As our community grows, so grows the grocery store business up-Island. The new Up-Island Cronig’s Market opened for business last Friday with no fanfare. The new 7,500 square foot steel and wood structure, not far from the site of the original building, wel­comed its first customers.
Steve Bernier, 48, owner of the new market and the owner of State Road Cronig’s, said the prompt influx of cus­tomers actually caught him a little by surprise. “They seemed to know it was open before we told anyone,” he said. At precisely 11:06 a.m. on Friday, the store opened and shoppers rushed in.
The transition from the old to new store meant for three weeks customers did their shopping somewhere else.
Building a new Up-Island Cronig’s Market was a larger and more complex project than anything Mr. Bernier had done before. It is larger than when State Road Cronig’s was expanded from 10,500 to 15,000 square feet. The main store expansion was completed in May of 1993.
Emmett Carroll, a Vineyard con­tractor, along with Mr. Bernier de­signed the new store from bottom up. They took a few good ideas from the State Road project. That is why the new store looks awfully familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Vineyard Haven store.
The original Up-Island Market was built in 1964 by Joe and Mary Ferreira and was a good deal smaller than the new store. Mr. Bernier said the store started out as part business, part home. Between 1987 and 1990, the store went through several owners. He said the store was added on to at least three times before he bought it in 1990. When it came to serving growing customer demand, he said, it made a lot more sense to build a new store than to expand the old.
There are similarities between the State Road Cronig’s and the new Up‑Island Cronig’s Market. At first you’ll notice the familiar white steel reinforced ceiling with exposed heating ducts. What you won’t see is the full
basement and a second floor above dedicated to warehousing inventory. There is a three-floor elevator to help with the movement of goods.
Similarly, there are stairs at the front of the store to bring Mr. Bernier only a few steps away from the cash registers whenever he is called on for help.
Pine paneling on the walls inside are tongue and grove. And there is a chair rail to protect the walls from shopping cart collisions. Where possible, Mr. Bernier said, he has tried to use the kind of woodworking that is characteristic of the Vineyard. And if that woodwork­ing looks familiar it is because Mr. Bernier said he and Mr. Carroll hired local carpenters to do the work. Only steel workers with their special exper­tise for the construction of the steel part of the building were employed from off-Island.
Mr. Bernier said he was deliberate about making sure the builders were lo­cal. “I am a strong believer of the prin­cipal, ‘What goes around comes around.’ The carpenters who are work­ing here need to buy groceries. These are the people I need back here to help my business survive.”
While not disclosing the cost of build­ing the new market, Mr. Bernier said it is bigger than the State Road Cronig’s expansion and it took some major convincing to get a loan officer to agree to his business plan. He admitted that by building a completely new and bigger store up-Island he might draw customers from his main store in Vineyard Haven. Although that may happen, he said, the Vineyard community has grown enough that he expects to attract sufficient new customers to fill both stores.
Mr. Bernier said the new store was built just to accommodate the cus­tomers he expects now and not in the future. The cost of financing and his abil­ity to take a risk limited him to build­ing only for his current customer base and not for the future.
The new complex will reflect some of the charm people associate with up-Is­land stores. He said shoppers look at a visit to the grocery store as a social routine more than buying a bag of gro­ceries. An outdoor porch will offer plenty of room to allow shoppers to meet and converse. Island naturalist Carlos Montoya of Pitch Pine Nursery is landscaping the property.
Mr. Bernier said the new store is de­signed to accommodate both the huge tractor-trailer truck that will make daily trips to the back of the store as well as the not-so-gigantic deliveries by local farmers bringing in produce. The store includes a number of sections: meat, deli, produce and frozen food. Rather than offer an in-house bakery like many mainland grocery stores are now pro­viding, Mr. Bernier said it is better busi­ness to feature the baked goods of tal­ented Islanders.