How perfectly Provincetown. The Lower Cape’s first legal pot shop opened in 2020 in what had been built 70 years earlier as the headquarters of something far more sobersided: the First National Bank of Provincetown, the Lower Cape’s first commercial bank. And before that, this site was the home of the Centenary Methodist Church, 170 Commercial Street, from whose pulpit the Rev. William Herbert Moseley preached about the evils of alcohol, in an attempt — five years after Prohibition ended — to convince Provincetown to vote itself “dry” again. (Only one-third of the citizens followed his lead.)
Since 2010, the old bank has also housed the popular Joe Coffee bar, which spills out on to the ample patio in front of the building. It’s definitely a place to see and be seen.
The First National Bank Building in 1950. From Book 2, Page 67, of the Scrapbooks of Althea Boxell, in the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 751.
In 2008, before extensive renovations by Joe Coffee & Café. Photo by David W. Dunlap.
In 2010, after the addition of a portico, the conversion of the north windows into sash, and the addition of a hedgerow bordering the slightly elevated patio. Dunlap.
The institution was incorporated in 1854 as the “Provincetown Bank,” with Nathan Freeman II as its president. It was the first commercial bank on the Cape below Yarmouth. (Seamen’s Bank, founded in 1851, is a mutual institution, not a commercial one.) The Provincetown Bank was re-chartered in 1865 under the federal government as a national banking association, giving it the power to issue bank notes that were regulated and backed by the United States. That was when it changed its name to the First National Bank of Provincetown. It was quartered at 290 Commercial Street, where architectural evidence of the bank still survives.
The old headquarters reached the bursting point after World War II ended. “Its lobby will not accommodate patrons who crowd into it, especially in the summer, to transact their business,” the Advocate said in 1948. There was, however, a very attractive possible site for a new building: where the abandoned Centenary Methodist Church stood, boarded up for years. The bank president, Horace F. Hallett (1893-1959), noted that the lot had 80 feet on Commercial Space and 191 feet on Winthrop Street, telling the Advocate it would “provide plenty of space for a commodious building, as well as ample space for the parking of patrons’ cars.”
The opening of the bank was front page news in the Advocate of 27 April 1950. And naturally, the new headquarters of a major advertiser was “attractive.” Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.
Horace F. Hallett, president of the bank, sat in the front row center for this 1954 portrait of the board of directors. He is flanked by Daniel C. Merrill and William T. Mayo. In the back row are, from left, Joseph Duarte, Cyril W. Downs, and Bernard C. Collins. One Hundred Years of Growing With Provincetown (1954).
More than most bank presidents, Hallett knew what he was talking about when it came to buildings. He was a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a member of the Pratt Architectural Club of New York. He came to town in 1918 and joined the bank as a cashier. Eighteen years later, he was its president. He lived with his wife, Mary Josephine (Crosby) Hallett (1899-1998), at 81 Bradford Street.
Hallett hired Hutchins & French, a Boston architectural firm that specialized in banks and other institutional buildings. One of its most notable buildings was the eight-story First National Bank of New Bedford, now the Webster Bank Building, at 545 Pleasant Street. The founding principals of the practice, Franklin H. Hutchins and Arthur E. French, were long dead by the time the Provincetown commission came along. Perhaps the job was handled by Sam G. Gountanis (1919-1989), who owned the firm at one time.
This three-quarter view shows how much longer the Winthrop Street facade is, and how much larger the building appears from the side than it does from the front. One Hundred Years of Growing With Provincetown (1954).
Salvador R. Vasques III posted this in the Facebook group My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, on 5 December 2014.
For the Provincetown project, Hutchins & French employed what you might call Ye Olde Colonial, mixing neo-Classical and vernacular elements. The main entrance into the red-brick building was framed by flanking Doric pilasters supporting a frieze with the words “First National Bank,” above which was a large dentiled pediment. There were stout brick chimneys at either end of the main elevation to reinforce the building’s domestic quality, as well as 8-over-12-light sash windows with white shutters. The banking lobby had marble floors and knotty-pine woodwork.
