Mark Mitchell has owned a home here in Provincetown with his husband Peter Johansson for over 20 years, but it was only a few years ago that he decided to open Perfect Picnic, a picnic catering and advising shop right near Provincetown Town Hall, on Commercial Street, with a second location on MacMillan Pier. Before all of that, Mitchell had an illustrious career in the competitive figure skating world. Among many achievements, he won the bronze medal for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1990, toured professionally with Champions on Ice, and ultimately retired to coach at the Skating Club of Boston. He took some time to answer our questions about figure skating, Provincetown, and picnics.
Provincetown Magazine: You had an amazing career in figure skating prior to opening Perfect Picnic. How did you first become involved in competitive figure skating?
Mark Mitchell: My sister started skating before me. There was a Halloween party at the rink and you had to wear skates and a costume. So, my parents painted my sister’s old skates black and brought me to the party!
PM: What is the world of elite figure skating like? Is the community of skaters friendly or is its focus always on competition?
MM: Elite figure skating is pretty intense every day. You are at the rink 4-5 hours a day, at least five days a week. That being said, I have many great friends from many years of competing and coaching. One of my former competitors comes to Ptown a few times a year to visit and stay with us. We have been friends since we were teenagers competing against each other. On another note, I met my husband Peter when we were competing against each other in Budapest. I was competing for the U.S. and he competed for Sweden. Back in 1988! LOL.
PM: How did figure skating change after the whole Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan debacle?
MM: I grew up with Nancy and Tonya. I actually lived with Nancy and her family when I moved to Boston to train. We all competed at the same competitions, went to training camps, and later, toured together. After the incident in 1994, figure skating was everywhere! There were made-for-TV competitions every week and lots of exhibitions and shows. It was perfect timing for me because that was when I turned professional. There were a ton of opportunities and I was fortunate to be part of it. I remember doing three different competitions within a three-day stretch. One night in Philadelphia, next night in Memphis, and then to Toronto. Exhausting, but fun!
PM: When was your first time in Provincetown and what do you love about it?
MM: My first time to Provincetown was Memorial Day weekend in 1994. I came with my now-husband, Peter Johansson. We stayed at the Boatslip, we had incredible weather, and had lots of fun! We were definitely very green to gay life, though. I remember we were told we could go to tea dance at no charge since we were staying at the Boatslip. Four o’clock p.m. came and no one was there. We were like, “this isn’t very fun.” An hour later we got it. LOL. After that weekend, tea dance became a staple in our life in Ptown.
PM: What is one tip you can give people about how to have the perfect picnic?
MM: Keep it simple! No need for chairs and elaborate lighting. Do it the old-fashioned way: sit on the ground or beach, have easy and delicious food, and do it with people you love!
Perfect Picnic is located at 258 Commercial St. and 292 Commercial St. (MacMillan Pier). For more information on their services call 781.248.9984 or visit perfectpicnicptown.com.