Island Residents Tell Their Tales: Part 2
Owner, Elevation Studion and Cafe
In the summer of 1992, I was a college student in New Paltz, N.Y. An urge for a road trip to the ocean found me in Fisherman’s State Park in Narragansett, R.I. I woke up and was heading to the beach and from the next campsite I heard, “You should check out the island.” Just down the road, I boarded the next ferry with my daypack, a curiosity and no expectations. That ferry ride changed my life.
The immediate magic of Block Island captured me. The clean ocean water, the quiet trails, and those gorgeous landscapes. How could this place only be 7 by 3 miles? My life began to unfold on the island and as my love and curiosity flourished, roots began to grow.
Now as a year-round resident, I have witnessed over 20 years of cycles and seasons, and that same first “magical discovery” in the eyes of new visitors each year. My love for this island has not waned one bit. Living here has taught me about change and being flexible, nature and appreciation, creativity and purpose.
Having a yoga studio and cafe here has been a blessing and a result of many years of practice and work…all kinds of work. Islanders tend to wear many hats. Sometimes it’s a tricky balance, but it can be a fun challenge.
In my yoga classes, I can feel people’s relief. A sense of true peace. To be in such a special place as this, reconnecting to their very own nature when they spend time in these beautiful landscapes. Embraced by constant ocean energy, we ebb and flow through the seasons and changes together. It makes everything so worth it.
I enjoy seeing my summer friends return each year, watching them rejuvenate and replenish themselves from their mainland lives. I cherish the quieting down post summer, the potlucks with island friends, the stillness of winter. Spring comes and we prepare, once again for a busy season…and so it goes. Sometimes I travel to beautiful Costa Rica in the winter for a vacation. When I return, I am always refreshed by the pure beauty and uniqueness of the island. Block Island is a place I am honored to be part of and nurtured by.
For information about the studio and cafe, go to www.elevationbi.com.
I love that I can just walk across the street to the beach to meet my friends. If I forget anything I can go back easily to my house to grab it.
I like sitting in the black sand close to the edge of the dunes to warm up after swimming in the surf.
I like that I don’t have to wait for my parents to drive me.
The sound of the waves helps me to fall asleep at night.
Sometimes on weekends, I take a run down to Mansion Beach or walk to the backyard dock to take pictures of the sunsets. My cat Pepper likes to follow me around even walking with me on the beach and hiding in the dunes.
Another thing I like to do is to go out with my dad in our Whaler fishing and clamming in the Great Salt Pond.
I like finding treasures and small beach stones that I use to make my jewelry designs that I sell at the Farmers’ Markets with my brothers. My older brother taught me how to drill sea glass and stones and it is a hobby I enjoy working on during the winter. I also learned to surf from my older brothers when I was little and it is something I love to do when I don’t have sports practice.
Crescent Beach feels like my own private beach in the winter.
When I want to go surfing, I can look out my window and check out the waves.
Dunn’s Bridge is to the north of my house and in the spring and fall I like to go fishing there with my dad, sometimes even before school starts if the stripers are feeding. Sometimes I see my friends’ dads there too.
I also love going on walks to other beaches on the island. Mansion Beach is a favorite when my cousins are visiting during the summer. We also go surfcasting at Charlestown Beach.
I grew up around the Amish country in Pennsylvania, but after a season in Cape May, I ended up working during college summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I returned to the Teton Valley after graduation, intending eventually to open my own shop. My parents weren’t thrilled with my western address, however, so I agreed to come back east for a summer. Complete serendipity brought me to Block Island and I fell in love.
I like places that are a little unusual, that you have to try a little harder to be in. There’s more appreciation for being able to be there. The fact that you must take a scheduled ferry and not just drive to get there — or leave — whenever you wish, coupled with its small size, smaller year round population, and quiet off-season makes the island daunting to many, and more interesting to others.
In so many ways, though, the island is a welcoming place and I find its people, both residents and visitors, to be unique, uncommon, truly special. And Block Island is so beautiful and its beauty so accessible. It’s all around us, changing not only season to season but minute to minute.
I opened my shop WaterColors here in 1990. I’ve almost always moonlighted in restaurants as well, starting with the Manisses and the Broiler, then more than a decade at Winfield’s, where I also do the window boxes, and finally five years at Eli’s. People tend to wear a lot of hats on B.I. Visitors are frequently entertained by the phenomenon of seeing their breakfast waitress later in the day as she rents them a kayak and still later serving a cocktail or working in a shop. I enjoy chatting with visitors and hearing their stories, often about the island.