Two thousand people attended the bank’s opening reception in 1950. There were nine teller windows in the lobby. Hallett’s office was on the right side and the directors’ room on the left. There was a lobby vault and a much larger vault in the basement, which may still exist. “Loved to go in there,” Lisa Zawaduk said. “Beautiful architecture — the tellers in their ‘cages’ and the vault in clear view. Made you think it was such a special place. And it was. … Now they have security for downstairs instead of upstairs.”¹
“The wonderful First National Bank where Mr. Hallett was president and my favorite teller was Mr. [William] Mayo,” Rachel White said. “I had a 10-cent Christmas Club there. A lesson in teaching kids to save money. (Birthday gifts, running errands for the elderly, who insisted we take 10 cents.)”¹
Leo E. Gracie also had his very first bank account at First National. “I think my first deposit was gifted during my first Communion celebration,” he told me in 2020. “Probably less than $30. I was approximately six to seven years old.”¹
At the time of the bank’s centenary in 1954, a handsome 32-page commemorative book was published, One Hundred Years of Growing With Provincetown. It ended with these words:
“We firmly believe the year 2054 will find both Community and Bank still looking forward to new growth and cooperative advancement; as they progress together.”
But the First National Bank of Provincetown did not even last another decade. It was renamed the First National Bank of Cape Cod in 1963, and its headquarters were moved to Orleans. First National was acquired in 1982 by the Shawmut Bank of Boston. Shawmut sold this building in 1993 and exited. Three years later, Shawmut was subsumed into Fleet National Bank, which was then acquired by Bank of America in 2005.
The Old Whale Ship Drying Its Sails, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh, was one of eight marine murals commissioned for the bank by Horace F. Hallett. Today, it is exhibited privately at a corporate office of Bank of America in Boston. Lot 147, from American Watercolors, Drawings, Paintings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s New York, 10 March 1989.
Setting Traps, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh. Lot 153, from American Watercolors, Drawings, Paintings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s New York, 10 March 1989.
Amid all these shuffles, the people of Provincetown lost track of the bank’s chief artistic distinction: eight marine paintings by Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), whose magnificent studio was at 76 Commercial Street, and his son F. Coulton Waugh (1896-1973), known as “Coulton,” who lived at 72 Commercial Street, where he operated the Ship Model Shop.
Mary Heaton Vorse described Frederick Waugh as the “outstanding marine painter in America — with perhaps the exception of Winslow Homer” (whom Waugh admired). Coulton Waugh’s role, the Advocate said, was to help “in the matter of the rigging of the ships, a subject in which the younger Waugh was more proficient.”
The paintings were commissioned by Hallett in 1929 for the board of directors’ room in the bank’s earlier headquarters at 290 Commercial. Each mural was five feet high. They ranged in width from three to nearly four feet. They were painted in oil on canvas laid down on masonite.
“When the new bank was built at its present location in 1950, the building was designed by Mr. Hallett especially to house the paintings,” the historian Josephine Del Deo wrote on 21 February 1989 in a letter to Joel B. Alvord, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Shawmut National Corporation.
“These paintings represent a kind of spiritual dividend to your customers,” Del Deo told Alvord, “for they are a symbol of Provincetown’s history, her pride, and her sense of herself.” Hung between the window bays of the 170 Commercial Street headquarters, the paintings “provided a great spiritual uplift for the clients of the bank who have come and gone over the years,” Del Deo wrote.
One such beneficiary was the author Amy Whorf McGuiggan, who is the daughter of John Whorf (1927-2010), a printer and artisan whose own father was the great Provincetown painter of the same name. She recalled about her youth at 101 Commercial Street: “When I was a kid, whenever I was on my way downtown, if it was during business hours, my Dad would always say, ‘Be sure to stop in at the bank and see the murals.’ I certainly did as I was told and so have fond memories of the murals.”
Left: Full Sails, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh. Right: Yachting, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh. Lot 154 and Lot 148, from American Watercolors, Drawings, Paintings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s New York, 10 March 1989.
Joseph Manta, the Shawmut branch manager and a long-time First National veteran, recalled a dark day during the winter of 1988-1989 in a comment he submitted to Facebook on 11 November 2020: “In stroll two to three photographers authorized to take pictures of the artworks displayed there for years; the first indication the paintings were to be sold by Christie’s. In the ensuing days, they were removed by Christie’s.”
Indeed, Christie’s New York planned to sell the paintings at an auction of American watercolors, drawings, paintings, and sculptures, scheduled for 10 March 1989. Christie’s had this to say about the suite, belonging to a “Prominent New England Bank,” which it numbered Lots 147 through 154:
“Unique in the history of early corporate commissions, these works reflect the drama found in all of Frederick Judd Waugh’s work, as well as a particularly keen understanding of New England’s seafaring prominence. These paintings were installed in the bank’s lobby for over 25 years.”
