How was commerce on Martha’s Vineyard this summer? If most business owners gave it only a passing grade, those catering to the wealthy had a different take.

“The high-end market has been really great,” said Teri Pirozzi, owner of Martha’s Vineyard Tours and Transport, in an assessment echoed by a range of hotel managers, shopkeepers and real estate agents interviewed last week by the Gazette.

While businesses that rely on day trippers and the middle class said sales were down or flat this summer as vacationers grappled with budgets maxed out on the high costs of food and lodging on the Island, those in the luxury markets said they had a banner year.

Visitor numbers were slightly lower than last year. — Jeanna Shepard

Carolina Cooney, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, confirmed that the number of visitors to the Island was down this summer, but overall sales numbers remained strong thanks to higher price points at upper-end establishments. But this trend is also troubling, she warned.

“This narrows the audience that can actually afford to come here,” Ms. Cooney said.

Rebecca Perrone, manager at Waterside Market in Vineyard Haven, said she observed the growing market disparity firsthand.

Ms. Perrone said that prices have increased in the past year at both Waterside Market and next door at Fish MV, which shares Waterside Market’s owner. But while the price increases have turned customers away at the casual eatery Waterside Market, Ms. Perrone reported that Fish MV, a fine dining restaurant, netted a 50 per cent increase in profits.

Ms. Perrone said that she feels the average customer has been priced out.

“I think people are sick of the price of food,” she said.

Although it was a rainier summer than usual, outdoor activities remained popular, in part because the added costs are minimal.

West Tisbury parks and recreation administrator Peggy Stone said that Lambert’s Cove car sticker numbers were up this season.

Bargains were hard to come by. — Jeanna Shepard

“There have obviously been more rainy days this summer, so the beach is sometimes empty. But I’m not seeing any indication that numbers are slowing,” Ms. Stone said.

At the Menemsha harbor up-Island, harbormaster Ryan Rossi agreed that this summer was business as usual, despite an increase in mooring and dock fees.

However, bike rentals, which had soared during Covid, crash landed. Martha’s Vineyard Bike Rentals manager Jason Merrill said that rental numbers have been in gradual decline since Covid but that they took a nosedive this year.

Mr. Merrill said he believes that the high cost of vacationing on the Vineyard is partially to blame, feeling that visitors are foregoing additional expenses because of significant increases for hotel rooms and restaurants.

“Most business owners I’ve talked to say business has been down,” Mr. Merrill said. “My personal opinion is that we’ve reached a point where everything on the Island is very overpriced, and it’s hard for people who aren’t extremely well off to even come here.”

Vacation rentals saw a similar softness this summer, but Anne Mayhew of Sandpiper Realty said the season was strong, regardless, thanks to steady demand for luxury rentals.

“The tenants that are coming in have a little higher demand for quality and service,” she said. “Our rates definitely went up and have made it challenging for anyone who is looking for a rental at a more conservative price point. I don’t know if that will adjust down enough at this point.”

The Harbor View Hotel reported a robust season. General manager Scott Little, said the luxury hotel’s restaurant, Bettini, exceeded last year’s numbers by a wide margin after receiving the Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.

Mr. Little said that after a slow start in June, business boomed for the rest of the summer.

Audiences continued to flock to Island art scene. — Jeanna Shepard

“There was a lot of hand-wringing in the media about international travel — whether it would happen — and I think a lot of guests held back on plans for June,” Mr. Little said.

Ms. Pirozzi said that while basic tour numbers were down about 15 per cent, her higher-end transportation service, Resortman, had a “blockbuster season.” Resortman charges up to $500 per ride, whether the journey is 10 feet or 10 miles.

“We’ve had lots of very large weddings, private driving and we do a lot of driving for the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival,” she said.

Larkin Stallings, Oak Bluffs Association board president and owner of The Ritz Cafe, said that while Oak Bluffs business numbers have declined almost universally from those seen during Covid years, they are still up from 2019.

“The general feeling is we’re all going to be okay,” Mr. Stallings said.

He added that because of the year-round local clientele at The Ritz and the summer’s events and festivals, business is steady year-round.

However, Mr. Stallings also pointed to the growing imbalance in who can actually vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, noting that trend is in danger of becoming unsustainable.

“Prices got out of hand for everything from lodging to drinks, and we all need to step back and determine, with the increase in all our expenses from energy to interest rates, what a reasonable price point may be,” Mr. Stallings said. “There’s a balance to be struck so everything can level out.”