What you call this drive-in speaks to how long you’ve known Provincetown. If you think of it as Mac’s Market — an arm of Mac and Alex Hay’s ever-growing seafood empire — welcome, newcomer. If you think of it as Townsend’s — the short-lived second act of Chris Townsend’s well-loved Fishermen’s Wharf shack — you’ve been around. If you think of it as Clem & Ursie’s — a wildly popular spot run by Clem and Deb Silva — you’re approaching veteran status. But if you think of it as Dairy Land — Matt Costa’s roadside joint so memorably portrayed by Joel Meyerowitz — you’re a native. Or a silver-haired washashore.
Actually, you might even remember one step further back: to the time when this parcel was operated by Costa as a miniature golf course, part of the Provincetown Golf Range, 73-89 Shank Painter Road. On the south end of the miniature course, Costa built the Dairy Land drive-in and Provincetown Seafood Market. (“Matthew James Costa, 77,” The Provincetown Banner, 12 September 2002.) “Often at Dairy Land, you would see him at lunchtime sitting with one of his many friends arguing over politics, telling stories from days gone by, or joking with children, while sipping on a thin coffee frappe,” The Banner said at the time of his death in 2002. Thanks to Meyerowitz, formerly of 593 Commercial Street, a hauntingly evocative photograph of Dairy Land survives to recall long-ago summer nights. (“Joel Meyerowitz à la Maison Européenne de la Photographie,” High Five Magazine, 20 March 2013.)
Costa sold the Dairy Land property in 1998 to Clement A. “Clem” Silva and his sister, Debra J. “Deb” Silva, pictured at left, then living in North Truro. They were the children of Clement S. Silva and Ursula “Ursie” (Quade) Silva of 557 Commercial Street. The parents were the namesakes of the Silvas’ new seafood restaurant and market, which was also known as Clem & Ursie’s Food Ghetto. For a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was one of the most popular dining spots in town, to judge from the crowds waiting to place their orders at the counter. It also seemed, at least to this observer, to be patronized by a lively mix of residents, summer people and short-term visitors. The retail market was where Connie’s Bakery (later of 43 Race Point Road, now at 205-209 Commercial Street) got its start. In 2004, Cape Sushi operated here.
Among the interesting artistic and architectural features of Clem & Ursie’s — when I could get my mind off the hot squid rings — was the 17-foot-long mahogany bar that had at one time been installed at Cookie’s Tap, 133 Commercial Street. Cookie’s was run by Wilbur Cook, whose daughter, Sandy, was married to Deb and Clem’s brother, Gary Silva (1956-2002). When Lorraine Najar was renovating Cookie’s to serve as her restaurant, she removed the bar and, rather than discarding it, gave it to the Silvas for Clem & Ursie’s. (Sue Harrison, “Top This,” The Provincetown Banner, 15 April 2004.)
In 2004, the Silvas attempted to open a floating branch of the restaurant aboard the 260-foot barge Provincia, moored at Fishermen’s Wharf, 9 Ryder Street Extension. That effort eventually ran afoul of jurisdictional complications, since it was unclear exactly what agency was in charge of regulating the vessel. Four years later, as the Silvas sought to convert the market area of the building into a restaurant, with 46 added seats, they requested — and were granted — a doubling of their existing sewage disposal allocation. Town officials believed the deal would help guarantee that Clem & Ursie’s would stay open year-round. However, by October 2008, the place was for sale, leaving some members of the Board of Selectmen fuming. (Pru Sowers, “Selectmen Aim to Regain ‘Economic Development’ Sewer Gallons,” The Provincetown Banner, 6 November 2008.)
Enter Chris Townsend, pictured at right. At my request in 2010, he provided a short synopsis of his family’s history in the fishery: “I should begin with my grandparents, Jack and Kay Townsend. They came to Provincetown to fish for the almighty striped bass. My grandfather built one of the first R.V.s to ever go on the out beach, out of an old bread-delivery truck. He fished here for over 40 years and raised my dad, David Townsend, here fishing as well. When I turned 13, my dad said it was time for me to go fishing and that’s what I have done ever since the summer of 1983. In 1992, I founded Townsend Lobster Company, a commercial lobster-fishing operation with a wholesale distribution network. In 2002, I opened my restaurant out on Fishermen’s Wharf, and was there for seven years. Unfortunately, the Cabral family refused to continue my lease and I soon found myself sort of homeless. Negotiations began between myself and the Silvas, and after a long and exhausting experience, I ended up taking ownership of this property in late June 2010.”
Townsend’s partner in the venture was Alex Hay of Mac’s Seafood in Wellfleet. (The “Mac” in Mac’s Seafood is his brother. Both are interviewed in this video on YouTube.) The Townsend Lobster and Seafood Restaurant and Bar was open only a couple of seasons. The Hays took over the space in 2013. They opened Mac’s Market Provincetown in June, saying that they planned to add a restaurant in the fall. Their other operations are Mac’s on the Pier and Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet, and Mac’s Markets in Wellfleet, Eastham and Truro. “Some of you have asked: are we crazy for opening another Mac’s?” Mac wrote on his Off the Hook blog of 2 July 2013. “Maybe so. But here’s the thing: it seems crazy not to sell our fish in the same town where some of our favorite fishermen live.” • Map • Assessor’s Online Database PDF ¶ Posted 2013-09-13