Of all the positives to living on Nantucket, we at ACK Smart have found one, true drawback:
If you live here for any prolonged period of time, you’re subjected to the incurable disease that is Nantucket Food Snobbery, which by definition means the food here is so truly, unequivocally good that anywhere else you may live or visit for the rest of your life simply pales in comparison.
There is perhaps no greater lunchtime proponent of the Food Snobbery affliction than that of Mr. Matt Fee. A familiar figure around town due to his position on the Nantucket Town Select Board, he is most popularly known as the proprietor of Something Natural.
Often hailed as the greatest sandwich and bakery on island, Something Natural has had Matt Fee at the helm since he took it over in 1983. He comes from a lineage of sandwich royalty, his father Henry opening a shop of his namesake in 1969 that was a Broad Street staple for decades.
Although hidden amongst the grand and glittering, multi-million dollar houses in the Cliff Road area, Something Natural can be easily found - follow the aroma of freshly baked Portuguese and the car loads of hungry visitors fighting over spots in the parking lot. Yes, catering to the masses in the peak season of Nantucket tourism can be a lot of energy - and not just for Matt and his employees.
Sourcing not just their own establishment, but all of the island shops and restaurants that carry their products doesn't exactly come cheap in the energy department. And what’s more natural than solar, right?
“I looked into [solar] about four or five years ago, and we got approved to put it on Something Natural,” Fee said. “The motivation is partly that it makes sense monetarily, but the other motivation is I wanted to prove that we could do it and it could look good if it was done properly in the historic district, in parts of Nantucket that you don’t think they’re appropriate. You know, we put them in up here and the only thing we’ve had is compliments.”
That glitz and glamour description? Maybe you wouldn’t think that solar panels could hold their own amongst a neighborhood of houses owned by the likes of Tommy Hilfiger (at least formerly..), but Fee begs to differ.
“I think because [ACK Smart] designed it so that it filled up the roof plain and it's unobtrusive, the HDC was supportive when we brought it,” he said. “I refused to do a ground array on Cliff Road. I thought, I’m not going to take the Cliff Road yard next to the park and put an array in it, it’s going to look industrial. Put it on the roof and no one even knows it’s here and that’s what happened.”
So after approval from the powers that be, the last step was buying into the investment - literally. As a small business owner, every expense is a delicate decision, but for Fee it was undoubtedly the right one.
“It’s a little bit painful when you do the initial payment. You get some help from the government and the town, but that’s a little daunting. But you very quickly forget that when you aren’t getting any electric bills or when you’re getting checks from National Grid. It’s kind of nice to get a check from National Grid as opposed to sending them money every month,” Fee said.
After making the initial solar switch at Something Natural, Fee went on to do an installation at his own property on Fairgrounds Road and is currently considering an addition on another property of his on Orange Street.
“We’d only do it if it looks right and if it fits in, which I think it will,” he said.
So just how much energy does it take to bake the best bread on Nantucket? More than you’d think. But after a full roof array and two meter installation, it’s certainly making something of a difference.
“The [solar array] at Something Natural, in the peak summer, it covered probably half to three quarters of our summer electricity. The one on our cottage on Fairgrounds 100% covered it,” he said. “It’s just nice in the summer not to get an electric bill.”
As a lifelong Nantucketer, entrepreneur, and town government participant, giving back to the island community is what Matt Fee does. His contributions combined with his solar installations continue to ensure that Nantucket remains the same island we hold dear. For Matt Fee, it’s a place well-worth the investment.
"It’s the history, it’s the community, and the fact that you can do three or four things in a day. That’s why I’m here still.”
For the rest of us, it certainly is about the history and the activity, but it also is about a curry chicken salad sandwich on six grain. And knowing the sun helped make it for you? That’s something natural and something spectacular.