2020 Commercial 120 01Loveland — The Bohemian Marine.

Update: As of 2021, Loveland — The Bohemian Marine had moved to 140 Commercial Street.

Josh Patner is the proprietor of the exuberantly, intelligently, delightfully curated Loveland boutique: “Home — Wardrobe — Apothecary — Gifts.” (Yes, I’ve used the dreadful word “curated,” because that’s really what Patner does. I’d call his taste “eclectic,” too, but that might push me over the cliché limit for one paragraph.) Loveland is one of the westernmost commercial outposts on Commercial Street. And it’s the worthy inheritor of a space that has served an almost bewildering variety of uses over the decades: an A&P supermarket, a center of Portuguese-American life, a skin- and scuba-diving store, a coffee house that drew performers of national renown (including Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, James Taylor, John Lee Hooker, and Dave Von Ronk), an art cinema, an art gallery (at least twice), and a gift shop that played on the queer appeal of maritime life.

Remarkably, the double-bay storefront, with its elegant fanlights, has remained almost perfectly preserved for 70 years.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the property — then denominated 115 Commercial Street — was owned by Seth Smith (1837-1912), who was at one time town clerk and treasurer, and his wife, Fannie C. Smith (1836-1920). Under the terms of Mrs. Smith’s will, Seamen’s Savings Bank sold the property in 1931 to Robert A. Welsh (1903-1986), who was soon to become a justice of the Second District Court of Barnstable, and his wife, Alma D. Welsh (1903-1973). During the Welshes’ ownership, 120 Commercial Street was leased to the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, the largest operator of grocery stores in America. The West End A&P opened no later than 1949, which is when the photograph below was taken, and remained in business through 1958. The retail bays may well have been constructed during this period, since the A&P often employed neo-Colonial detail on its storefronts.

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The A&P store, in 1949, from a photo in the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, Book 1, Page 4, on the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Dowd Collection), Page 1130.

Frank V. Motta (1906-1969) and Etalvina R. Motta (1909-1990) were among the residential tenants at 120 Commercial Street when the Welshes owned the building. The Mottas were living here in October 1950 when they received the worst possible news the government can deliver to parents. A telegram arrived from the Defense Department informing them that their son, Cpl. Manuel V. Motta of the 77th Field Artillery Battalion in the Army’s First Cavalry Division, had been killed in action in Korea — “the first from Provincetown to give his life for the United Nations,” as The Advocate put it. He was three weeks shy of his 19th birthday. Corporal Motta’s body was returned to Cape Cod in April 1951 and buried with full military honors at the Cemetery of the Church of St. Peter the Apostle, after laying in state in the auditorium of Town Hall. He is remembered at the Manuel V. Motta Athletic Field, which was dedicated on Memorial Day 1953.

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The parents of Cpl. Manuel V. Motta were living at 120 Commercial Street when they received word of his death in Korea. Motta Field commemorates him. The photos, taken in 2008 and 2010, are by David W. Dunlap.

With the opening of an A&P supermarket at 32 Conwell Street in 1958, the West End grocery store closed. The Welshes sold 120 Commercial in 1959 to Robert E. Cabral (1926-2016), best remembered today as the owner of Fishermen’s Wharf. That year, Cabral opened the Reef — a combination skin-diving center (lessons, sales, rentals), luncheonette, and toy and gift store. “It was there all young boys had dreams of being a skin diver like Mike Nelson of Sea Hunt fame, or Bobby Cabral of Ptown fame,” Leo E. Gracie later recalled. But Cabral’s constant operation of air compressors right outside the bedroom window of the abutting property, 118 Commercial, also subjected him to public censure in 1961.

The Portuguese-American Civic League, a statewide organization, bought the building from the Cabrals in 1963 to use as its Provincetown chapter headquarters. PACL held weekly whist parties, gave an annual $200 scholarship for Provincetown High School students of Portuguese descent, donated Christmas presents to local nursing homes, and made “occasional forays into politics,” The Advocate said in a 1970 profile.

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Left: An ad from The Advocate of 1 May 1958, when the A&P was still at 120 Commercial. Upper right: Mary Louise Silvia, president of the Portuguese-American Civic League, was pictured outside the building — you can make out the distinctive fanlight — in a 15 January 1970 Advocate profile. Lower right: The Reef advertised in The Advocate on 26 January 1961. Online and microfilm images from the Provincetown Public Library.

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The telephone number for the Reef — Provincetown 264 — is still assigned to the Cabral family, though it has grown into +1 (508) 487-0264. The matchbook is from the incomparable collection of Salvador R. Vasques III.

