David and Robert Cronig
Photo courtesy of Chris Bear

Cronig Brothers Market, Vineyard Haven, entering upon its thrity-ninth year, now becomes Cronig Brothers, Inc., with the active management passing officially into the hands of the second generation, namely two of the sons of the senior partner, S. David and Robert Cronig, who have worked with and for their father, Samuel, for years.

The change in title and management, revolutionary as it may appear on paper, will not be noticed by the patronage of the market. Robbie, as everyone knows him, has managed the meat department for years. David has been the purchasing agent and manager of the grocery division, also for years, and thus the change takes place without a ripple of disturbance.

Both Sam and his brother and partner, Edward, will be associated with the store as always, and will act in advisory capacity at all times. They will not work steadily nor for the long hours heretofore required, for having set up and developed the business, they will allow the “boys” to take over the exacting responsibilities and permit their elders to enjoy the rest which they have earned.

The story of the origin of this Island business is an interesting one and reflects credit upon the ambition and honor of the foreign-born founders. There were four. All born in Lithuania.


Sam Came First


Sam, the oldest, came to the Vineyard first, and worked as a farm-hand in Eastville. Eventually he became a grocer’s clerk, and was employed by the almost forgotten firm of Bodfish and Call, located on the present site of Morrice’s florist shop. When the Vineyard Haven grocers merged to establish the Smith, Bodfish, Swift Company, Sam went along under the new management, working in various of their stores for a matter of ten years.

Thirty-nine years ago, lacking a few months, Sam and his brothers, Edward and Theodore, opened their market in the same building it now occupies, but in the narrow store now occupied by Vineyard Utilities Inc. Some time later they were joined by a younger brother, Henry, and for years the four handled all departments, including the operation of their own abattoir, which department was in keeping with the practice of the older Vineyard firm of Look, under its various managements.

Hard work, first of all, due attention to the individual likes and dislikes of the customer, and still more important, the building up of good will, caused the business to prosper. Sam, the senior partner, the longest in the grocery and market business, was the recognized leader, and it was to Sam that people came with whatever comment they had to make favorable or otherwise, anticipating, as they soon did, that if anything was wrong, Sam would make it right, and such has been his reputation, the others sharing it in their respective degrees. He is the mediator, as it were, and men have been heard to say” “If Sam Cronig says it so, that’s all there is to it!”


Nearly Thirty Years Ago


Henry left the partnership nearly thirty years ago to become outstanding as an Island realtor. Theodore also withdrew from the partnership, about fifteen years ago, and operates a market of his own in New Bedford. But Sam and Eddie carried on, and with them worked Sam’s two sons, David and Robert. Robert has been in the store for twenty-two years, but David was first employed by the Texas Company, joining his father, uncle and brother in 1946.

Through the years that it has operated, Cronig Brothers Market has changed greatly and often. The partners purchased the building in 1924, and moved into the larger store on the corner. This has been expanded several times, modernized and equipped to convenience the customer and help as well. With Main street gradually becoming more and more congested, the Cronigs also developed and provided their own parking area.

Always they have clung to the old fashioned institution, the delivery truck, which evolved from the horse and express-wagon of other times. Independent grocers and market-men are nopt as numerous through the country as once upon a time. Chain stores have crowded many of them to the wall. But in Vineyard Haven there are two independent groceries, and it is significant that the younger Cronig brothers are taking over the management of their family store in confidence of a productive future.

This is not merely an example of Island boys making good at home, but it is concrete evidence that there still remains some of the old-fashioned sentiment in business whereby buyer and seller are neighbors and friends and remembers this relationship at all times. Accepting this, the Cronig boys are not indulging in vain hopes; the future reflects a rosy glow indeed.