How some Nantucket residents found opportunity during the pandemic.
For all its turmoil, the coronavirus pandemic has also been a period of tremendous innovation. From the reimagined workspace to remote learning, all the way to the unprecedented vaccine development, the pandemic proved that creativity indeed thrives in confinement. Here on Nantucket, a number of island residents used their time in quarantine to reinvent themselves, both personally and professionally. While many businesses were tragically shuttered by COVID-19, these Nantucketers boldly found ways to breathe new life into the island economy at a time when it was needed most.
When the world began to shut down last spring, one of the first things that Chris Getoor thought about was the soothing melody of an ice cream truck rolling through town. The father of two young children and the executive director of the outdoor adventure camp Strong Wings, Getoor had long dreamed of launching his own ice cream truck on Nantucket. When the coronavirus locked down the island, Getoor decided that he finally had the time to get the truck up and running.
“The scariest part was sawing a hole into a perfectly good van,” Getoor jokes of transforming a Dodge Sprinter van that he purchased from the Don Allen dealership into Hang Loose Helado, Nantucket’s only ice cream truck. Now, on any given day when the sun is out, you can find Getoor handing out Choco Tacos, Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Bars, Klondike Bars and Chipwiches to throngs of gleeful children. “It couldn’t have been better timing,” Getoor says. “We got on the road in the heat of lockdown and it just spread so much joy. There’s something about an ice cream truck that really makes people happy.”
Cara Marquis had a ton of extra fabric. The owner of the children’s clothing company Piping Prints, she had a total of five hundred yards of preppy seersucker patterns adorned with lobsters, whales and other playful decals that she didn’t know what to do with. However, when the pandemic hit, Marquis got her answer. “I made a few hundred masks and they were gone immediately.”
As mask-making turned into a legitimate business across the country, Marquis found herself in a perfect position to capitalize. “At first it just felt uncomfortable to be making masks for profit, but soon everyone was selling masks and that made me feel better,” she says. “Plus, my clients [island businesses like Cisco Brewers, Bartlett’s Farm and downtown clothier Grace Geier] were selling a couple hundred masks a week, so they were also making money…it kept everybody moving.”
Soon Marquis’ playful seersucker masks stretched across the smiles of servers at nearly every restaurant in town, hung from the souvenir racks of island shops and were worn by so many tourists that she says, “I couldn’t make them fast enough.” Indeed, in the course of the year, she made more than twenty thousand masks. “I just have a different perspective now,” the designer says of the whole experience. “I feel lucky to be able to work and spend this time with my family and my dog. I feel like I’m able to do whatever it is that I want to do.”
On the eve of the pandemic, Carrie Seyer signed a seven-year lease on a space mid-island to create a new yoga studio to be called 11:11 Nantucket. She thought that with a little elbow grease, she could transform the former dentist office into the studio of her dreams and have it open by April 2020. But then COVID-19 hit and Seyer had to learn a whole new form of flexibility.
Instead of opening her doors, Seyer started teaching open-air classes at Cisco Brewers, where she was able to start marketing 11:11 Nantucket. “For the awareness, it was invaluable,” she says. Slowly but surely, as the seasons changed, her classes returned indoors where she followed “very diligent safety regulations.” Thanks in part to her open-air classes at the brewery, a local clientele followed her to her studio. “We’ve been really fortunate with people liking what we do,” says Seyer, who officially opened her doors in July 2020. “And everybody’s welcome.”
Offering a selection of classes ranging from high-powered flow to slow-and-easy restorative yoga, Seyer says she is grateful for the gradual opening process that the pandemic thrust upon her, as it allowed her to merge into the hectic summer season with more mindfulness. “Eleven stands for perfect balance in numerology,” she says. “It’s about finding that middle ground between two extremes.”
“Maybe if I hadn’t had more time on my hands, I wouldn’t have gone through all the steps to get to this point,” laughs Bridgette Hynes. A freelance marketing professional, Hynes used the pandemic as an opportunity to combine her two passions: running and retail. “I always had this idea in the back of my brain,” she says, “and finally I just decided, ‘OK, this is the time.’” This spring, she’s opening Nantucket Run Centre at 36 Centre Street, Nantucket’s only running-specific boutique.
“Running is definitely having a moment right now,” Hynes says. “Because of the pandemic, people have had to shift away from their studio workouts or fitness classes at the gym. They’re now spending more time than ever outdoors exercising.” An avid marathon runner, Hynes also identified that Nantucket was in need of a running-specific store. “There wasn’t a place here to get footwear or apparel,” she says. “Even little things like gels or sports bras all have to be ordered and shipped over.”
Unlike off-island athletic superstores, Hynes plans to carry a carefully curated selection of brands that she says won’t overwhelm a customer but surprise them with new and relatively unknown brands. “It’s really important to be something that is bigger than just a shop,” Hynes says, indicating that there will be a strong community component to the Run Centre. “There’s a lot of us runners out there,” she says. “I definitely see the potential for this business to grow.”
From the confines of her home in Chicago, Nicole Tirapelli combed through real estate listings on Nantucket. Stuck in quarantine, the mother of two dreamed of a better life for her family on the island by the beach. When she came across a charming home in ’Sconset’s Codfish Park, Tirapelli instinctively donned an N-95 mask, ski goggles and gloves and boarded the next flight to the island. “Something just felt so right,” Tirapelli recalls of touring the house for the first time. She immediately made an offer, thus beginning her family’s new chapter on Nantucket—but that’s only where her story gets started.
As a new Nantucket resident, Tirapelli now needed to find a job. She was driving by the Rainbow Fleet one day when a pair of white vintage peacock chairs on the side of the road caught her eye. Pulling over to get a better look, she learned that the Lightship Basket Museum was attempting to sell the chairs virtually as part of its annual yard sale fundraiser, which had been canceled due to COVID-19. Tirapelli thought she might be able to help sell the items online and offered her services. So began a brand-new business of managing estate sales.
Using the local Facebook group Nantucket Consignments, Tirapelli quickly sold the majority of items on behalf of the Lightship Basket Museum. Word of her services began to spread. Referral after referral, Tirapelli’s virtual estate sale services soon became a full-time job. “People need help organizing payments, furniture pickups and designating who gets to buy an item first on Facebook,” Tirapelli says of her consignment business. “It’s kind of tedious, but I’ve gotten good at it somehow.” With her logo featuring a peacock chair, Tirapelli launched Nantucket’s Best Estate Sales amid the pandemic. It was one of the best moves of her life.
As the pandemic wreaked havoc on the mom-and-pop shops of America, two life-long friends came together to open a downtown Nantucket market that will specialize in local goods and produce. When Tessa Cressman and Jenny Bence heard about the available storefront at 4 India Street— formerly home to The Bean—they decided the time was right to seize their dream of opening The Green Market. Amidst the first shutdown in the spring of 2020, they got to work creating a space that would not only support local farmers and artisans, but also be environmentally sustainable. As a “downtown extension” to Bence’s successful mid-island fresh juice and sandwich shop The Green, The Green Market on India Street will offer fresh juice and smoothies as well as a grab-and-go selection of sandwiches on homemade breads as well as composed salads. Fresh cut flowers, local jams, honey and “as much locally sourced and homemade goods as possible” will fill out the remaining shelves, says Bence. There are also plans to sell organic wines and cheeses. “We’ll have everything you need to host a barbeque on Nantucket or to grab lunch if you’re working downtown,” says Cressman. “And thanks to Jenny, the food is going to be so delicious and healthy.” The Green Market is slated to open this June.