Island Variety was sold this week by longtime owner Allan Bell to Nantucket residents Scott and Erin Carson. But if the Carsons have their way, you won’t even know the business has changed hands.
“Our goal is to keep it the same,” Scott Carson said on Monday, shortly after the sale closed. “We don’t want people to come in and say it’s any different. It’s still Island Variety. Certainly our fingerprints will be on it over time. But the best compliment we could get is that people think it’s stayed the same.”
The locally-owned and operated year-round variety store full of cards, toys, gifts and other items, has been an island favorite almost since the day it opened back in January 2000.
Carson, who has served as the facilities manager for the Westmoor Club for the past eight years, said he was looking for a career change after the pandemic. Back in February, he noticed a story published in Nantucket Current about Island Variety being for sale, and reached out to Bell. And he wasn’t the only one.
Bell said there was strong interest in the business, with more than 25 inquiries and six formal offers that went through the sale process. In the end, the business transferred to the Carsons for $450,000, and the sale mustered approval from the property owner, Richmond Great Point. The price included all of the store’s inventory, fixtures and equipment.
“I feel good how the process went,” Bell said. “This is a great couple and I think they’ll continue the tradition, which is what we wanted to make sure of. Scott and Erin were the first two to make an offer, very early in the process.”
With his daughter Toni, who ran the business for years, and her husband Bill moving off-island, Bell announced in February that he was selling Island Variety. Bell said he asked buyers to meet the “flat price” of $450,000, and from there, he presented a slate of potential buyers to Richmond Great Point. The Carsons will have a five-year lease, with an option to renew for another five years, Bell said.
For Carson, the unique niche that the store fills for island residents is one aspect of the business that attracted him to the opportunity.
“It’s kind of an institution,” Carson said. “It’s by Nantucketers and for Nantucketers. Certainly summer residents take advantage of it as well, but it's something we believed in and is important for the island.”
At Island Variety Tuesday afternoon, Carson was at the register, making some of his first sales at the property. Like many other businesses, he noted, Island Variety will be looking for help soon. Hours will remain the same for now, and they may be able to expand them during the summer months.
While Bell still owns and operates Nantucket Pharmacy at 45 Main Street, he has been starting to wind down his other business ventures. In 2021, he transitioned Island Pharmacy on Pleasant Street by forging a partnership with Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which assumed the operation of the pharmacy and relocated it to Vesper Lane under the name Cottage Pharmacy. The Pleasant Street location now operates as ACKcetera, a natural health and convenience store.