Any guesses as to which Island 
proprietor might have uttered the boast: 
“I figure I have the best cup of joe on 
the Island”? Could it be Robert Cropper 
at BonGo in Vineyard Haven? Meredith Gallo at Mocha Mott’s in Oak Bluffs? 
Perhaps Carol McManus at Edgartown’s Espresso Love?

Guess again. While all these proprietors offer a 
wide variety of excellent coffees, the guy who figures 
his is best is Stanley Hersh at Conroy Apothecary 
in West Tisbury.
“I use well water,” he explains – “nice, cold, clear, clean well water that’s not processed like it is in town. Plus, I use real half-and-half.”
Who would have imagined that you could get any coffee at a drugstore, no less good coffee? It turns out that there are a number of nontraditional and lesser-known venues on the Island doing a brisk daily business in coffee sales, and Conroy’s is just one of them.
Builder Joe Chapman of Chilmark is one of the 
regulars at Conroy’s. Chapman is a self-proclaimed 
coffee addict, though he drinks only two cups a day. 
Now fortysomething, he has been going out for coffee every morning since he was seventeen, mainly, he 
admits, because he’s too lazy to make his own. While 
his choice of coffee joint varies depending on what 
town he’s working in on a given day, his office is near Conroy’s, so he’s there most often.
“It’s pretty good coffee,” he says, “though I guess I’d rather have something more gourmet, like from BonGo.” Besides convenience, the major reason he frequents Conroy’s, Chapman explains, is social. Like many Island coffee haunts, Conroy’s has its regulars, most of whom say they go there primarily for the conversation. The coffee, papers, cigarettes, and other items they pick up while there are just an excuse.
“It’s where all my friends meet,” says Island outdoorsman Danny Bryant of Chilmark. Bryant drinks a single cup of coffee a day, sometimes accompanied by “one of those cake things I shouldn’t be eating,” and it’s always at Conroy’s. “It’s where you go to 
find out what’s happening in town.”
Hersh, who estimates that Conroy’s sells seventy- five to one hundred eight-ounce cups of coffee a day, brews the first pot at 5:30 every morning (after first drinking his own cup at home). “Fourteen years ago when I started the coffee thing, I’d come in an hour early at 8:00, but soon there were people waiting for me when I got there. So I moved it up to 7:00, and there were still people waiting, so I went to 6:00, and even then there would be people there before me. But 5:30 is my limit.” Now, customers begin straggling in at around 5:45, and by 6:30 or 7:00, the regular gang has assembled on the porch.
“It’s a lot of old Island guys who look intimidating,” says Hersh, “There are some women who won’t come by in the mornings because of them. But 
actually, they’re a bunch of pussycats.”
“We talk about local news, what’s going on in 
the world,” says regular Dick Burt of West Tisbury, an Island native and retiree. “We joke a lot. You don’t want to be too sensitive if you’re part of the Conroy’s crowd, because the kidding can get a little rough.”
In the summertime, Burt also frequents the 
Menemsha Deli, where, he says, the regular crowd is co-ed and comprised of seasonal as well as year-round residents who arrive on foot, by bicycle, and even by kayak. This crowd engages in conversation on a wide range of topics, including fishing, cooking, gardening, theater, politics, and world news. Burt dislikes 
watching the news on television, but he listens to NPR in the car on his way to get coffee, which 
helps set the agenda for the conversation ahead.
“The coffee scene allows you to have a real 
dialogue about the issues with live people,” he says. “That’s what I go for – I really couldn’t care less about the actual coffee. My idea of good coffee is the truck-stop variety. It can ruin my whole day to accidentally get a cup of one of those flavored kinds.”
