Província is a feast for the eyes — a Portuguese feast. Opened in 1997 by Manuel A. Sousa and John O’Shea, partners in business and spouses in life, the store deals in handicrafts and artwork imported from Portugal or made by Sousa or O’Shea. The richly colorful cornucopia, looking jewellike through the French doors on Commercial Street, includes pottery (much of it from the south-central region of Alentejo, around the city of Évora), tableware, mosaics, paintings, prints, porcelain, tin toys, and, of course, many galos de Barcelo. You can also buy Sousa’s CD, Piano Tribute to Elton John: Across Six Decades, and paintings by O’Shea.
The store is so arresting that it’s easy at first to lose sight of the very old house from which the contemporary retail portion extends. A glimpse across the yard of 138 Commercial, however, reveals the steeply-pitched gabled roof at the heart of the structure. This was what John Jason purchased in 1904, adding his wife, Isabel Jason, to the deed in 1913. The Jasons sold the property in 1929 to Ina Preston Hatch (1885-1938).
Hatch belonged to the Research Club, a historical society, and to the Willing Workers Club at Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church, 170 Commercial Street. Two years after buying 140 Commercial, Hatch lost both her mother and father within three months of one another. She was 46 at the time. What she went through can be inferred from a remarkable letter to The Provincetown Advocate that was published 26 January 1933. As best as I can discern the slightly inscrutable document, Hatched wanted to refute rumors that she had inherited $18,000. That would be a nice sum in any case, but when inflation is factored in, it would amount to about $350,000 — in the middle of the Great Depression. Had she received such a bequest, Hatch wrote, “I would not stay at home and worry as I have the past three years, wishing work would improve. I think we all have enough to do, to attend to our own duties, without starting such a rumor about town.”
140 Commercial Street in 2008. David W. Dunlap.
Left: The Província logo. Right: A watercolor of 140 Commercial by Manuel A. Sousa.
Sousa and John O’Shea, photographed in 2016 by David W. Dunlap.
After Hatch died in 1938, survived only by three cousins, the property passed to an apparent legatee, Manuel Joseph Carter (1887-1969), a fish cutter. Carter was a father of two, with Jennie Agatha (Tasha) Carter (1895-1986), whom he had married in 1913.
Their son was Stanley Howard “Pidge” Carter (1922-1998), a fisherman, who was married to Helen Elworth (Janoplis) Carter (1928-2013). Stanley sold his late father’s house in 1971 for $10,000 to Marlene (St. Denis) Verdes of Ridgefield, Ct. Nine years later, she sold 140 Commercial to Larry J. Richardson and Joseph A. Siciliano of Manhattan, for $59,000.
They owned the building for the next 17 years. One of their tenants in the mid-1990s was James McNulty, a bartender, who would go on to establish Jimmy’s HideAway, at 179 Commercial Street, in 2007. Another tenant, in the mid-’80s, was Richard Allen Karp (1953-2013), who owned a restaurant at the time. [I don’t yet know which one.]
In his 40s, Karp began a prolific career as a performer in gay pornographic videos — he was truly a “porn star” — under the name Cole Tucker. Around the time that Bound for Leather and Acres of Ass were in release, Tom Spencer, a married Conservative member of the European Parliament for the district of Surrey, southwest of London, was discovered by inspectors at Heathrow Airport to have marijuana, cocaine, and Cole Tucker videos in his luggage. Tucker disclosed that the two men were in a sexual relationship. “The films Customs found were of my friend,” Spencer was quoted as saying by the Scottish tabloid, The Daily Record. Though Spencer retained the support of his family, he had become anathema to the Tories, and soon announced he would not seek re-election. Tucker, already a winner of GayVN Awards for gay performer of the year and best supporting actor, would win a special achievement award in 2000 for working on AIDS causes. He died in Palm Springs of an AIDS-related illness, at 61.
Sousa paid $240,000 for 140 Commercial Street in 1996, a decade after moving to the United States as a 27-year-old from his native Lisbon. “I did not come here to fish,” he told me in a 2016 interview at the shop. Instead, he lived in Manhattan, where he worked as a product manager at the Portuguese National Tourist Office and then at the Portuguese Trade Commission. He also met O’Shea while he was in New York, in 1986. “Now we’re married,” he told me. “We’re married in Portugal, too.” (Portugal recognized same-sex marriages nationwide in 2010, five years before the United States did so.)
Sousa and O’Shea expanded the house with a retail annex on Commercial Street, which overlooks a small patio. For a brief time in the early 2000s, they also ran Província East, at 357 Commercial Street. Sousa said he chose the name Província — it means “province” in Portuguese — because “it is a beautiful name, one word only, that’s easy to say and easy to spell.” It’s also a deliberate evocation of the Province Lands, in which Provincetown is situated. Given the rustic nature of much of the pottery and artwork, Sousa said, he is frequently asked whether his wares are imported from France or from Tuscany. He considers that a compliment, but is quick to say that the offerings are 100-percent Portuguese. “We are the only French store in the world where nothing is from France.”
Glancing through the windows at night, in 2012 and 2018. David W. Dunlap.
A “Sunflower” casserole from the Alentejo region of Portugal. David W. Dunlap (2016).
Left: A tabletop display. Right: A platter in the “Cape Cod” line, from Alentejo. David W. Dunlap (2016).
The storefront at night. David W. Dunlap (2009).
Left: From the “Maria” collection. Right: A familiar motif in an unusual medium. David W. Dunlap (2016).
From the “Olive” collection. David W. Dunlap (2016).
Platters on display include those from the “Fairy Garden” line, at right. David W. Dunlap (2016).
This tin toy airplane has a 9-inch wingspan. David W. Dunlap (2016).
Left: Sousa with his prized copy of The Diving Board, autographed to him by Elton John. Right: The cover of Sousa’s tribute CD. Photo at left, 2016, by David W. Dunlap.
The store seems to glow at night. David W. Dunlap (2009).
Besides tending store with obvious care, Souza is also a musician. To call him a devotee of Elton John might be understating things a bit. In addition his CD, Sousa performs a piano tribute to Elton John for two hours every Tuesday evening during the summer season, at Bubala’s by the Bay, 185 Commercial Street. In 2018, he also began uploading piano and harpsichord (!) covers of the Johns songbook to the YouTube channel called mannycovers. Lucky visitors to Província may even get to see Sousa’s copy of The Diving Board, autographed: “To Manny, much love, Elton.”
The couple sold the building in 2014 for $980,000 to Jeffrey Kuller of Palm Springs. But the store remains ensconced at 140 Commercial and, as of this writing, Sousa and O’Shea were preparing to open for their 22nd season — itself a distinction in this transient town.
¶ Last updated on 11 February 2019.
140 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2016, by David W. Dunlap.
For further reading (and listening) online
• Jennie Agatha (Tasha) Carter (1895-1986)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 162617577.
• Manuel Joseph Carter (1887-1969)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 139249483.
• Stanley Howard Carter (1922-1998)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 107165889.
• Richard Allen Karp (1953-2015)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 147726307. Palm Springs.
Cole Tucker biography and filmography, IMDb Name No. nm0875827.
• John O’Shea
The Art of John O’Shea webpage.
• Manuel A. Sousa
Mannycovers YouTube channel.
Manny Sousa webpage.