AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod Drop-In Center | 148 Commercial Street Condominium (Unit 4).
The charming 14-by-30-foot shop, with a cupola on top and a small forecourt in front, was the home until 2010 of Joe Coffee and Espresso. Joe was bursting at the seams here because of its popularity, and wound up moving a few doors down, to a much more spacious setting at 170 Commercial Street. An early tenant here — perhaps the building’s first — was Elaine’s Beauty Salon, which moved into 148A Commercial Street in December 1970.
Since 2017, the building has served as a Drop-In Center for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, whose logo — fittingly — is a lifebuoy. David W. Dunlap (2018).
Elaine F. (Gaspa) Sants (1926-1994) was the granddaughter of Capt. Frank “Vardi” Gaspa (1869-1953), a celebrated fisherman, one of the “Killers of Provincetown.” It is the captain’s name that has been carved in the bargeboards of the imposing porch next door. In 1983, Elaine and her husband, James Aloysius Sants (1922-2002), took over the property from her parents, Edward F. Gaspa (1897-1980) and Virginia (Vincent) Gaspa (1905-1988). Two years after Elaine Sants died, in 1996, 148-148A Commercial Street was sold to David M. Nicolau, who established the five-unit 148 Commercial Street Condominium: three units in the main house, this retail unit, and one unit composing a garage on Conant Street. It’s been owned since 2009 by Johnny Y. Pak and Lily Kwan, doing business as 1100 Madison Avenue Realty L.L.C. of Albany, N.Y.
148A Commercial Street as Joe Coffee and Espresso, in 2008. David W. Dunlap.
Scott J. Lattime founded Joe Coffee (as No Ordinary Joe Inc.) in 1998. “Consistently exceptional coffee,” Kim Grant wrote in the 2003 edition of An Explorer’s Guide: Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
“This tiny shop was so packed when it opened that one worker commented, ‘It was so busy I thought I was selling drugs.’ The beans are roasted by two women at Indigo, a small place in the tiny western Massachusetts town of Florence. There are fine pastries, too. Joe has both ends of town covered.”
For a time, it did business at this location and at 353A Commercial Street. But it was the West End Joe that Michael Cunningham identified as an important and
“especially fertile” nexus in Provincetown’s gossip network. “Any small town engenders a good deal of gossip,” he wrote in Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown (2002), “but in this regard Provincetown is to other towns what McDonald’s is to mom-and-pop diners. … In Provincetown the denizens tend to lead more dramatic lives, and some citizens maintain a more than usually creative relationship to reality. Thus, the offerings are almost embarrassingly rich and varied.”
Left: Elaine’s Beauty Salon advertised in the 10 December 1970 issue of The Provincetown Advocate. Right: A punch card issued by Joe when it was here.
Left: An ad from Òno (Delicious) appeared in Provincetown Magazine on 23 June 2011. Right: 141 To Go hung out its sign in 2013. David W. Dunlap.
Left: The Juice Bar sign in 2016. Right: The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod hung signs in its Drop-In Center in 2018. Both photos by David W. Dunlap.
Joe was followed in this shop by a quick succession of businesses: Òno (Delicious), a coffee bar; 141 To Go, a branch of 141 Bradford Natural Market, at 141 Bradford Street; and Juice Bar.
On World AIDS Day, 1 December 2017, the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod opened a Drop-In Center at 148A Commercial Street to supplement the work done at its main building, 96 Bradford Street. Here, the center offers free testing for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and hepatitis C, as well as a weekly group for “gay men seeking freedom from crystal meth use.”
A notification for the “Crystal Free” group, as it appeared on the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod website in 2019.
¶ Last updated on 27 April 2019.
148-148A Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 148-148A Commercial Street:
Joseph Trovato III wrote on 6 December 2012: Back in the 1970s, this used to be a little beauty parlor. It was owned by Elaine Sants and I believe her family owned the building adjacent (148 Bradford). She was good friends with my grandmother Charlotte Merrill Trovato and she took me there for my first haircut.
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2008, by David W. Dunlap.