They were being offered individually, suggesting that Shawmut had no problem with breaking up the ensemble. The highest estimated prices were $20,000 to $30,000, for Old Whale Ship Drying Its Sails and Whaling. The lowest estimated price was $10,000 to $15,000 for Galleon.
Provincetown was not happy, to put it mildly. “Word of this spread through the town, with much anger and sadness,” Manta said. “During a conversation with Napi [Van Dereck], he allowed as how some folks might picket the bank to demonstrate their displeasure with this event. I immediately conveyed this possibility to John Hamill,” the president of Shawmut Bank.
As the co-founder and co-curator of the Provincetown Heritage Museum at 356 Commercial Street (now the Public Library), Del Deo pointedly wrote to Alvord: “We cannot imagine that [the paintings] would now be considered valueless to your organization in spite of the fact that you are removed by great distance from personal touch with the town you serve. Certainly, the interests of your clients are your interests.”
Paul Trainor (1939-2001), a cook who lived at 188 Commercial, took one look at the Christie’s catalog and turned into Paul Revere. He alerted other citizens through the Advocate that the paintings — “packed up and shipped out of town” — were to go under the hammer in less than a month. “It saddens me that Shawmut did not see fit to allow us one more viewing, nor did they offer Provincetown the chance to retain even one of those pieces of the town’s history,” Trainor wrote in a letter published 23 February 1989.
Moonlit Scene, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh, is today exhibited privately at a corporate office of Bank of America in Boston. Lot 151, from American Watercolors, Drawings, Paintings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s New York, 10 March 1989.
The gallerist Sonny Bayer was even angrier. “Shame on Shawmut,” he wrote to the Advocate. “Interesting that a bank that would so selfishly take away something so important to the community that has supported it for so long would expect that same community to continue supporting it. Perhaps we should support a bank with more of a commitment to our fine town.”
Most seriously of all, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum was beginning to consider the possibility of removing its endowment funds from deposit at Shawmut, the director, William H. Evaul, told the Cape Cod Times.
On 21 February, as a result of the alarms that Manta was sounding, Shawmut executives decided to withdraw the Waugh paintings from auction. The “STOP” button was pushed by Brian D. Drought, manager of Shawmut’s 33-branch system in southeastern Massachusetts (and executive vice president of the First Bristol County National Bank in Attleboro Falls).
“I found out about this situation at the end of February and took action immediately to attempt to change the corporate direct,” Drought wrote in a letter to Anne MacAdam of Provincetown on 6 March. “I was pleased and gratified that within a matter of days we were able to reverse the decision to sell [the] art, and it will soon be placed back in the Provincetown Branch, where it belongs.
“Unfortunately, I cannot adequately explain the chain of events that led us to the point where the paintings were going to auction on March 10. However, I think the important point is that a decision that was made was in fact reversed once it was recognized that there is a great deal more to the situation than mere dollars.
“I apologize for putting you and the Provincetown Community through this experience, and can only hope that the ‘good news’ will outlast the negative feelings and poor publicity which has transpired. … I hope we’ve shown something to the community by resolving the situation.”
Bidders who came to the auction in New York four days later received a blue slip noting, among other 11th-hour details, that Lots 147 through 154 were “withdrawn.”
Left: Galleon, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh. Right: Whaling, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh. Lot 149 and Lot 150, from American Watercolors, Drawings, Paintings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s New York, 10 March 1989.
Shawmut did more than save the paintings from dispersal. It actually returned them to its Provincetown branch at 170 Commercial Street, and then held a two-day open house at the bank, on 17 and 18 April — with refreshments — to celebrate their return.
Manta was the man of the hour. “His attitude and his reassurance certainly defused what might have been a much more explosive response to the action of the bank,” Del Deo told Alvord in a letter written 8 March. “You literally ‘saved the day,'” Evaul told Manta.
From the very pinnacle of the Shawmut National Corporation, Alvord offered Manta “my thanks for what I know has been a hectic situation at your branch. You did a great job, and I appreciate the fine image you created for yourself and the Bank!”
Just as meaningful was the commendation from 20 Beachcombers, sealed officially with a Royal Jamaica cigar band, commending Manta for his “special efforts and good offices in obtaining the withdrawal of the Waugh paintings from auction and their return to Town.” Besides Evaul, signatories included Christopher Busa, Salvatore Del Deo, Harvey Dodd, Conrad Malicoat, Richard Pepitone, and Napi Van Dereck.
