Elaine Barse founded The Green Room in 1994, and over the years the store has become a Vineyard Haven mainstay, a go-to place for all the appropriate clothing and equipment to live life fully on Martha’s Vineyard. Now just in time for summer, Elaine has branched out from 71 Main street to open an additional store a few doors down – this one completely dedicated to footwear. Appropriately, the new store at 65 Main street is called Green Room: The Shoe Store.

For the self-proclaimed beach girl, life as a business owner on the Vineyard is all about selling what she loves, working with people she enjoys, and providing consistent service to her customers.

Q. You arrived on the Vineyard after college?

A. I went to Smith College and be gan visiting the Island while I was in school. I worked here summers, mostly in restaurants – Among the Flowers, Andrea’s. Then after college, I worked full time at the Vineyard Gazette. I spent a couple of years at the Gazette and loved it. After I left, I spent the next winter skiing and working at Killington, Vermont, which I also really liked. And then the next summer, I fell into the retail thing.

Q. How did that come about?

More sizes, more space at the new store, more room to breathe at the old store. Jeanna Shepard

A. A friend from the Gazette knew Neal Peck, who owned a shop some may remember called Peck’s Bad Boy. They sold skateboards, surf products – stuff like that. I talked with Neal and he asked me to be his manager for the summer. And that’s how I got into the action sports industry.

Q. How long did you do that?

A. I worked for Neal for a few summers, had a lot of fun and learned a ton. I was going to trade shows, learning how to buy for a store, changing store displays. I learned a lot about the back end of running a store. Then he offered to sell the business to me. But I was only 26 and had no money. So back I went to Killington for the winter. That next summer, I worked for April and Michael Levandowski when they owned LeRoux Clothing. They taught me the importance of being consistent, from dealing with customers to hours to store presentation. Details matter!

Q. So when did you start The Green Room?

A. That very next year, 1994, in a small space on Spring street in Vineyard Haven.

Q. Fast forward 27 years. How would you describe the kind of business The Green Room is today?

A. I would say it’s a Vineyard lifestyle shop. Living here year-round, you want different but nice things. You want to be outside, you want good clothes, you go to the beach, you walk in the rain, you go out to dinner. Your life is different at different times, so our tag line is “Your Style, Your Life.” We have a fairly casual approach on the Vineyard, but people can interpret that in a lot of different ways.

Q. What sells well here?

A. It changes seasonally, but in our store, Patagonia is consistently number one, and I am so grateful to have been able to partner with them. After that, we sell a lot of Blundstones [boots], a lot of Dansko [clogs], a lot of Barbour [outerwear and clothing]. Lots and lots of denim, sweaters and bathing suits in summer.

Q. Covid has not been fun for businesses. How have you managed?

A. When everything started, initially we cut all our orders by 40 percent. Then we re-evaluated what was most important to the store. Obviously fancy dresses were gone! That really helped us refocus and play to our strengths. We revamped our website, which was a work in progress. We had always wanted a shopping element on our site, but it was never super important. Covid made it more of a priority. Now we combine lifestyle and shopping.

Q. And with support from the government and others, you’ve made it.

A. Yes, that help was great because I was able to keep all my staff year-round. While we’ll never get the lost revenue back, I think we came out a bit stronger than we realized. All the people who moved here helped us sell a lot of things everyone wants to wear on a daily basis.

Q. Which of your personal qualities do you think helped you get through this?

A. I am pretty persistent. I am a hard worker. I really try to take care of my staff and put our best foot forward always. I try to be respectful, and I am a realistic optimist, a plan-for-the-worst, hope-for-the-best type of person.

Q. So why start the separate shoe store and why now?

A. We were getting so crowded in our other space. We had stuff everywhere in every nook and cranny. The opportunity came up to sublet the new space. We just said, okay, let’s go for it! What’s the worst scenario? And the worst isn’t really that bad, so why not?

Q. What do you hope it will do for your business?

A. It will help us to show our products a bit better in the main store, to showcase and highlight them, and give us a bit more breathing room. Ultimately, in both stores, we’d like to see our products turn more frequently.

Also, before we could only have two or three of each shoe size; now we’ll be able to carry four or five of each. What surprises me is how many pairs of socks we’ve already sold! It’s a small thing, but we weren’t able to highlight socks or shoe care products before.

Q. Speaking of shoes, what’s hot this summer? And what will you be wearing?

A. Comfort, comfort, comfort! Teva platforms are big. Me, I love my OluKai Pehuea sneakers.

Q. What is your greatest challenge as a retailer?

A. Just staying engaged and staying motivated on a daily basis. That is probably one of the reasons I wanted to open the shoe store. Just to keep myself challenged. How do I stay interested in what I’m doing, how do I keep my staff interested, how do I keep my customers interested? You have to keep things fresh and new.

Q. What is your greatest reward?

A. A few years ago, somebody said to me, “One of the luckiest things about you is you get to pick the people you’re working with.” And I never thought about that! I think that is my greatest reward.

Paula Lyons is a former television consumer journalist living in Vineyard Haven.