• Port Hunter is big part of revitalization of Edgartown's nightlife.

Not Your Great-Grandfather's Edgartown

  • Tuesday, August 2, 2016 - 11:05pm

At 10 p.m. on a Thursday night the side streets of Edgartown go dark and quiet, the soft lamp lights of old whaling captains’ houses setting a mood of the past.

But just a few blocks away on Main street, the pulse of a new day beckons, where the beat of late night dining and dancing has invigorated a town whose energy has at times been compared to a widow’s walk.

Main street is now hopping with new restaurants and thriving music scene. — Ray Ewing

This is no longer your great-great-great grandfather’s Edgartown.

At the Port Hunter, dining tables are moved to make room for musician John Beninghof, while across the street patrons at the Covington watch the scene from their sidewalk seating. A trio of women walk down the street debating between going to the Atlantic or the Seafood Shanty based on the music. They duck into Summer Shades, one of the several retail shops that is still open late at night. When they emerge with two men in tow, they decide on the Wharf.

“The addition of deejays and live bands has driven a younger crowd in and kept them later in the evening,” said Erin Ready, executive director of the Edgartown Board of Trade.

Elizabeth Rothwell, regional director of marketing for the Harbor View Hotel and the Kelley House agreed, saying the closing of Flatbread and its music scene has also driven additional traffic into Edgartown.

Trying to score big in front of Pizza di Napoli. —Ray Ewing

“It’s definitely pushing traffic to Oak Bluffs and Edgartown,” she said. “And forcing businesses to think about including live music in their offerings.”

The Kelley House has incorporated live music into its three-year-old bar, the Wave Pool. A small patio space in back of the hotel and next to the pool was transformed into a outdoor bar that serves frosted cocktails and hosts musicians on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“I wish we could sit outside year-round,” said Ms. Rothwell. “It’s about capitalizing on this amazing weather, being able to watch people coming and going, take in architecture, breathe in sea air, it’s definitely part of what people expect in the experience of being on the Vineyard.”

Behind the Bookstore, the cafe created to help keep Edgartown Books afloat, has also capitalized on the summer weather. Jeffrey Sudikoff and his wife Joyce bought the bookstore five years ago, later adding the restaurant and coffee shop.

“The Main street restaurant scene is greatly improved, and we’re happy to be a part of that,” Mr. Sudikoff said. “When Port Hunter opened it was a terrific thing for night time promenading in Edgartown.”

Covington opened this summer on Main street. — Ray Ewing

The Port Hunter, owned by brothers Patrick and Ted Courtney, opened in 2012. They recently opened a second restaurant across the street, the Covington.

But any full promenade of Edgartown includes stopping at BTB for a drink under the large canopy that keeps the yard open rain or shine.

“Customers enjoy coming and sitting in the backyard of Main street,” Mr. Sudikoff said. “Out here the summer is short. We will sit outdoors even if it’s a little cool or a little wet.”

While more bars and restaurants continue to pop up, the mainstays have remained strong, evolving to include music and outdoor seating. Jeffrey Voorhees has managed the Wharf Pub for close to 25 years.

“Before the Coogans took it over, there was no nightlife,” Mr. Voorhees said. Now, as the day darkens, a second bar is set up in the back room and music pulses out over a crowded dance floor. The Wharf first began experimenting with music in the early 2000s, he said.

“There was just not much nightlife,” he said. “After we started, the Shanty jumped on.”

Around the block at the Seafood Shanty, theme parties bring in traffic on Thursdays. Last week it was Christmas in July. Managers Jeff Santos and Luis Arias said the crowd at the Shanty is usually in their mid-twenties.

Who you calling a newcomer? Seafood Shanty is still rocking after 50 years. — Ray Ewing

“It’s a young scene,” Mr. Luis said. Catering to that crowd, the Shanty favors deejays over live music. They’ve added three harborside decks in response to the outdoor dining trend. And however Edgartown changes, the Shanty will change with it, Mr. Arias said.

“There are a lot of new places that have come and gone, we’ve been here for 50 years,” he said.

And between the restaurants and bars on Main street, it’s not just T-shirt shops and souvenir stops. Rachel Enriquez, manager at Backwater Trading Co., said the shop usually attracts serious shoppers though they do have “bus tour days” where tourists come through and browse, but often don’t buy.

“We don’t carry things that say Martha’s Vineyard . . . . Though we do have a gift for everyone, it’s not a souvenir shop, it’s a lifestyle shop,” she said.

Mikel Hunter’s eponymous independent boutique (formerly PikNik) moved from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown five years ago. His boutique is also a studio show room, featuring artwork as well as fashion. He moved the shop to Edgartown after a pop-up shop in Boston introduced him to an untapped Edgartown customer pool.

Sidewalks are bustling with visitors. — Ray Ewing

“You get people coming from Nantucket for the day on boats or planes,” Mr. Hunter said. It’s the saturation of food, music, hotels and shopping that makes Edgartown a destination, he said.

Mr. Hunter’s boutique is next door to Stina Sayre’s Edgartown shop. Ms. Sayre, a well-known Island designer, is established in Vineyard Haven and made her debut in Edgartown two seasons ago.

While Mr. Hunter’s boutique is open seasonally, his carefully curated stock looks meant to be worn year round.

“A leather shearling vest is just as enticing in the heat of August,” he said. “Great stuff is great stuff no matter what time of year it is.”

Like many shopkeepers in Edgartown, Mr. Hunter keeps his door open until 10 p.m. taking advantage of the second wave of shoppers, a relaxed, well-fed crowd.

“When it starts to get dark around 7 p.m. and your lights are on, it’s very alluring,” he said.