But the triumph was short-lived. After Shawmut sold 170 Commercial in 1993, the murals were taken down again.
Lifeline, by Frederick Judd Waugh and Coulton Waugh, was one of eight marine murals commissioned for the bank by Horace F. Hallett. Today, it is exhibited privately at a corporate office of Bank of America in Boston. Lot 152, from American Watercolors, Drawings, Paintings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s New York, 10 March 1989.
Their next appearance, McGuiggan told me, was in 2001, at the Cape Museum of Fine Arts (now the Cape Cod Museum of Art) in Dennis, to which Old Whale Ship and Lifeline were lent by Fleet, the successor to Shawmut. They were included in a show of marine art curated by Lillian Lambrechts. (Lambrechts is now the global head curator for Bank of America.)
Then Fleet disappeared into the gigantic Bank of America, based in Charlotte, N.C., 920 miles away.
In 2013, when McGuiggan was curating “Forgotten Port: Provincetown’s Whaling Heritage,” an exhibition at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, she tried to track down the murals through Bank of America, but could not make any headway.
Josephine Del Deo all but charged me with the task of finding what happened when she wrote to me in May 2014 that the “murals disappeared and have never been found.”
McGuiggan’s experience armed me with what I needed to pick up the search, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. Bank of America executives whom I reached in October 2020 had very good news: the Waugh ensemble was still together and still in the hands of the bank, as successor to the First National Bank of Provincetown.
Five murals were in storage. But Jennifer S. Brown, the art program curator at Bank of America headquarters, let me know that three of the most glorious murals in the set — Old Whaling Ship, Moonlit Scene, and Lifeline — were hanging in the bank’s corporate offices. And not just anywhere. In Boston! While the public can’t admire them, they nonetheless survive, on the other side of Cape Cod Bay.
I just wish I could have told Josephine.
The logo of the bank in its 100th year and the entrance to its Provincetown headquarters. Both images from One Hundred Years of Growing With Provincetown (1954).
In 1962, the bank added a drive-up teller window. These ads come from the Advocate of 16 August 1962 (left) and 1 June 1967, after the institution’s name was changed. Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.
Besides commissioning the Waugh murals and building a new headquarters for the First National, Hallett oversaw the opening of branches in Wellfleet and in Orleans.
On the civic front, Hallett was a force. He was president of the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association, operator of the Pilgrim Monument, when that institution took over management of the Historical Museum, 230 Commercial Street, from the Research Club. As chairman of the reception committee for the Mayflower II, Hallett was the second American to board the replica vessel on its arrival in June 1957 from Plymouth, England. (Dr. Daniel H. Hiebert was first, to perform a medical inspection.) Hallett also operated the Horace F. Hallett Insurance Agency.
In the last months of his life, Hallett provided a powerful voice of opposition to the proposed Cape Cod National Seashore. He was quoted in The Boston Globe as saying that the plan was a “harsh and unthinking threat to the very life of Lower Cape towns,” and he told the Advocate: “It would in my opinion change the economy of the Cape for the worse. We have been encouraging retired substantial people to come here and build homes. A national park would bring transient sightseers.” Translation: The bank was eagerly awaiting a chance to finance real-estate developments in the woods, ponds, dunes, and beaches on the other side of Route 6, and didn’t want that opportunity taken away by federal intervention.
Horace F. Hallett’s signature for a presentation copy of One Hundred Years of Growing With Provincetown. From the collection of Ben Kettlewell.
Just as the seashore fight was beginning in earnest, Hallett suffered a heart attack, on 25 May 1959. He died a day later at home. Hallett was succeeded in the presidency of the bank by Daniel C. Merrill (1891-1974), the proprietor of the Gifford House, 9-11 Carver Street. “It was then an elegant hotel with starched white-tablecloth dining,” said Christopher Snow, who grew up down the street.¹ Merrill lived at 8 Carver Street and proudly pointed out that it had been home to two other presidents of First National: Moses Williams and his father-in-law, John A. Matheson.
During Merrill’s presidency, in 1963, the institution renamed itself the First National Bank of Cape Cod and established a third branch, in Chatham. He added a drive-up window at the Provincetown headquarters in 1962, at which customers could make deposits and withdrawals from a human teller, without leaving their cars. At the time, the bank’s assets totaled close to $9 million, or about $76 million in today’s money. Merrill retired in 1965.
