Fit to Be Fried in Vineyard Doughnut War
"Please," he begged selectmen, "keep Martha's Vineyard weird."
The doughnut debate continued, with various people speaking pro and con. Then Farrelly spoke up again without being recognized by the board chairman. The police chief warned him to quiet down. Finally, as selectmen deliberated, Farrelly stood and said, "I'd like time to speak again."
Selectmen were in no mood and told Farrelly to leave the meeting.
Outside, Farrelly fumed. "One word and that's it," he groused.
Back in the meeting, Brown and Casey, who have owned the bakery for three years, said they picked up where the previous owners had left off, keeping a light burning at the back door through the wee hours. "This has taken on a life of its own beyond us," Brown told the selectmen. "We hold this tradition in our hands and try to keep it for the next generation."
But town leaders held the line. The 12:30 closing time was enforced. A week later, the town's Board of Health heard from Vera, and decided it, too, should slam shut the back-door operation, citing the potential for contaminants such as moths to enter the kitchen.
"This just isn't the way things are done -- every business sells from the front door," said Health Board member Linda Marinelli at a meeting last week. "I understand tradition, but the Board of Health isn't dealing with tradition."
From the island citizenry, Vera appears to be the sole drumbeat against the doughnuts. "It's important to note that we've received regular correspondence from one person," says Selectman Greg Coogan, "but we haven't heard a groundswell from dozens of people."
Coogan, the only selectman of the five to rise to the defense of the doughnuts, argues that the late-night sales are part of the summer landscape. "There's a culture there," says Coogan, a fifth-grade math teacher. "For a lot of kids, it is something special we will be taking away from them. It's a place to congregate for teens."
Initially, even Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake questioned the urgency. "At 1 o'clock at night, police have more to think about than whether people are eating doughnuts in a parking lot," he told selectmen.
Meanwhile, at the bakery, the owners have obeyed the orders. Maria Cardoso, back-door clerk and bakery supervisor, laments the loss. Happy customers meant hefty tips: Some nights, her jar held close to $200. But to Cardoso, the operation is about more than money: "After midnight, people are drunk and need to get food. This is the only place to get it."
The owners are appealing the Board of Health decision at a hearing scheduled for noon today. Their argument is that other takeout joints in town deal right out of the kitchen, too.
They talk about opening up the front door as a stopgap, but they believe it's the back door that lends cachet. "It's a special thing people do," says Casey. "Back-door donuts: Get 'em while they're hot," proclaim the bakery's T-shirts.
That's how the fans like it. Just ask Gil Paterson, a 19-year-old from New London, Conn.: "I would never come to the front door."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company