A little farther down the road is another, less 
typical, coffee venue – the Menemsha Texaco station. The Texaco station boasts the lowest price on the Vineyard – fifty cents for an eight-ounce cup, though manager Marshall Carroll says it may have to go 
up because of the rising costs of paper cups and half-and-half. Since the station has no running water, Carroll carts the water down from his house every day. For this reason, the gas station brews a single 
variety of coffee (regular), of which it sells twenty to one hundred cups daily, depending on the weather. But the lack of choice doesn’t deter its regulars, who include seasonal up-Islanders, fishermen, and other townsfolk who like to sit outside on a bench known 
as Squid Row. Joe Chapman, a sometimes regular, says that in the summer, people staying on boats 
out in the harbor also like to come to the gas station for their coffee so they can chat up the locals, enjoy the sun, and observe the morning fishing-village scene. Sometimes they fill up their thermoses before 
heading back to their boats.
Meanwhile, mid-Island at Humphreys bakery 
in West Tisbury, a group of seasonal, mostly West Tisbury and Chilmark, residents meet every morning at 9:00. They get their coffee and something sinful and sweet to accompany it, and they sit and talk at the bakery’s one table in wooden chairs painted institutional green. Asked why she chooses Humphreys, novelist and regular Susan Shreve of West Tisbury replies, “Well, it’s certainly not for the coffee!” 
The coffee at Humphreys comes in three specialized flavors plus regular and decaf. While it’s perfectly 
decent, it’s nothing special – unlike, say, the bakery’s chocolate-dipped glazed doughnuts, which seem to fly off the trays in the morning.
But for Shreve, it’s not even the doughnuts that 
call her to Humphreys: it’s the other patrons. As a seasonal resident, she explains, she likes to watch 
the year-rounders -– who constitute a large percentage of the Humphreys daily clientele even in the 
summertime – come and go. “It gives me a sense 
of who really lives here,” she says. Then, too, there’s her little crowd around the table. Coffee regulars all over the Island seem to choose their morning venues primarily for the coffee klatch – for their own particular gang of fellow caffeine enthusiasts, and the sense of community it gives them to meet up every 
morning to start their days.
At the Woodland Variety and Grill in Vineyard Haven – a place with excellent, truck stop–style food, no pretensions, and Vineyard written all over it – a group of retirees and almost-retirees, many of whom grew up together on the Island, meets every morning. Don Amaral of Vineyard Haven, who works across the street at Vineyard Home Center, says that there’s generally a crowd taking over two tables at around 7:00 a.m., and then there’s a “second seating” at 
9:00. Sometimes they’ll linger for as long as an hour, 
depending on what they’re discussing. They find the environment comfortable, and they enjoy bantering with Gloria Taylor behind the counter, who says 
she likes to “give ’em hell.”
“We’re not here for the coffee,” Amaral says, though they do drink it. “We’re here to say hello 
and see who’s made it another day. If someone’s 
not here for three days, we get worried and start 
making calls.”
Not all coffee-klatch members have known each other as long as Amaral and his crowd. Meredith Gallo, who bought Mocha Mott’s with Tim Dobel 
in 2001, says that a group of up to fifteen year-round and seasonal regulars hangs out in the mornings at the shop, which lies a few steps below Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. It’s her impression that most of them met there over coffee, which, at Mocha Mott’s, is made from organic, free-trade beans (largely produced by small cooperatives where laborers are paid and treated fairly). “I don’t know that this group of people are friends anywhere else,” Gallo says.
    This is a feature common to many coffee groups around the Island: they’ve become their own social circles. Their members breakfast with one another daily, but they may never have dinner together. Says Joe Chapman of fellow Conroy’s regular Dick Burt, “If I ever see Dick anywhere other than getting 
coffee at Conroy’s, it totally throws me off.”
“It’s a very eclectic group of people,” confirms Marty Nadler of Oak Bluffs, a comedian and long-time Mocha Mott’s regular who confesses that he’s been AWOL from the group lately. “We don’t 
really do things together outside of the coffee thing, but a bunch of them came to my show last summer. They’re very friendly and funny. In a way, it’s another Vineyard support group. You know how you can see 
a friend after a long time and you connect like you’ve never been apart? That’s what it’s like with me and that gang.”