338-340 Commercial Street

Karoo Kafe | M. G. Leather of Provincetown | Wampum Etc.

Full disclosure: the entry discussing Sanette Groenewald’s Karoo Kafe will be inherently biased, because it’s consistently been among our favorite restaurants here since it opened in 2002. (That’s not the editorial “us”; that’s me and my husband Scott.) How often in any American town can you get casual South African food prepared by a chef who had her own restaurant in Cape Town for two years? And get it at reasonable prices, in an inviting and imaginative little dining room, with friendly, pleasant service?

Of course, the story of No. 338 begins long before Groenewald arrived. The small front-yard store, now occupied by Judy Ann Slattery’s jewelry store, Wampum Etc., for many years housed the business of Justin Soares Jason (±1865-1947), whom The Advocate described as the “oldest and most picturesque of Provincetown’s cobblers.” Harry Kemp composed a lovely memorial poem, The Old Shoemaker, after Jason died. In part, it read:

The old shoemaker is gone.
The shoes he made were good shoes made entire
By hand and awl and thread plied, diligent.
His canaries that sang and bred in cages hung
About the room, are sold.
His shop is dismantled.
The old stove like a grieved thing stands cold.
In that quaint, one-roomed shop
Men sat talking sparely; he would put in
A word of wisdom now and then, sure, practiced
As his stitching, his quick hammer.
His was a voyaging mind, a pilot’s thought
And quenchless fire of an undaunted heart.
The old shoemaker is gone!

Groenewald (b ±1967), a South African native, worked for three summers at the Dancing Lobster before opening Karoo Kafe, named for a region of the Western Cape, in 2002. Her partner in the project is Patricia Medina. Karoo’s startup season was followed in a series by Jack Perry of The Cape Cod Times (26 May, 23 June, 11 August, 15 September, with a follow-up visit on 7 September 2004), allowing outsiders an unusually glimpse into the perils and hardships of starting a new business, especially one that has to make almost all of its annual revenue in only three months of the year.

The other business at No. 338 is M. G. Leather of Provincetown, which takes its initials from the proprietor, Myra Gold. The business, established in 1992, specializes in gear, equipment and accessories for BDSM: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.





6 thoughts on “338-340 Commercial Street

  1. From 1985 to 1989, my partner Michael Levine and I operated our leather shop, Sunburst Leather, in the front shop where M. G. Leather is located. Michael bought my half of the business in November 1989, and moved next door to 340 Commercial Street. I remained and opened my gallery of American craft there in 1990, called Elements, which remained until 2002, when M. G. Leather took over the space.

    I left in 1998, and my former wife ran the shop until she decided to move back to New Jersey in 2002.

  2. In the early 70’s my boyfriend, a painter – Richard Maynard and I lived in the back house. This was actually a collection of three houses owed by Ralph Mann and Gene who owned a jewelry store
    across the street. The photo of the cafe entrance was actually our living room, with kitchen beyond and two rooms upstairs. It was a charming old house with a space heater downstairs and no heat upstairs – the toilet often had a layer of ice in the mornings. We worked in the ‘fish factory’ now the site of the Coast Guard in the winters and restaurants – Rosie’s being one – in the summers with Howard and Edmond who later opened Front Street.

    The separate house in the rear was occupied by the ‘inside out’ people who wore their clothes inside out.

    The original Malboro Man lived in the front house which was more of a rooming house upstaris and retail below.

    I could and will fill in a lot of details in other parts of this site- we later lived upstairs from Phyllis and Izzy Sklar, frequented Piggys, I was the pool boy at the Crown and Anchor etc, etc – those were magical times. I still return to town every summer and would love to hear from old friends from the fish factory, The Old Reliable Fish House and occupants of Jan Kelly’s house on Bradford.

  3. I also lived in the back house that Walter Arsenault lived in and described. The address then was 338A Commercial Street. The year was 1969 through 1970. We moved in December of 1969. Ralph Mann was the landlord. I think he was from Miami and his poodles would be in his jewelry store along with his partner Gene. He was fair with the rental price and kept it the same price year round. The house did only have the big furnace in the living room which now is a dining room for the restaurant there. There was a grate in the floor in the first bedroom and we opened it during the winter in hopes of getting the upstairs warm. Ralph Mann told me the house had originally been floated to it’s location from Long Point. I also remember the toilet water having a thin sheet of ice on it in the morning. I lived there with my 2 year old son and my boyfriend. We had come from Sturbridge, Massachusetts. I conceived my second son in that house. And yes the house that attached the back house to the front was a rooming house. The building now is almost unrecognizable to me. Ah, the good old days.

  4. I also loved it.

    The upstairs curtains blew in during summer.
    The front door became blocked with snow in winter.
    One Christmas I bought cheap candles at Marine Specialties and put them (real) in all the windows.
    There was a wooden walk to the street and a fence between the house and the Pilgrim House.

    Piggy’s must have been in it’s heyday – how wonderful to have been in town then!

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