don’t form and it preserves quality,” said Phoebe Walsh, the new manager at the Seafood Collaborative.

Tito's Handmade Vodka sponsored a new gin boom, pictured here, for the Seafood Collaborative in Menemsha. — Jeanna Shepard

This summer the group will be piloting a fish CSA program, with a variety of local, flash frozen seafood packed monthly for subscribers, to be picked up at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market.

“I think it’s the first time anyone has had finfish at the market,” Ms. Edmundson said.

Seafood fans will also get the chance to have their fill at Menemsha’s Homeport restaurant, which opens this weekend. It will be the first full season for new owner Seth Woods, who purchased the property with his business partner Erik Berke and began operations last June.

“Last year we had to open so quickly that we didn’t have time to give love to what really needed it,” said Mr. Woods.

They have also significantly revamped the drink menu, he said, developing a host of “zero-proof” cocktails in line with Chilmark’s dry status. The back door takeout operation will also restart this year.

Significant remodel work has been undertaken at the restaurant this off-season, including a complete revamp of the restaurant’s bathrooms. A plan to construct a pergola on their outdoor porch was canceled, said Mr. Woods, after a misunderstanding over permitting with the town.

More pictures.