Tisbury’s annual street fair will not only go on despite the Independence Day fire, it will go on because of it, to help raise money for those affected.
An emergency meeting of the town selectmen Saturday morning appealed for a big turnout, and for people to come and donate.
An annual celebration of the town’s birthday, the street fair is Tuesday night.
CafÃ© Moxie, on the corner of Main and Centre streets, was demolished after the fire. The Bunch of Grapes bookstore next door was severely structurally damaged, and looks to have lost most or all of its stock to flames, water and smoke.
The selectmen’s meeting was called to begin counting the cost and planning the response to Friday’s fire, but it quickly became apparent there was little which could be done immediately but to secure the site and call for the generosity of Island businesses, residents and visitors.
Tisbury fire chief John Schilling said at this stage, further cleanup work is stalled because the sites must be preserved for insurance inspectors.
He said there had been only one minor injury as a result of the fire.
As for the cost to the town — and other towns which contributed to the volunteer firefighting effort — it was too early to say. Apart from the material costs of simply fighting the fire, there would be other costs, ranging from those of the private contractor involved in demolishing the cafÃ©, to pay for public works staff called in on public holiday, to extra police details overnight and possible unknown damage to town infrastructure.
Chief Schilling said there are a number service conduits under that corner which would have to be checked for damage, but that too would have to wait until after insurers had been in for an inspection.
The cafÃ© was utterly destroyed, but the degree of damage to the bookstore remains uncertain, both in terms of structure and contents.
Selectman Denys Wortman said at the meeting he had spoken to Ann Nelson, the owner of Bunch of Grapes, who confirmed worse stock damage than was initially thought.
He said it was first thought the second floor was not so badly damaged, but the stock there was all badly tainted by smoke.
“Her words to me were: ‘It’s all gone’,” he said.
Given that the site is a potential hazard and will be a blight on the street for a long time to come, talk turned to how to both protect the public and perhaps disguise the scarring of the streetscape.
The selectmen delegated the police, fire department and public works department to come up with a barrier, possibly a plywood fence or wall on the footpath or even roadway on Main street, which would mean parking spaces would be lost to a new sidewalk on what was formerly roadway.
They called on the media to get people out. “Say on your Web site that we want people to come to the street fair. We want it packed,” selectman Tristan Israel told reporters for the two Island newspapers.
The selectmen also determined that a donation box would be set up close to the site, manned in part by them, to collect donations.
A ballot box was suggested as a receptacle for contributions. It would not be the first time the first time a politician has used money to stuff a ballot box.
Mr. Schilling wanted to thank businesses in town for their performance during the crisis.
When they turned off the power in Main street on Friday morning, they effectively killed business for the day for every store. But he said, “Food and drink were turning up left and right, unsolicited,” throughout the crisis.
“The community was wonderful yesterday,” the fire chief said.
And it continues to be. Yesterday Doug Johnson, the owner of Kennedy Studios, had already set up donation box outside the Bunch of Grapes.
He was also moving to have the Tisbury Business Association coordinate fund-raising and set up an account for the benefit of those who lost their livelihoods.
The selectmen will meet again on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, on July Fourth, as the rest of the Vineyard merrily celebrated the national holiday, Main street Vineyard Haven was a markedly different scene.
“I feel strange. The energy was really great around town leading up to this morning — this is so sobering,” said Elaine Barse, owner of the Green Room. She added:
“I was coming from Chappy this morning. I decided to come in early even though I’m closing tonight. The manager called to say Moxie’s on fire. John’s place [Bunch of Grapes] is the anchor of Main street it shows how interdependent we are.
“People are shopping a little, but mainly they’re coming into to talk about the fire. Vineyard Haven is always a touch slow because of Edgartown and the parade. So to lose our daytime business, it’s hard.
No one could prepare for this. Disasters bring out interesting responses in people. I’m sure we’ll have fund-raisers. I’m sure as a business community we’ll rally.”
Maria Metters, owner of the Bowl and Board, had set up her business as a place of respite for firefighters and emergency workers.
“I came in early to get the store ready I thought this is going to be a great day for retails. It’s going to be really busy and it was, for 15 minutes,” she said.
“They lost everything. It’s really rough. So sad. It’s a big hit for us here in Vineyard Haven,” said Beverly Gibson, store manager at Murdick’s Fudge.
“It’s a sad thing for Tisbury,” agreed Mary Etherington, owner of Etherington Fine Art.
In yesterday’s story on the fire, the Gazette quoted selectman Jeff Kristal saying that Robert Clark had first called in the alarm. Today he said that was not right. It was Gary Sylvia.
The Gazette will continue to update the fire on this Web site. Complete coverage and photographs will appear in the Tuesday Gazette.