Healthy Additions, the Vine­yard’s newest health product store, plans to open in June. Located in Vineyard Haven next to Cronig’s, the two-story retail outlet will be so­lar-energized and fully accessible to disabled customers, with a sliding-glass front door, a large handicap-accessible elevator and disabled-friendly bathrooms.
Healthy Additions will carry no food or produce. Steve Bernier, owner of both Vineyard Haven and up-Island Cronies supermarkets, says, “There’s a lot of misconcep­tion. Everybody thinks we’re do­ing a natural food store.” He says the store will offer vitamins, sup­plements, herbal products, body care products, educational material in both print and tape, alternative greeting cards, baby care products, organic cotton clothing, kitchen­ware, candles and pet products. There will be a sports nutrition de­partment and a significant array of protein and nutrition bars.
Mr. Bernier says a series of ran­dom events led to this spinoff from Cronig’s natural food and supple­ment lines.
First of all, Mark Ripa returned to the Island in 2002. Mr. Ripa has been in the natural organic food supplement business for over 30 years. He owned and managed Vineyard Natural Foods on Beach Road from 1982 to 1990. “I hadn’t been back since I left and got the idea that this still feels like home to me and I’d love to come back,” says Mr. Ripa. “I walked in here [Cronig’s] and saw the natural products and thought there might be an opportunity. And that evolved into my working here and taking care of the natural products.”
A number of months after Mr. Ripa began working for Cronig’s, The Islander internet business closed its doors and vacated the building next to Cronig’s, which is also owned by Mr. Bernier. “I’d started hearing from customers about products they wanted and they couldn’t get, which we didn’t have space for,” Mr. Ripa says. “And, there are certain companies who will only sell to retailers that are going to market just natural products; they don’t want to be in stores with the conventional su­permarket mix. I knew Steve [Bernier] had a couple of other ideas about what to do with the building, and I brought up the idea of a natural products store.”
Healthy Addi­tions also plans to provide a com­puter-driven kiosk for cus­tomers. If you walk in the store with a particular health problem, you can punch in the name of the ailment, and it will list the names of herbs and supplements suggested to help you with your problem. It will also define the specific areas where the supplement or herb is effective.
There are 250,000 universal prod­ucts available on the health market
which Mr. Bernier and Mr. Ripa are sorting through to arrive at the 10,000 items the store will ulti­mately carry. “We’ll probably start out with around 4,000 to 5,000 items as our core basic inventory,” says Mr. Bernier. The rest of the products will result from customer feedback once the store is open. “Then we’ll go find the product and carry it on the shelf. We want to carry that prod­uct that’s right for our customers.”
Mr. Bernier says the vitamins and supplements presently carried by Cronig’s con­tinue to be avail­able.
Mr. Bernier is married to Constance Messmer, a psychic and practitioner of Reiki and Boren, alternative-therapy techniques. Despite her well‑aligned interests, “Constance is not involved with the project,” says Mr. Bernier. “She helped me with the porch, and suddenly we ended up with 13 solar panels, and we’re working with Kate Warner doing a commercial initiative to help the Island learn about solar, its cost, so­lar gains and so on. So that build­ing is going to be a green project, so to speak.” (The newly-reno­vated Healthy Additions building will be solar dedicated on April 30.)
In the fall of last year, the Berniers traveled to Moscow where they adopted two Russian children, Olya and Serogia. The children lived north of Moscow in­side the Arctic Circle. “The children didn’t speak any English,” Mr. Bernier remembers. “All of a sud­den, Constance and I walk out of the courtroom in Russia and we’re headed home with two children, and we don’t speak the same lan­guage. They’re five and seven years old, and they have instant needs. On October 22 we landed on U.S. soil and started our journey.”
Mr. Bernier says he is blessed these days. It would seem that healthy additions come in all shapes and sizes.