Home Port Restaurant owners Bob and Sarah Nixon this week announced the sale of the Menemsha mainstay to Boston restaurateur Seth Woods and his business partner Eric Berke, both seasonal residents of Aquinnah, for nearly $2.6 million.
“The Home Port restaurant, the long-standing Menemsha institution, has resumed operations under a new partnership between two longtime friends and Up-Island seasonal residents,” a press release issued Thursday said.
The restaurant has been open under new ownership since June 15, with full table service and a pris fixe seafood menu.
The Nixons had owned the Home Port since 2009, when the town of Chilmark had planned to purchase the property from longtime owner Will Holtham for a public development project. Mr. Nixon convinced voters at town meeting to give the historic space one more chance as a restaurant.
“[The development project] didn’t seem to make sense to me,” Mr. Nixon told the Gazette Thursday. “The Home Port was such a big part of Menemsha, a gathering place really for the whole Island.”
The Nixons paid $2.3 million for the property, and ran it as a full-service and takeout restaurant for the following decade. In recent years, however, the restaurant had failed to open, with owners citing staffing difficulties and the pressures of the pandemic.
The restaurant’s continued closure inspired Mr. Woods, owner of Boston’s Aquitaine Restaurant Group and a long time Home Port patron, to inquire after the business.
“Menemsha was just looking like a little sad, you know?” Mr. Woods told the Gazette by phone Thursday. After scaling down his Boston enterprise, Mr. Woods was on the lookout for something more creative — “a passion project,” he said. Something close to home.
“It had to be local and it had to be something that mattered to me. I couldn’t figure out what that was. And when Eric mentioned [Home Port], it was just sort of like a light went off,” Mr. Woods said. Neither he nor Mr. Berke, they soon realized, could stand to see a local institution like the Home Port fade away.
“[Eric Berke] was coming here when he was four years old. My kids had their first oyster here when they were five years old,” Mr. Woods said. “The town needs it. It needs to be restored.”
After making an offer last summer, Mr. Berke, Mr. Woods, and the Nixon family spent the off-season negotiating a sale. The two parties signed a purchase and sale agreement in April, allowing renovations to move ahead in advance of the summer season. The sale was finalized Thursday. Mr. Nixon said in addition to the real estate, the new owners also paid $500,000 for the business, bringing the total sale price to nearly $3.1 million.
“It just seemed to make really good sense for us to hand it off to them,” Mr. Nixon said. “We just had a real meeting of the minds with them. They love Menemsha and share the values of why [the Home Port]’s important to the town.”
The new owners have big dreams for the Home Port, including live music, breakfast service and off-season service, although Mr. Woods admitted that these prospects all lie in the future.
“We’re looking to be a tourist destination secondarily,” he said. What he really wants, he said, is “to be a local restaurant that’s firmly established in the community.”