Faces Of Nantucket: The 'Sconset Woodman, George "Skip" Vollans

Waverly Brannigan •

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George "Skip" Vollans. Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Faces of Nantucket: George "Skip" Vollans

Years on the island: 57, (56 consecutively)

Favorite things about Nantucket: The salt water, the nature, open space, and 25 and 27 New Street.

The phrase “jack of all trades” gets thrown around loosely these days, but if anybody on Nantucket embodies the term it’s George Vollans, known to all as “Skip.”

Vollans’ lengthy resume includes stints as a high school chemistry teacher, an electrician, a volunteer firefighter, a caretaker, and a restaurateur. But he might be best known for his longtime business's iconic name and logo: the ‘Sconset Woodman.

Vollans came to Nantucket for the first time in 1964 shortly after his high school graduation, leaving his hometown of Stafford Springs, Connecticut. He immediately took up a teaching job at Nantucket High School and also worked as an assistant football coach alongside the late, great Vito Capizzo. In his time as a teacher, Skip quickly got a feel for the island’s tight-knit community and he felt at home.

“I came from a small town, I was comfortable with a small town,” he said. “Being in a school system, you tend to get to know a lot of people.”

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A year after he began teaching, Vollans had the opportunity to attend graduate school at Wesleyan University, where he got a master’s degree in chemistry and remained to work until 1968. But it wasn’t long before he was back on the boat to Nantucket, drawn by its community and the island’s expansive outdoors where he liked to fish, swim, and hunt.

Vollans returned to the high school, this time teaching math, and soon started the ‘Sconset Woodman in his spare time in 1968, selling logs and kindling from his home on New Street.

“I was young and I had the connections. So I started that just [for] something to do,” he recalled.

Vollans only brings native wood to the island, including red and white oak, maple, and white, gray, and black birch, all of which he sources from a nursery in Petersham, Mass. The wood arrives in four-foot splits, which he then unloads, stacks in the center, and cuts to length using a mini-tractor with an attached circular saw. Once the wood is cut to size, it’s ready for purchase by Vollans’ longtime customers, including some who have been coming to him for decades.

Vollans affectionately refers to the ‘Sconset Woodman as his “hobby” which has now persisted for more than 50 years.

By 1970, Vollans was ready for his next endeavor, shifting gears to spend his time working at Marine Lumber, scalloping in his free time, and maintaining the ‘Sconset Woodman even as he stumbled upon a new opportunity. Vollans recounted a day he was working behind the counter at Marine Lumber when an older man approached him and they struck up a conversation.

“And he said to me…show me a young man who wants to work and I can guarantee them a trade and business…I said you're looking at him. And that’s how I became an electrician.”

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After learning the trade for three years, Skip began his own electrical contracting business in 1974, which he called ‘Sconset Woodman Electric. His son, and later his grandson, would eventually join him working for the company. Today it is called Vollans Electric and is operated by his son Johnathan.

During this time, Vollans kept the ‘Sconset Woodman going and experimented with the restaurant scene, opening a restaurant on Federal Street originally called “Health Food: Carrots and Candlelight,” which quickly transitioned to “Pizza” in 1978. The establishment sold only pizza, beer, ice cream, and salads. It was a simple formula, but the restaurant lasted only a year.

“When you live out here, you do everything possible,” Vollans said.

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After officially retiring from electrical contracting in 1997, Vollans put all his time and energy into the ‘Sconset Woodman, further deepening his connections within the island community. Over the decades living and working in ‘Sconset, Vollans said he always felt accepted by his neighbors and that the village still holds a special place in his heart.

“So I guess my favorite place in ‘Sconset is 25 and 27 New Street,” he said. “Which is right here.”

Amid his seemingly endless business ventures, Vollans became ingrained in the Nantucket community. He bought a home, raised his family, and still lives and works on New Street, the home of the ‘Sconset Woodman.

Now 80, Vollans said he has always cherished connecting with Nantucket’s natural beauty, from exploring the moors to fishing from the beach. And while he reminisces about the Nantucket of the past, he can't imagine ever leaving the island he’s called home for most of his life.

All photos by Charity Grace Mofsen

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Vollans holding a photo of his nephew, Sandy Kohner, who gave him the picture when he was in the first grade. Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
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