Mary Louise Silvia was elected president of the chapter in 1965. Her father, Manuel E. “Manny” Silvia (1887-1947) of Fall River, had been president of PACL, and her mother, Mary Amelia (Lisbon) Silvia (Joseph), was also active in the organization. By the time of the 1970, there was a cultural divide between first-generation Portuguese, and second- and third-generation Portuguese-Americans like Silvia. She “finds Portuguese food hard to cook, speaks Portuguese ‘only somewhat,’ and has no real desire to visit her grandparents’ native country,” The Advocate reported.

At the time, the Provincetown PACL chapter had about 100 active members. However, as The Advocate said, the monthy suppers were “much more likely to feature ham and beans or spaghetti than linguiça, favas, or Portuguese bread.” Silvia told the newspaper — quite presciently — that she hoped eventually “to reinstitute a special Portuguese day in the summer, complete with a dinner, dance, and native costumes.”

Coincident with PACL’s arrival was the opening in 1963 of Sid Rifkin’s Gallery. Rifkin exhibited his own work and that of Wayne A. Timm, Irving Seidenberg, and other minor artists. His daughter, Lisa Rifkin, reminisced in 2016: “I used to sit at an old-fashion typewriter and pretend to be typing away at my novel at age 5. People outside would have to come in to check to see how I knew how to type at such a young age! This was the way I got people into the gallery to browse my father’s artwork!”

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Left: Mike Taylor’s Blues Bag drew nationally prominent musicians to 120 Commercial Street in the latter 1960s. The poster comes from the collection of Robert Clibbon. Right: The next occupant was an art cinema and coffee house called the Peeping Deliah, which advertised in The Advocate on 16 July 1970. Microfilm image from the Provincetown Public Library.

In its remarkable next incarnation, 120 Commercial Street was transformed by Mike Taylor, Sara Alter, Dana Elza, Abby Taylor, and others into the Blues Bag — a “folk coffee house,” as Mike Taylor later described it. The Blues Bag operated from the summer of 1966 to the summer of 1968. Years later, Spencer R. Day happily recalled attending performances at the Blues Bag as a teenager.

“I knew almost nothing about the performers and was simply enthralled. My college-age cousin had turned me onto most of the musicians’ recordings featured at 120 Commercial Street — like Dave Van Ronk [1936-2002], ‘Spider’ John Koerner (of Koerner, Ray, & Glover). So many others! Richie Havens [1941-2013]. So I knew the sounds but there was little to read in the record jacket (45s and 33s). Son House [1902-1988], Tom Rush, Arlo Guthrie.”

In 1970, the Portuguese-American Civic League sold the property to Rae Blum for $27,000. The Peeping Deliah coffee house and film society opened that year. “We are an arts laboratory,” the proprietors said in an advertisement in The Advocate. “We have the ideal setting for good films, conversation, and a refreshing menu of coffee house delights.” The week’s offerings in mid-July 1970 were all classics: The Seventh Seal, Tom Jones, My Little Chickadee, Knife in the Water, The Seventh Samurai, and Closely Watched Trains. Blum sold the building in 1973 to Minerva “Betty” Newman, who paid $42,000.

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Broad but delicate fanlights characterize the storefront facade. The 2011 photo is by David W. Dunlap.

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Robert Clibbon (pictured) owned 120 Commercial Street from 1978 to 2016, and used the storefront as a gallery in which to exhibit his works and those of his wife, Melyssa Bearse.

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Left: Boatworks, by Robert Clibbon, from the Clibbon Gallery website. Right: Provincetown Fisherman, by Melyssa Bearse, from the Melyssa Bearse website.

The photographer Robert Clibbon bought 120 Commercial Street in 1978 for $67,000 and owned it for the next 38 years. During much of that time, the space served as the Clibbon Gallery, specializing in Clibbon’s photographs and etchings, and oil pastels by his wife, Melyssa Bearse. The couple raised their children Tyler and Daniel there.

They also had two different retail tenants, Josh Patner and — before him — Peter Constandy (1934-2014). Though more than a generation apart, both proprietors shared a great eye for unusual merchandise, combined with imagination and wit. Constandy’s store, operating in the early 21st century, was called Peter’s Royal Navy. In 2006, Natalie Hope McDonald wrote in Boston magazine of its anchor linens, Irish guest towels, Bay Rhum toiletries, and Royal Navy dinnerware, adding that Constandy “regularly travels to England and Spain for popular finds like regatta stripe bedcovers and shams.” Joe Okonkwo wrote in Out Traveler in 2008 that Constandy sold “anything and everything remotely sea-centric: old photos of handsome navy men, ship accoutrements, and even a cool tiki-style bar that looks like it just floated in from the South Pacific.”

