For the last thirty-five years, Jean Dupon has owned and operated Le Grenier at 96 Main Street in Vineyard Haven, serving French cuisine in the second-story restaurant and cultivating a devoted clientele. But now he’s ready to say au revoir to all that – the restaurant industry and its fifteen-hour days. “I’m sixty-nine years old,” he says. “It’s time to relax.”

Given the success of his business, another chef could easily take advantage of this opportunity to own a successful restaurant on the Vineyard – or two. Last year Jean bought the space downstairs, formerly the MV Bagel Authority. He completely renovated it, installing a brand-new kitchen and a French bistro–style dining area, complete with black-and-white checkered floors, oversized mirrors, and wicker café chairs. With the help of longtime Island chef James McDonough, formerly of Chilmark’s Beach Plum Inn, Jean created a breakfast and lunch menu featuring French classics and Island favorites with a Gallic twist. He calls it La Cave, which means “the basement” in French, complementing its upstairs counterpart, Le Grenier or “the attic.”

Now Jean is selling the property, along with the two resident businesses, and hopes to find someone who will care about the place as much as he has. Jean is mum about his feelings on what the next owner might choose to do with the building. “Whatever they want to do will be fine,” he says, with just a hint of wistfulness.

He listed the building and businesses for sale with Jonathan Bernstein of Kendall & Kendall Real Estate in Vineyard Haven for $1.6 million. Each of the two restaurants has a fully equipped kitchen, with upstairs seating eighty-five and downstairs accommodating fifty-five plus more on the patio, which is a step up from street level. The patio is perfect for people-watching, with a steaming cappuccino or a glass of wine, right in the heart of Vineyard Haven.
Each restaurant has a beer-and-wine license and the next owner will have the opportunity to retain the kitchen and wait staffs, making the purchase ideal for a chef or an investor looking for a turnkey establishment.

As for Jean, he’s considering spending half the year in France or simply going to the beach. The potential loss of the longest-running restaurant on Main Street will surely be felt by the community, his patrons, and himself. He reminisces about a couple who has celebrated twenty-nine wedding anniversaries at the same table where they had their first date and were later engaged. Then he laughs and says, “It’s for sale, but I’m not gone yet.”

Two smaller eateries

If you’re in the market for a restaurant property on Martha’s Vineyard but not ready for the commitment of two large restaurants in downtown Vineyard Haven, here are a couple of smaller spaces with lots of potential.

Cozy near the corner

The building that was most recently home to the Beetlebung Coffee House, just up the road from Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, was built in 1900 and originally served as a summer cottage for the Haley family. Since 1976, the 975-square-foot building has housed a reading room, a sandwich shop, and an art gallery. It was renovated in 2005 by the owners of Beetlebung, who rented there for seven years before moving to Menemsha in 2012.
Jerry Gerolamo of Cronig’s Real Estate in Vineyard Haven, which lists the property for $595,000, says he has received several inquiries about renting the space for the 2013 season. The building, with about 700 square feet of downstairs space, boasts a busy streetside location with two parking spots, a storage shed, and a small upstairs studio apartment.

Turnkey takeout

Currently home to Bite-on-the-Go and previously Smoke N’ More Bones and Neptune’s Grille, 7 Circuit Avenue is an ideal spot for offering a quick bite.  On the lower end of Circuit Avenue next to Murdick’s Fudge, the property includes a 600-square-foot main floor with a large kitchen and a thirty-five-seat dining area. There is also a full basement with a walk-in cooler, and upstairs space for storage.

Built in 1955, this building was renovated in 2006. The current owner, Stewart Robinson, who also owns Smoke N’ Bones in Oak Bluffs, imagines this spot will continue to be a takeout business since it’s already zoned for that and has a fully equipped kitchen. He says the property’s earning potential is increased by a new ordinance that allows restaurants in town to stay open until 1 a.m. Listed by Lisa Lucier of Ocean Park Realty in Oak Bluffs for $750,000, the property does not include the business, though all the restaurant equipment is negotiable in the sale.