Shuttered for months — and in some cases a year — Vineyard restaurants, retailers and grocery stores are opening their doors for the season again, with plenty of hope for what appears to be the start of a new, more normal spring and summer on the Island.

Larkin Stallings (left) and Adam Rebello are back in action at the Ritz. — Mark Alan Lovewell

And even if normal might be a stretch this season, Island business owners who have waited in deep hibernation through a turbulent winter are racing to reopen their doors, sometimes months early, and with unusual enthusiasm.

“There’s a lot of pent-up energy,” said Adam Rebello, owner of Dilly’s Taqueria, a restaurant inside the Ritz Cafe that reopened this week. “As the next couple of weeks go on, you’re going to see restaurants and other businesses opening up and Oak Bluffs coming back to life.”

Interviews conducted this week with the proprietors of numerous seasonal restaurants, year-round retailers, summer boutiques, arcades and flower nurseries around the Island turned up something that has been is woefully short supply both on and off Main street for the past year: optimism.

On a bright, sunny Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Rebello and Ritz owner Larkin Stallings began slinging tacos and pouring drinks once again after the tavern had closed its doors in December — the first time in memory for a winter closure at the Ritz. A few hours earlier, loyal customers could hardly wait.

“Our first customer was here at 11:20 — we opened at 11:30,” Mr. Rebello said, a touch of incredulity in his voice.

For many businesses, seasonal or otherwise, the springtime ritual of dusting off unused tables and switching on the lights has been imbued with a certain poignancy this time around.

At Beach Road, a popular restaurant nestled beside the Lagoon Pond in Vineyard Haven, co-owner Mary Kenworth reopened the restaurant for takeout last week after a year in lockdown.

“I think that business owners just had to stay really flexible and it was challenging in ways that [we] weren’t used to being challenged,” said Ms. Kenworth, who served about 400 customers in the first week back for Beach Road. The Kenworths’ sister restaurant State Road in West Tisbury has been closed for the winter and will reopen in April, with plans to expand hours and add outdoor seating as the weather warms, Ms. Kenworth said.

“Just to have survived that and to be doors open, the phone ringing, it’s really a great feeling,” she said. “Every time an order comes in and it’s a name we know, we all get excited.”

Adrianna Burrows and Melissa Scammell at Rainy Day in Vineyard Haven. — Mark Alan Lovewell

In Oak Bluffs, Island restaurateur J.B. Blau said he plans to open two of his restaurants, Sea Smoke Barbecue, which closed in November, and Chowder Company, which closed last March, in the coming month. Ben deForest, chef and owner of the Red Cat Kitchen, plans to reopen for indoor, outdoor and takeout dining in two weeks, while Alex Cohen, co-owner of Pawnee House, is planning a soft opening on Easter with a regular schedule by early April.

“Last year I kept saying, as long as things return to normal next summer, we can get through it, as long as we know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr. Cohen, who opened his business in the thick of the pandemic last summer. “Now we’re ready for the floodgates to open.”

In Edgartown, summer mainstays like Murdick’s Fudge, 19 Raw Oyster Bar and the Atlantic are planning April openings. Up-Island, the Chilmark Tavern will reopen in May.

As statewide restrictions on social distancing continue to restrict occupancy, most businesses plan to continue the Covid adaptations that worked best, from plexiglass barriers to outside dining. At a recent meeting, Edgartown officials said the town hoped to move forward with the same outdoor dining plan as last year, while Oak Bluffs business owners are pushing hard for expanded outdoor options this time around. Mr. Blau said he plans to use the upstairs space in his restaurant and nightclub, the Loft, to expand safe indoor seating for Chowder Company.

Some business owners who shuttered this season have also put a positive spin on their extended closure, many using the down time to make long-planned updates to the business, like the renovations at Up-Island Cronig’s in West Tisbury, and new arcade games at the Game Room in Oak Bluffs. Others have used the time to hone their craft, thinking up new menu items and service features

But this year, unlike last, nearly all businesses owners who have begun readying their spaces for the season said they have done so with the benefit of a year of pandemic experience, the hard-learned lesson to expect the unexpected, and for the first time in a long time, a shimmer of hope.

New normals will stay the same this summer. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train,” said Mr. Stallings, who hopes to revive the tavern’s popular nightly musical performances later in the season.

Year-round businesses that traversed the uncharted landscape of a pandemic off-season are also breathing a sigh of relief as they look to warmer days, longer hours and new inventory.

“I feel like the overall tone seems very hopeful,” said Sara York, manager at C.B. Stark Jewelers and president of the Vineyard Haven Business Association. “I think the sense of fear and uncertainty that we felt last summer doesn’t feel like it’s there this year.”

Ms. York said the bright outlook on Main street has been bolstered by a smattering of new businesses in town that have begun papering up storefronts and hanging signs, including soon-to-open restaurants like Fish MV. Steadily rising numbers of shoppers and indoor diners are also fueling the optimism, proprietors said.

As business race to open their doors, the process is not without its usual — and unusual — aches and pains.

Erin Tiernan, co-owner of clothing stores Eastaway and Basics in Oak Bluffs, said ordering for the season has been a total guessing game as virus and vaccination rates remain uncertain. She said she has tried to balance stocking outdoor items and lounge-wear with formal-wear for later in the summer. “It’s impossible to say at this point,” she said.

Mr. Blau also struck a cautious tone, describing the turning season as a “cautious sigh of relief,” after a challenging year of short staff, revenue deficits and extended closures. “It’s been a really tough and delicate balance,” he said.

Meanwhile, the perennial problems of staffing and housing the Island’s summer workforce have remained at their usual high pitch, with an added twist of uncertainty around visas for foreign summer labor. “[Staffing] is our biggest challenge right now because such a large portion of our staff comes from overseas,” said Ms. Tiernan. “That’s a huge unknown.”

But as they gear up for yet another season, business owners all echoed the same sentiment: gratitude.

“You learn a lot over the course of a year and a pandemic,” said Mr. deForest. “I just hope that everybody in all of our businesses here on Martha’s Vineyard — whether it’s the restaurant, bar business, or retail — that we all do well because if we all do well, our community is going to be stronger because of it.”