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Patner, a Chicago native and Oberlin College graduate, was most notably the co-founder in 1998 (with Bryan Bradley) of the fashion line Tuleh in New York. They were in their 30s when they became what Elizabeth Hayt in The New York Times called the “darlings of a certain segment of the fashion world. Their sparkly, ruffled garments — just right for a modern-day Auntie Mame — have been featured in high-end fashion magazines, and when the spring collection was put out on racks at Bergdorf Goodman in March, about 40 of the 50 or so pieces disappeared in four hours.” Hayt’s cover profile in the Sunday Styles section of 30 May 1999 quoted André Leon Talley, Vogue‘s editor at large:

“They’re in touch with the end of the century. There is a need for glamour and sophistication. There has to be people who give women ball gowns with yards of imaginative fabric. Tuleh has a Southern Gothic feeling. There is a sophistication lacking in American clothes. … Tuleh is the antidote.”

Designing glamorously and existing glamorously are, of course, two different things. Despite the imprimatur of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Tuleh faced a tough course, especially after the attacks of 11 September 2001. A year later, Patner wrote with disarming candor in The Times about the travails he and Bradley faced. That year, the partners parted ways. Tuleh folded up as the decade came to a close.

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Josh Patner (pictured) opened Loveland — The Bohemian Marine in 2012. He has likened the store’s offerings to pirate’s treasure, and the storefront setting to a proscenium-arched theater. The photos, by David W. Dunlap, were taken from 2012 to 2018.

But Patner’s description of Tuleh in its first year can be read as a kind of anticipatory manifesto for Loveland, which opened in 2012: “Tuleh is a persona that lives in every woman. Her style is exaggerated. She might leave the house in her favorite robe, but the cuffs are chinchilla because she can’t help herself. Life is her party. She dresses to please herself, whereas that navy-blue-suit lady is dressing to be accepted.”

Patner has likened Loveland to a pirate ship. “The shop, I hope, has the feeling of treasure being unloaded all the time,” he said in a 2015 video. “The building itself has a theatrical presence. It’s a proscenium.” Patner artfully rearranges the sets constantly. You can go into Loveland and find a different store than the one you visited yesterday.

Loveland survived the change of ownership at 120 Commercial Street in 2016, when Clibbon sold the property to Michael Goff for $920,000. Goff founded Out magazine in 1992. It was one of the most influential and widely read gay and lesbian publications in the country by 1996, when he resigned as its president and editor in chief. Ten years later, Goff became a partner in Towleroad with the blogger Andy Towle, a 1991-1992 writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center (and former Boatslip bartender). Since 2014, they have produced an annual pocket-sized glossy guide book called Ptown Hacks.

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¶ Last updated on 30 May 2021.

120 Commercial Street on the Town Map.

Thumbnail image: Photo, 2013, by David W. Dunlap.

Amy Germain wrote on 3 March 2013: Also the home of the Blues Bag, run by Mike Taylor in the late ’60s. A coffee house/small performance venue par excellence. Mike had an arrangement to house performers with the Germain family at 68 Commercial Street. A sampling of performers: Arlo Guthrie, Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, Patrick Sky, Jamie Brockett, John Hammond. The Blues Bag moved to the northwest corner of Bradford and Standish Streets before fading away with the ’70s and the disco era.

Robert Clibbon wrote on 28 November 2013: I’m fortunate to have been the owner of 120 Commercial Street for 35 years, during 25 of which it housed the Clibbon Gallery. My wife Melyssa [Bearse] and I presented our etchings, pastels, and photographs in this beautiful space, as well as raised our children Tyler and Daniel. It’s still a summer home for us, though we’re lucky to have the talented Josh Patner and his Loveland as our shop tenant. Thanks for your incredible treasure trove for all of us fascinated with Provincetown past and present.

Mike Taylor wrote on 8 February 2015: As a Luddite, I’m a late attendee of the Internet. I recently came upon these few postings regarding my “folk coffee house,” the Blues Bag, which I started in the summer of 1966 and ran ’67 & ’68 with my then-girlfriend Sara (then) Alter, and later joined by Dana Elza and subsequently my brother Abby, as well as many others too numerous to mentioned. I would be interested in any memorabilia, posters, articles, hand bills, or just memories from that period should anyone still have or remember same. mtaylor06268@gmail.com

Lisa Rifkin wrote on 9 August 2016: I used to sit at an old-fashion typewriter and pretend to be typing away at my novel at age 5. People outside would have to come in to check to see how I knew how to type at such a young age! This was the way I got people into the gallery to browse my father’s artwork!

