Few places can boast a 153-year-old institution that is still a vital part of the community. Martha’s Vineyard can.
, established in 1858, is not merely a place to shop for beach-related snacks and tchotckes, but where residents still gather for morning coffee, the latest breaking news in town and to pick up the mail. It’s no wonder President Clinton and President Obama have both visited the store when vacationing on the island.
The store had a long, twisting history of ownership before becoming the operation it is today, owned by the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust since 1993.
Following a failed attempt to profit from the Gold Rush, West Tisbury resident Nathan Mayhew (a descendent of Martha's Vineyard's famous Thomas Mayhew who established a settlement in 1641) set up shop here in 1858, later passing the business on to his sons, Sanderson and Ulysses in 1867. At that point, the store became known as S.M. Mayhew and company, or colloquially as "Sanderson's." Later, in 1914, a longtime clerk of the store, Charles Turner purchased it, adding the post office, which allowed for 150 West Tisbury residents to receive mail there.
The business changed hands once again when Albion Alley, another former employee put his own "stamp" on it with the addition of a car wash and a laundromat. Eventually, in 1946 the store was taken over by the children of Alley, who changed the name to Alley's General Store.
In 1992, under surmounting financial pressures and an actual closing, the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Society came forward to restore and preserve Alley's vitality and position as a piece of pure Americana—almost a living museum!
Alley's has everything from an amazing array of quality toys and games, to food provisions of both high caliber and the usual grocery fare, stationery, house wares, hardware, fishing and sporting equipment, tee shirts, home-grown musician's CDs, penny candy, Island gifts and all sorts of crazy, goofy and fun items that you will not find elsewhere. The coffee and baked goods are a perfect way to start the day, as are the many newspapers and other newsstand items. A recent addition to the store: Alley’s Farm Stand, located just behind the general store, which features a variety of produce from both on- and off-island.
Visit on a rainy day, and you can veritably spend hours here or pop in for—well, some "pop" to fill your cooler on your way up-island!
There is literally something for everybody at Alley's General Store, the least of which is knowing that a "great, good place" still exists and lives in West Tisbury at 1041 State Road.
Alley's General Store is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday, except Sunday, when the store closes at 6 p.m.