Paul Currier, owner of the CafÃ© Moxie building destroyed when a fire broke out there on the Fourth of July, plans to apply today for a permit to rebuild the Main street, Vineyard Haven restaurant, with the backing of Mike Ryan of Island Woodworks.
“I would love nothing better than [for the new Cafe Moxie] to be open for the Fourth of July next year,” Mr. Currier said.
He has been in regular contact with Austin Racine and Katrina Yekel, who had taken over the restaurant in the spring. “I have every reason to think they’ll be back” to open the new Moxie, Mr. Currier said. Mr. Racine is currently working as a private chef in New York.
Recyclable steel, copper and other metals were removed this week, and demolition of what’s left of CafÃ© Moxie could be completed next week, pending town approval.
Mr. Ryan, an Irish-born builder who has been on the Island for 12 years, said yesterday he was working on drawings which would restore the restaurant. He hoped to get widespread support to make it the same height as the adjacent Bunch of Grapes building, with two apartments above the cafe.
Meanwhile, Ann Nelson, owner of the Bunch of Grapes building which also was badly damaged in the fire, confirmed that she too was moving ahead; new construction began there this week. Although still awaiting the insurance settlement, Mrs. Nelson hopes to have the place fit for a bookstore by spring.
It all comes as a bit of upbeat news following a difficult summer on Main street in Vineyard Haven that began with the devastating Independence Day fire that destroyed two key businesses and their buildings in the heart of the Island’s main port town.
Mr. Ryan said he had known Mr. Currier for some time and had enjoyed eating at CafÃ© Moxie. “I kept driving by and seeing nothing was happening. So I approached Paul and found out he wasn’t getting much help . . . and I’m helping him,” Mr. Ryan said.
He acknowledged it was a big risk, but laughed that he was crazy, and happy to take the risk if it meant bringing back life to Main street. He said his construction company, Island Woodworks, has 12 employees, a year and a half’s work ahead with good clients and a buoyant bank account. “We’re one of the up and coming companies, not too big, not too small,” he said.
“I think we can make it viable,” he said. Mr. Ryan said that, depending on the permits, he was confident the restaurant could be reopened next summer. “I like building, I’m good at it,” he said. He pointed to a house going up on State Road near John’s Fish Market as an example.
Mr. Currier said he was pleased “we’re finally starting to do something that’s noticeable.”
He said he has spent months negotiating with adjusters and lawyers and banks, “and it’s not a good time to be dealing with banks,” he added. “I can’t tell you how daunting it’s been . . . it’s nice to get some real movement.
“I’m pretty excited about pulling everyone back in,” Mr. Currier said.
Mrs. Nelson’s son, Jon Nelson, owns the Bunch of Grapes business. He has put the business up for sale, and last month’s New England Independent Booksellers trade show was buoyed by rumors of its imminent sale.