Spencer R. Day wrote on 7 January 2017: I turned 16 in 1966 while on summer vacation in Dennis. Working most days/evenings, I was learning to play folk guitar with my best friend, Dave Clark, in our spare time. Got my driver’s license in Hyannis (so easy!), and immediately I began borrowing my parents’ car to drive to P’town at about 8 p.m. with friends, to attend and see/hear the amazing talent at the Blues Bag. I knew almost nothing about the performers and was simply enthralled. My college-age cousin had turned me onto most of the musicians’ recordings featured at 120 Commercial Street — like Dave Van Ronk, “Spider” John Koerner (of Koerner, Ray & Glover). So many others! Richie Havens. So I knew the sounds but there was little to read in the record jacket (45s and 33s). Son House, Tom Rush, Arlo Guthrie. I attended the Blues Bag for exactly the three summers that Mike Taylor describes operating the coffee house, 1966-1968. What a blast from the past! Thanks for posting some clear information about Blues Bag history.

Caralyn Tremonti wrote on 23 September 2017: I was at the Blues Bag in 1967 and seem to recall Stevie Wonder entertaining, but am questioning this memory.

Spencer R. Day responded on 30 April 2018: Caralyn, I think you’re right to question your memory. The Blues Bag had many lots of “old” blues artists perform (Son House, for instance, and Mississippi John Hurt) and some newer ones around 1967 (Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie). I don’t think Stevie Wonder performed there but I was not there every night, so I could be wrong!

Joanie Santos Wood wrote on 16 November 2018: I remember the Reef, right at the corner of Whorf’s Court. My mom would take me there and we would sit at the counter. Later, in my early 20s, it was the Blues Bag.

Susan Darnell wrote on 16 November 2018: I remember the Blues Bag. I saw Richie Havens and, at that time, “Baby” James Taylor. So many incredible memories.

Mel Joseph wrote on 16 November 2018: That’s my memory of the Blues Bag as well — seeing Richie Havens.

JoAnn Hirshhorn wrote on 16 November 2018: John Hammond.

Susan Leonard wrote on 16 November 2018: I loved going to the Blues Bag.

Lauren Richmond wrote on 16 November 2018: Tom Rush.

Mel Joseph wrote on 16 November 2018: No regrets / No tears / Goodbye / Don’t want you back / We’d only cry … [As performed by Tom Rush.]

Michael Goff wrote on 17 November 2018: Wow! This is quite a list in formation.

Lauren Richmond wrote on 17 November 2018: It was a coffee house. No alcohol. Always crowded.

Janet Greenquist wrote on 19 November 2018: I remember when it was the A&P, and the man at the meat counter would give out slices of bologna or linguiça to the kids. I also remember when it was a lunch counter that also had ice cream cones. I remember trying to get five to six ice cream cones back to Flyer’s Boat Yard for the afternoon break before they melted.

Michael Goff wrote on 19 November 2018: I hope you’ll consider including the amazing and wildly influential John Lee Hooker on your short list of those who made it to 120 Commercial. It’s kind of insane he came to Ptown. From Wikipedia: ”Hooker was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Two of his songs, “Boogie Chillen” and “Boom Boom,” are included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. “Boogie Chillen” is also included in the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of the songs of the century.

Leo E. Gracie wrote on 20 November 2018: I remember the family-style ham and bean suppers. You could get the back of your hand skewered reaching for the last slice of ham.

• A&P

Photograph in September 1949, Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell (Book 1, Page 4), Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 1130.

• The Reef

Matchbook and newspaper clipping, posted by Salvador R. Vasques III, My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, 13 November 2014.

• Clibbon Gallery

Clibbon Gallery website.

Melyssa Bearse website.

• Loveland — The Bohemian Marine

Loveland — The Bohemian Marine website.

“This Fashion Exec Left the Rat Race and Opened the Ideal Boutique in Provincetown,” by Towleroad LGBT Gay News, YouTube, 11 March 2015.

“At a Sidewalk Cafe With: Josh Patner and Bryan Bradley; Everything’s Coming Up Froufrou,” by Elizabeth Hayt, The New York Times, 30 May 1999.

“View; Tuleh Tells: Designer Confidential,” by Josh Patner, The New York Times, 10 February 2002.

• Towleroad

Towleroad website.

Ptown Hacks web page.

Robert E. Cabral. Find a Grave Memorial No. 172315427.

Etalvina R. Motta. Find a Grave Memorial No. 31075812.

Frank V. Motta. Find a Grave Memorial No. 31075787.

Manuel Motta. Find a Grave Memorial No. 31067795.

Alma D. Welsh. Find a Grave Memorial No. 11547431.

Robert A. Welsh. Find a Grave Memorial No. 11547429.

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