That enjoyment of the island life and sharing it, as well as owning a business, lead to my interest in tourism. I joined the Tourism Council Board and now years later am serving my last year on the Board for the Chamber of Commerce as President. The Chamber office runs the Visitor Center by the ferry landing, develops and runs events such as The Taste of Block Island, Restaurant Week and the Holiday Stroll among many other things. The staff have all lived here for many years, know what they’re doing and enjoy helping people find their way around the island whether it’s to a hotel room or B & B, that perfect stretch of beach or walking trail, a special shop, perfect cocktail or best lobster roll.
I came to B.I. in 1986 and I still find it a place full of possibilities.
For more information about the Chamber of Commerce, call (401) 466-2982 or visit www.blockislandchamber.com.
Student, Block Island School
Going to school somewhere else would be different. I wouldn’t see as many of my friends. Here I have friends in all grades. [The school has 114 students in grades K to 12.] Everybody plays all the sports because otherwise you might not have enough kids [for a team].
I like going off island to play basketball and I like playing tag and football at recess. Everyone plays together. You get recess until eighth grade here.
My friends think it’s cool I live at a lighthouse. People are always asking me about it. They ask, ‘Have you lived at a lighthouse your whole life?’ [yes]; ‘How many feet is it to the bluffs?’ [about 250]; ‘How tall is it?’ [67 feet]; and, ‘When was it built?’ . I tell them other things about it — it protects boats from not getting stuck on the rocks or the shore and it was moved because the bluffs were eroding. They used rails to move it. I wasn’t born yet so I didn’t get to see it. If we didn’t move it, it would have fallen off the bluffs by now.
My three favorite things to do on Block Island in the summer are go to the beach, go snorkeling, and go tubing. In winter it’s sledding and ice skating.
About Block Island I would tell people they should come here. If you own a boat it’s only a 13-mile trip and you can just live on your boat and go wherever you want — surfing, paddle boarding, skimboarding, tubing, swimming, water skiing. If you don’t have a boat you can just stay at a hotel and wake up really early and go snorkeling then get something to eat. You can go to Winfield’s or The Spring House for really good food. Rebecca’s is the best for cheeseburgers and milk shakes.
Also, people should get surfboards and skimboards at Diamondblue Surf Shop and snorkels and Go Pros and shoes at the Sport Shop.
If they want to see something really cool and meet someone who knows a lot about the island, then I would go to the Southeast Lighthouse and talk to my mom. And there might even be a food truck there that my dad and me run!
For more information about the Southeast Lighthouse, call (401) 466-5009 or visit www.nps.gov/maritime/nhl/blockisl.htm (the lighthouse is a National Historic Landmark).
Bartender, The Spring House
I’ve been working for Frank [DiBiase, owner of The Spring House] for 21 years. I started bussing tables at Stuffies Bar and Grill in North Providence. I came out here in 1996 and have been tending bar for Frank at The Spring House six months a year ever since. In the winters I tend bar at the Providence Oyster Bar on Atwells Ave. in Providence.
I think of bartending as a lifestyle more than career. I enjoy being on the stage, if you will, meeting new people and creating long lasting relationships with customers who come back year after year.
The best thing about working at The Spring House bar is the nightly regulars. I enjoy hearing about people’s days, nights, weekends.
Phil Donoghue was here once, as a wedding guest. He said, “I always dreamt of being a bartender.” I invited him behind the bar, never thinking he would accept. He did. He popped a few beers with me, took a few pictures. It was really neat.
Another great thing about working here is the gardens on our property. The kitchen uses fresh produce in its cooking, and we use it in our drinks as well. One example is Agave Rio. We use jalapeno peppers and cilantro in a tequila-based cocktail. It’s different but good.
What’s my “go-to cocktail” for a customer in search of a summery drink? I’m a gin fan. I like to create gin cocktails that are very refreshing. The Sipping Jet Set cocktail combines gin and elderflower liqueur. It appeals to everybody.
When I’m not behind the bar I’m on the beach. I enjoy Pebbly Beach below the Spring House. It’s quiet and relaxing, never too far away from work.
On Tuesday nights I like to go to Captain Nick’s to hear Marc Scortino play piano and sing. On Sunday afternoons I like to have a cocktail at the Surf Hotel bar on the back porch overlooking Crescent Beach.