The First National Bank of Provincetown changed its name in 1963 to the First National Bank of Cape Cod, and added Mayflower to its logo. This image comes from an ad in The Landing … 1620-1970, a special section printed by the Advocate. It comes from the Municipal Collection of the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 6014.
There was no disguising the small-town nature of banking on the Lower Cape. “Started my career in banking there, 1984 to 1988,” Lisa Block recalled. “Crazy cash deposits after holiday weekends. Lots of people kept their cash in the freezer, my fingertips would be so cold. No dollar-counters back then.”
“After my career as chambermaid, then meat wrapper, I moved to banking,” Paula Dedrickson-Lojko recounted.
“Got hired cause personnel guy thought I was cute, and knew how to run a cash register. There from 1965 to 1970. Milan Costa was my boss. Worked with Joe Manta, Kenny Enos. John Roderick was in the teller window next to me.
“I don’t recall them having a courier during my time. The bank had repo’d a Checker cab. I would drive the Checker from Orleans to Provincetown to drop off the ‘work’ at night. Got a ticket going across Beach Point.
“I recall deposits from the church on Monday morning, flour in night deposit bags from Poyant’s [Gene’s Pastry Shoppe, 256-258 Commercial Street], cash smelling like fish. First pay was $62.50 a week. First raise brought me to $65.00.”¹
As a boy, Geoffrey Kane accompanied his parents when they delivered the deposit of the Town of Truro. “Parked out back, walked the cement sidewalk around the building and handed the deposit in a blue zippered bag to one teller in particular who always processed the deposit,” he remembered. “We’d often times combine a haircut at Joe the Barbers [on Winthrop Street] with our trips to the bank. Nice, friendly people. And they even let my brother Mike and me go into the great big vault on occasion.”
Mike and Pamela Coelho, owners of F/V Michael and Amy and of the Cape Breeze Motel in North Truro, said First National was “a good bank to do business with — the only bank that would give a mortgage on a commercial fishing boat.”
“If it was a split mortgage, Seamen’s would do it on the house and First National would put a big part on the boat. Cape Cod Bank & Trust also refused. Eventually no local banks would finance the boats. At that time, members of the banks board were a huge help getting started.
“You have to remember in the mid-’70s a mortgage could be had for very little down payment. Two local boats were being built in the mid-’70s with Farm Credit [a borrower-owned lending institution specializing in agriculture and related fields, like commercial fishing]. They started at 12 percent and ended up around 20 percent before they even hit the water. Mine stayed at 9 percent with the local banks until I sold her.”¹
“We worked with John Roderick,” the Coelhos said. “Very easy to work with.”
Other bankers whom customers remembered fondly years later included Joseph Manta, the office manager and a loan officer.
Ben Kettlewell, who operated Sunburst Leather and Elements at 338-340 Commercial Street in the 1980s and ’90s, said, “I got my first business loan from Joseph Manta. He was a great banker to do business with.” “Joe was in charge of supplies,” Dedrickson-Lojko added. “You had to turn in your old pen or pencil to get a new one.”¹
And Steven Roderick remembered the small branch in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn, 698 Commercial Street, and going to see a Mrs. Daisy there.
Advertisements from the Advocate of 12 March 1964 (left) and 14 November 1963 (right). The ad asking “Why Worry?” was published eight days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Advocate Online, Provincetown Public Library.
First National moved its headquarters to Orleans, opened branches in Harwich and Hyannis, and adopted Mayflower into its logo. The days of medium-sized regionally based banks were coming to an end. In 1982, First National was subsumed into Shawmut. The Mayflower logo was replaced by a stylized portrait of Obbatinewat, a Wampanoag sachem, and the name on the sign was changed to Shawmut Bank of Cape Cod. “Things changed a lot when Shawmut took over,” Roderick said. “They took out a number of teller windows and installed A.T.M.s inside the building.”¹ During the Shawmut period, the parking lot was guarded by Frank “Harmony the Cop” Veara, a retired police officer who was so called, Jan Kelly wrote, “because of his mild disposition and the fact that he never arrested anyone.”²
Shawmut sold the property in 1993 for $300,000 to John “Jingles” Yingling, founder and proprietor of Spiritus Pizza and Bubala’s, with the provision that “the premises may not be used for a retail banking operation” until mid-1994. (Shawmut itself was not long for the world. It was swallowed up by Fleet, which was then merged into Bank of America.)
Left: In the 1980s and early ’90s, the bank was operated as a Shawmut branch. The photo comes from the 1986 Long Pointer, which is available in the Provincetown History Preservation Project, Page 5698. Right: MailSpot Express advertised in the Provincetown Phonebook of 2004-2005.
