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The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

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When Brook Katzen moved to the Vineyard two years ago, it was not with the specific intention of buying a miniature golf course, a year-round restaurant, a taco truck, a retail building at retail, an ice cream chain and now a gourmet market.

“My career has evolved rapidly since I arrived here,” Mr Katzen said this week during his daily breakfast of eggs, greens and lentils at Little House Café, the 12-hour State Road restaurant. years that he bought in the summer of 2020.

Mr. Katzen also owns and operates The Cove Golf & Grill, across State Road, and owns the Island Time cannabis dispensary on Mechanic Street.

Along with chef Spring Sheldon, Mr. Katzen co-owns the El Gato Grande taco truck, and he teamed up with Edgartown investor Jim Shane to buy Mad Martha’s Ice Cream, as well as the former Glass House on Union Street and, now, the Pantry, just across State Road from Little House.

“I’m uniquely qualified to take on some of these opportunities,” said Katzen, who studied hospitality management at Cornell before earning a master’s degree in real estate from the university.

A former Washington, D.C. real estate developer and seasonal visitor to the island from Worcester, Mr. Katzen was already planning to move to the vineyard to be closer to his parents, who live here year-round, when the pandemic shutdowns began in Massachusetts.

“I freaked out a bit and didn’t really know what this meant to me, [so] I threw everything in my car and started driving north,” he said. “I wanted to get here in case travel was restricted.”

Originally planning to use his experience in the DC area to develop workforce housing, Mr. Katzen had already identified a promising location at Island Cove, the longtime miniature golf resort at 386 State Road. .

“I guess I’m a real estate investor, [and] sometimes you have to buy the operating business as well,” he said.

“I grew up going there,” he added.

Little House was Mr. Katzen’s second purchase. — Albert O. Fischer

Mr. Katzen’s second purchase was Little House, a profitable business popular with Islanders year-round.

“I signed the contracts to buy the mini-golf business and Little House before the pandemic hit,” he said.

By the time the sale was completed, he said, the restaurant’s founding owners had successfully transitioned from the restaurant to takeout as the pandemic continued.

“They did a damn good job,” Mr. Katzen said.

Through Little House, he met Mrs. Sheldon, even traveling to meet her in Oaxaca to discuss the joint venture that became El Gato Grande.

“She showed me around and fed me,” Mr Katzen recalled. “We had pretty good work chemistry.”

The addition of the taco truck, which operates at The Cove, also provides its food businesses with an additional commercial kitchen, Katzen added.

“Having a commercial kitchen is extremely valuable,” he said.

The acquisition of the Island Time building came about because cannabis entrepreneur Geoff Rose, who had an option on the building, did not want to own the property as well as his business, Katzen said.

Mad Martha’s purchase was spurred on by Mr. Shane, whom he had met through mutual friends.

“I didn’t think I wanted to buy it,” Mr. Katzen said of the iconic 50-year-old ice cream chain, with locations in the three lower island towns. “It was far too big a case for me to pursue on my own.”

But when Mr Shane offered a partnership, the resulting deal – sealed for $6 million in May 2021 – opened even more doors.

In December, Mr. Katzen and Mr. Shane purchased the Vineyard Haven retail space most recently occupied by the Glasshouse, where they plan to move Mad Martha’s from Main Street.

“Among the Mad Martha locations, the Vineyard Haven location has always performed the worst because the store was not as large as the other two and [had] certain physical constraints,” Katzen said.

As Mad Martha moves to her new, highly visible Union Street location opposite the ferry terminal, Ms Sheldon will take over the Main Street store, a former restaurant where she already rents the commercial kitchen downstairs.

“She’s going to open a new business at 48 Main [called] S&S Kitchenette,” Mr. Katzen said.

“She will sell prepared foods, including taco kits and pizza kits, [and] organize special events [such as] private dinners.

Mr Katzen and Mr Shane recently bought the Larder, formerly Tisbury Farm Market, where their tenant will be Rose Willett of North Tisbury Farm and Whippoorwill Farm.

Ms. Willett plans to sell gourmet meats and cheeses and other culinary specialties at the Larder, working with chef Tyler Potter.

Mr Katzen said he decided early on that Vineyard Haven, and the State Road commercial corridor in particular, was his best bet for the kind of “smart development” he favors. In the future, he sees housing within walking distance of local businesses.

“I’m sold on this neighborhood,” he says. “I think this neighborhood is going to be an important part of the future of Vineyard Haven.”

But he said the area’s full potential will not be available until it is connected to the city’s sewer system.

“The two most pressing issues that come to mind are housing and sewage,” said Katzen, whose living conditions mirror the island’s housing crisis.

“I’m moving into my parents’ basement,” he says.