After visiting Martha’s Vineyard for many years, longtime New Yorkers Mark Chung and Eric Coles made the leap to year-round Island living in 2017, carrying with them a dream to open a small business. With their backgrounds in fashion, housewares, retail and photography, their vision for a modern-day general store came to life on Main Street in Vineyard Haven when they opened Lennox & Harvey in the spring of 2018. Named for Eric and Mark’s grandfathers, who were both jazz musicians, Lennox & Harvey is a curated collection of well-designed clothing and home goods with an eye to sustainability and practical beauty.

Q. What were you both doing before you moved here?

Mark: Before we moved here, we lived in Brooklyn. I was a chef and had a restaurant for about five years. After I closed my business, I worked for a number of housewares and furniture brands, including an Italian company called Kartell, and a company called Alessi. And before we moved here, the bigger brand was Herman Miller, which we sell in the store now.

Eric: I worked in the music industry first, then fashion and later photography. Today I still run a photography studio in New York. Bookings are done by email or phone so I can do that and still be here. But I go back for a couple of weeks each month. I worked in fashion for a long time so the idea of the store when we moved here was that we could meld design and fashion into a general goods store.

Sustainable clothing is part of the mix. Jeanna Shepard

Q. When did you first come to the Vineyard?

Eric: We first rented in the summer of 1995 and kept coming up here almost every year. We would drop off some years and then come back with more friends and come back on our own.

Mark: We started renting houses in Oak Bluffs and then the last house we rented was off Lambert’s Cove. That’s where we fell in love with being able to walk to the beach.

Eric: And then we bought our house in 2015. We’re in Oak Bluffs, not far from The Sailing Camp. We started coming up here as late as November and as early as March and we loved it as much as we did in the summer. We thought, “Oh, we could live here.” But we had to figure out a source of income. We had always wanted to open a store – a menswear store in Manhattan – but there was too much competition and it was too expensive. Then we thought we’d do it a few years later in Brooklyn, but again – too much competition and too expensive.

Q. But at last, you opened Lennox & Harvey in 2018. How did the pandemic affect the last couple of years?

Eric: We were really fortunate because we opened our online business the same day we opened the storefront. We always had a website where you could buy everything. When people couldn’t go into the store, a lot of them wanted to support small businesses like us so they started shopping online.

Mark: We actually started delivering to people all over the Island. They could order online and we would bring it to them! It was kind of fun for us and kept us busy until we were able to open the doors in August of that first Covid year.

Games, beach items, coffee makers, furniture — carefully chosen items for the home are on display at Lennox & Harvey. Jeanna Shepard

Q. How would you describe your store to those who may not know about you?

Eric: We call it a modern-day general goods store, with essential items for the home, the beach and the body. It harkens back to the old-time general stores where you could get an apron or tools or sweatshirts or soap. We have all those categories but at an elevated level.

Mark: The only thing we don’t sell is food!

Eric: But we have beautiful things for the garden, great sweaters, an apothecary section with suntan oil, skin-care products.

Mark: You can buy furniture, you can buy a coffee maker, sunglasses, it’s all carefully mixed in.

Q. What would you say have been some of your most popular products?

Eric: The first thing that comes to mind is dresses. Because this community is very beachy and casual, we thought it would be good to stock very easy, sort of flowy, cool, casual, oversized dresses – great for the beach, great for dinner. And as it turns out, they have been very popular.

Mark: Sales of our men’s clothing, like sweatshirts and pants, have grown too. We seem to have figured that out, so that’s been something that’s gone really well for us in the last year or so. We also sell a lot of blankets and pillows and little gifts, like housewarming and hostess gifts.

Q. What do you think will fly off the shelves this season?

Eric: It’s so hard to say because often we’ll be looking at something to buy and say, “Oh, this is amazing, we love it!” and yet when we put it in the store, nobody cares! So you can’t really say, “Oh I know this will fly off the shelves.” If you say that about anything, that’s what you’ll be left with.

Q. Sustainability has become a big focus here on the Island. Do you have products that fill that bill?

Eric: We do, actually. Because this is such a global issue, most of the brands we carry are making products in a sustainable way. We have a botanical skin care line called Salt and Stone, and they don’t use any aluminum in their products. The packaging for their deodorant is made of plastic, but of recycled plastic that came out of the ocean.

Mark: They also use renewable energy to manufacture their products. We also carried a line of sweaters in the fall that were all made with recycled cotton and cashmere.

Eric: That ethos is represented in most of the brands we carry and certainly in us as well.

Q. Are there challenges to doing business here?

Mark: Maybe shipping – that’s a challenge. When we sell furniture, it comes over but it’s a longer process. It costs a little bit more just to get it on the boat. So that’s one of our challenges – big pieces of furniture.

Eric: Logistics, yes, is one thing. Another is that we sort of have three different business climates here. When we open the store in May, the May-June customer is different from the July customer, and that customer is different from the August customer. And then the October customer is different as well. So you have to think when buying stuff for the store – which season will this fit in? That isn’t something we necessarily thought about before.

Q. What do you love about what you do?

Mark: I love finding new brands, finding things that are interesting and that people love. Over the last four years, we’ve met so many amazing people and I love seeing them come back to the store year after year. I love the connection that we’ve made.

Eric: I agree, the people we’ve met. I was involved with the Island Housing Trust for a couple of years. The other thing we both love is design. When a product is really well made and thoughtfully designed, that really gets us excited.

Q. When you're not working, what do you love to do?

Mark: I love going to all the farms. That’s my favorite thing to do. There are so many great farms here and so much fresh food. And then there’s the seafood! I love clams, so I go clamming too.

Eric: I love to swim. I love the ocean so much that I swim from May to November. When it’s too cold after that to stay in, I will still do a plunge a couple of times a week to invigorate myself. I love it.

Q. And what do you love about this Island?

Eric: The sense of community here is quite strong. As much as we had our friends in New York city where we spent most of our lives, I never got the sense of community that I get here. And I feel like you can only get it in a place like this.

Mark: Right. I feel everyone here wanted us to survive and prosper. Everyone we met told other friends, and people heard of us by word of mouth. They wanted to make sure we did well.

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