Left: The Strength & Clarity Yoga-Movement Studio occupied the basement space in 2013. Dunlap. Right: The Provincetown Gym advertised in the Banner on 30 July 1998.
Ben Bailey, Bob Jackson, Michael Fernon, Ginny Parker, Peter O. Smith, and Tom Walsh were featured in this (slightly creased) ad from the Provincetown Banner of 22 May 2003.
The Cape Cod Bank & Trust Company operated an investment center here for a time in the later 1990s and early 2000s. “It was such a happy time,” said Ginny Parker, who worked for CCBT for 17 years. “Miss that bank. Their takeover by Banknorth [in 2003] sent shockwaves through the Cape towns and business community.”
Banknorth soon closed its office at No. 170. Yingling held the property until 2006, when he sold it for $1.9 million to Gregg Russo. Five years later, Russo turned the property into a condominium. The main floor was divided into two commercial units. The basement eventually became Unit No. 3.
Basement tenants included the Provincetown Gym, owned by Elizabeth “Betty” Villari and David M. Nicolau, in the late 1990s, before it moved to 81 Shank Painter Road; Mark Cook’s MailSpot Express, a mailing, copying, printing, shipping, and packing supply service, now at 336 Commercial Street; and the Strength & Clarity Yoga-Movement Studio.
The 23 parking spaces off Winthrop Street were turned into condominium easements. Most of were sold for $25,000 apiece in 2011 and 2012, but Space No. 18 fetched $30,000 in 2014.
Rear view of the building and parking lot. Dunlap, 2009.
Most of the 23 spaces in the parking lot were sold for $25,000 each, but one of them fetched $30,000. Map by Dunlap.
Unit No. 1, on the south side of the old banking hall, was occupied for many years by Bravo! for Men, established as a clothing and accessories store in 1994 by Louis J. Cassinelli of Sarasota. The windows at Bravo! were always gay, often cheeky, and sometimes a bit racy, with torso and buttocks mannequins that left little to the imagination. In July 2018, the windows featured a Timoteo jockstrap, as seen from the back, and briefs by Jack Adams with pouch contents that were anatomically unmistakable. This was Cassinelli’s Family Week display.
Satisfied customers described Cassinelli’s friendliness on Yelp. “Outgoing, no attitude, and — a biggie in this town — allows coffee and drinks in the store,” Arnie Lewis T. of Portland, Ore., wrote in 2010. “Seriously, after my experience up the street the other day with not being allowed to take a picture of myself in a hat that I wanted to purchase, Lou was a breath of fresh air.”
Bravo! for Men was established in 1994 by Louis J. Cassinelli. Its last season was 2019.
Left: Bravo sold conventional swimwear, underwear, and beachwear, but also carried more provocative items. Dunlap, 2010. Right: Cassinelli’s cheeky greeting during Family Week 2018. Dunlap.
Left: There was never any mistaking Bravo’s intended audience. Right: The shop was vacant in 2020 as the coronavirus played havoc with businesses in town. Photograph by Randall Sell.
“Try on what you want with no problems, he’s just happy to have you in the store,” David A. of Amarillo, Tex., wrote in 2012. “Interesting items to add a pop of fun to your club wear,” said Joseph H. of Fall River in 2013. Doug C. of New York added in 2015: “My favorite clothes store in Provincetown this year. Cute selection of shorts, T-shirts, swimsuits, and other other goodies. … The owner, Lou, is very friendly and helpful. A few of the cute T-shirts are actually his own designs.” Cassinelli retired at the end of the 2019 season, according to a Facebook post by Rich Mills on 3 September 2019.
Unit No. 2, on the north side of the building, housed the West End Gallery in 2008 and 2009, showing the work of the painter Robert Cardinal. Barbara Tucker Cardinal was the manager. This was the same wife-and-husband team behind the Kiley Court Gallery, 443-445 Commercial Street. Robert Cardinal moved from Montréal to New York City in the 1950s, studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, then discovered Provincetown in the 1960s and formed an alliance with the artist Frank Milby. Many of Cardinal’s landscapes are instantly recognizable: great swaths of sunset-tinged sky under which are gathered minuscule, abstracted barns, lighthouses, and boats.
The West End Gallery did business here in 2008 and 2009.
Joe Coffee & Café followed. The ad is from 2012. The current website is joecoffeeptown.com.
Joe Coffee & Café settled into Unit No. 2 in 2010, after a 12-year run at 148A Commercial Street, where it was known as Joe Coffee and Espresso or Joe Espresso Bar. Scott J. Lattime founded the business (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.'” For a time, Joe also had a shop at 353A Commercial Street.
Gregg Russo, a partner in No Ordinary Joe, was also the owner of 170 Commercial, so it must have seemed an obvious destination for the burgeoning business. The 1,292-square-foot former gallery was turned into serving and seating areas by Peter McDonald Architect of North Eastham. McDonald also added a neo-Classical-style portico to the front facade, supported by twin Doric columns. The pediment lost its dentiling in the process.
In February 2010, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a permit allowing 40 seats outside and 10 inside during summer months, and 20 seats inside during the winter. Joe opened at the end of May.
Windows on Winthrop Street were replaced in 2010 with a second entrance, seen in 2012. Both by Dunlap.
Under Scott J. Lattime, Joe Coffee & Café immediately drew crowds. Dunlap, 2010.
Mark Shaw, Peter McBrien, and Glenn Siegmund acquired the business in 2018, and shortened its name. Dunlap, 2019.
Thomas G. Tannariello bought Units No. 1 and 2 in 2017 for $1.6 million and also purchased Joe from Lattime. He was just steps ahead of a trio that called itself M.P.G. — Mark Shaw of Canton, Conn.; Peter McBrien of Torrington, Conn.; and Glenn Siegmund of Webster, Mass. They were longtime friends who vacationed together in Provincetown.
“We’ve been enjoying Joe Coffee for years,” Siegmund told Ptownie in February 2019, “not only for the excellent coffee but as a place to spend time with friends, to people-watch, to soak up the sun. … And we really did dream about owning it. We spent hours talking about what we’d keep the same, how we’d add in our personal brand. We finally approached the original owner, Scott, in 2017, asking if he would ever sell. To our chagrin, he said he’d just sold it two weeks before.”
After discussions in the summer of 2018, Tannariello agreed to sell Joe to the M.P.G. group. Siegmund retired that year and moved to Provincetown full time to serve as the general manager. They incorporated in 2019 as Ptown Coffee Shop and changed the name of the business to Joe Coffee. Actually, they changed it to “joe coffee,” but 42 years of laboring under New York Times style rules has left me incapable of such orthographic apostasy.
Joe Coffee’s first two seasons, from Instagram
Left: The owners, after surviving Carnival Week. Peter McBrien is in front; Glenn Siegmund in back, left; Mark Shaw, at right. Posted 24 August 2019. Right: “Joe Coffee welcomes the Knitters Club every afternoon. They are a wonderful group … who are not only our guests but have become our friends.” Posted 30 August 2019.
Left: “Ivan T. and Nikolay. Two of Joe Coffee’s best!” Posted 15 September 2019. Right: “Not sure what to drink today? Let our chart help you decide! The world had Van Gogh, we at Joe Coffee have our own Dan Gogh (or as we refer to him, Dan-joe), artist extraordinaire! Dan is sprucing up our space for our 2020 season.” Posted 21 November 2019.
Left: Like other businesses, Joe Coffee was restricted to pickup service because of the coronavirus pandemic. Desi did not seem fazed by the barriers, however. Posted 12 June 2020. Right: “Happy Carnival 2020! From James & Thor.” Posted 20 August 2020.
Left: “Wake up Ptown! What a gorgeous August early morning, looking out onto our Joe Coffee patio while our special carrot cake has just been baked, frosted and is being sliced for the day!” Posted 27 August 2020. Right: “Joe Coffee Ptown bakes all of our pastries in-house in our back bakery kitchen! … Maria Sideris … joined us last season as our in-house baker. … Baking is Marie’s passion as evidenced by … her amazing scones, carrot cake, croissants, cookies, and our new overnight oats and egg biscuit sandwiches.” Posted 29 August 2020.
Their first season was phenomenal, by their own estimate. Joe served more than 1,000 people every day during Carnival Week. Maria Sideris joined the crew as in-house baker of all baked goods sold at the shop. Instead of closing at the end of October, as planned, they extended their season into mid-December.
And 2020 seemed to be off to a blazing start, with the arrival of a new downstairs neighbor, Curaleaf. Joe Coffee provided the coffee for the opening day ceremony on 6 February. Project Open Paw of San Francisco commented on Joe’s Instagram account: “You should collaborate. You’ll definitely sell more pastries.”
Then, the world came to a crashing halt. On 23 March, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts ordered all businesses not providing Covid-19 essential services to close their physical workplaces and facilities to employees, customers, and the public — by noon the next day.
It wasn’t until mid-April that Joe Coffee could open, and then in something of a straitjacket. There would certainly be no more crowds around the patio tables or lined up at the coffee bar. Customers were required to order and pay through an app. Sash windows at the old bank building served as a pickup point, with benches strategically placed to enforce social distancing. The partners called the new system “Grab ‘n’ Joe.”
“Our loyal customers have been very welcoming, grateful we are open, and patient with the new format,” the Joe team posted on 22 April. “For this we are very appreciative.
“The hardest part: not seeing the coffee shop filled inside with all of you, not being able to greet and hug with open arms after a long winter, not being able to hug your fur babies, not seeing the patio filled with tables and chairs and happy faces. But we will get though this as a community, and hopefully soon the patio and shop inside will be filled with people again.”
Curaleaf faced similar hurdles, though it is a business on a far greater scale than Joe. Based in Wakefield and financed by the Russian billionaires Boris Jordan and Andrei Blokh, Curaleaf is a national cannabis giant. At this writing, it has 93 medical and retail dispensaries and 22 growing sites around the country.
The Curaleaf shop is in the basement, reached by a long ramp from the street. Photo, 2019, by K. C. Myers/The Provincetown Independent. (Accompanying “From Russia With Cash,” 14 November 2019.)
Under the name of Focused Investment Partners L.L.C., Curaleaf purchased the basement unit, No. 3, for $997,000 in February 2019. The unit was sold in turn six months later for $1.139 million to Freehold Properties of Las Vegas, Curaleaf’s real estate partner at six locations, then leased back to Curaleaf.
On 19 December 2019, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission approved the final licensing of an adult-use retail marijuana dispensary at 170 Commercial, to be operated by Curaleaf Massachusetts, headed by Patrik Jonsson.
The shop opened 6 February 2020, with the announcement of a $5,000 donation by Curaleaf to the Soup Kitchen in Provincetown. Jonsson attended the ceremony, as did the town manager, Robin Craver, and the assistant town manager, David Gardner.
Forty-five days later, Governor Baker shut them down.
Liquor stores were classified as essential, under the governor’s order, as were medical marijuana treatments centers (M.T.C.s). Pot shops were not deemed essential. To the contrary, the state argued, they might increase Massachusetts residents’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus by drawing out-of-state marijuana buyers into Massachusetts.
Because of this discrepancy, the adult-use cannabis industry believed it had a strong case in challenging the closure, asserting that it violated equal protection guarantees under both the U.S. and Massachusetts constitutions. Commonwealth Cannabis Company (CommCan) and others — but not Curaleaf — went to court to seek an injunction.
They did not persuade Justice Kenneth W. Salinger of Superior Court. On 16 April, he denied their motion. “It was reasonable for the governor to be concerned that the relatively few adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts are more likely than liquor stores or M.T.C.s to attract high volumes of customers, including people traveling from other states,” he wrote. “The governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional.”
Curaleaf reopened for curbside pickup on 25 May and had what Alex Darus in the Banner called a “rocky” day, with crowds outside and backlogged orders inside. “There’s no script for this, we’re learning on the fly,” Jonsson told Darus. “We did the best we could and I think we did O.K.” The shop handled 200 orders that day. Things went far more smoothly the next day, Jonsson said.
Anna Meade, the principal of the Meade Cannabis Group, a consultancy based in Provincetown, told Darus that Curaleaf was not alone, that other dispensaries around the nation were also being overwhelmed as they reopened.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” Meade said.
Given what America had been through in the first five months of 2020, that probably was an understatement.
By Dunlap, 2010.
¶ Last updated on 24 December 2020.
170 Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Also at 170 Commercial Street:
Thumbnail image: Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.
• Horace F. Hallett (1893-1959)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 59129545, Hyannis.
• Mary Josephine (Crosby) Hallett (1899-1998)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 59129789, Hyannis.
• William T. Mayo (1904-1975)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 120296467.
• Daniel C. Merrill (1891-1974)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 138338245.
¹ Comments on David W. Dunlap’s post about 170 Commercial Street in My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection on Facebook. Date of original post: 7 October 2020.
² “Kelly’s Corner,” by Jan Kelly, Provincetown Magazine, 4 June 1998.