Cronig’s withdraws from Our Island Club

But supermarket group is planning a discount program of its own, owner says.

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Cronig's Markets will have a 20 percent discount for qualified shoppers without the need to buy an Our Island Club card. - Stacey Rupolo

Update 9/18

As of Dec. 31, the Our Island Club discount card will no longer be accepted at Cronig’s markets or Healthy Additions, but that doesn’t mean the 20 percent discount offered on groceries is going away.

In a conversation with The Times Monday, Steve Bernier, the owner of Cronig’s three stores, said he plans to offer a discount without charging a fee. For the month of February, he plans to increase the discount to 30 percent to help the Island’s workers, he said.

Mr. Bernier said he faced a barrage of questions from customers over the weekend after Our Island Club sent an email newsletter to cardholders announcing that Cronig’s was discontinuing its participation in the discount card.

“We have been informed by Steve Bernier that Cronig’s Markets and Healthy Additions will be withdrawing as a member business of Our Island Club, effective Jan. 1, 2018,” the newsletter states. “As one of our charter member businesses, we are disappointed by Mr. Bernier’s decision.”

Mr. Bernier said he decided to go out on his own because he saw the discount card straying from its mission to help the Island’s workers. People with second homes on Martha’s Vineyard, wealthy patrons with trust funds, have been receiving discount cards, he said.

“People who don’t need it, have it,” Mr. Bernier said. “That comes out of my hide.”

Meanwhile, some Island workers who can’t vote in elections were turned away by the discount card, he said.

Kennia Moraes, a manager at the up-Island Cronig’s, said she had one woman, a nurse who works on the Island, who paid full price at the store. “I feel bad for customers like her who don’t have the card,” she said.

Mr. Bernier, who had several of his managers meet with The Times, said those are the type of people who should have the discount.

Our Island Club was established 12 years ago to provide discounts to year-round Island residents and individuals employed on the Island more than six months out of the year. Annual memberships range in price from $39 for senior citizens to $99 for a family membership. Some of the membership fee goes to Island charities, with $675,000 donated to date, according to the newsletter.

In return, members save on average $1,000 per year at gas stations, restaurants, markets, and retail outlets, according to the club’s website.

“Our Island Club is more than any one member or business, it is the synthesis of community, charity, commerce, and consumer savings,” the newsletter states. “Our pledge to you is that we will continue building Our Island Club, making it even stronger in the future. We are committed to help make Martha’s Vineyard affordable for those who work here, and for qualified retirees and residents.”

There will be no card, no photo IDs for the Cronig’s discount program, but customers who receive the discount will have an account number and a PIN, he said. They can’t own more than one home and they can’t have a trust fund, Mr. Bernier said.

Anyone who gets the discount and is found to have a second home or a trust fund will be shut off from the discount, he said.

There are exceptions to the rules and Mr. Bernier said he is willing to talk to individuals about their circumstances. For example, one long-time Vineyarder has a cabin in the woods of Vermont, he said. That’s not the same as someone who owns a condo in Vail that he rents out 45 weeks a year for big money, he said.

Asked how customers would be vetted, Mr. Bernier said they’ll police themselves. “It’s a small Island, everyone knows everyone,” he said. “The vetting will come from a beautiful place of us working with, relating to, and talking with each other.”

Mr. Bernier said he knows his decision will rub some customers the wrong way. “I’ve already been threatened by rich people that they’re going to shop elsewhere,” he said. “So I should have to buy their business and have you shop here?”

Editor’s note: Story was updated to include comments from Mr. Bernier about his discount program.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. This is to bad. My Island Club membership makes Cronigs somewhat comparable to Stop&Shop. I’ll shop island owned if it’s a 5 or 6% difference, but not If it’s 20-25%.Guess I’ll be heading back to S&S

  2. This could be the end of our island club– That discount at Cronigs is the only reason I have one of these. Wonder what kind of discount we can get at the marijuana dispensary ?

    • I basically only use mine at Cronigs and Jims for gas. I’ll use it at other places when I remember to ask, but if don’t remember, I’m hosed because the businesses never mention they take it

  3. Island club card should be for everyone or no one. Silly to discriminate for non residents who pay property taxes and don’t have kids in school and who don’t use many town services.. Cronigs prices are excessive but why should he provide for a discriminatory charity.

    • Andrew– I agree with you– I live in V.H. we have a 2 tier tax system. I pay less per thousand dollar evaluation than my off island neighbor who uses no social services. Taxation without representation.
      But, when it comes to private companies and organizations, I think they can do what they want, as long as they are not discriminating on religious, ethnic –etc grounds..
      I know when I am in the open produce markets in Jamaica, I pay much more than the locals..
      I’m Ok with that

  4. If you keep building solar panels and electric car outlets that are not cost effective your earnings statement and balance sheet suffers hence get the 20 percent withdrawn.

  5. Hey Mr. Bernier, instead of going through the rig-a-ma-roll of coming up with your own discount program and some kind of vetting process, how about just lowering your prices?

    • He raised his prices every time he raised the Island Club supposed discount. With the discount, prices come down to almost competitive/normal and what he’d be charging without any discount, but often still more than other markets. Now, as Cronig’s throws a local business (Our Island Club) under the bus by failing to work with them for a better system preventing card misuse, the store is basically admitting it is ripping off unsuspecting guests to our island, because… they may be “wealthy”. Mr.Bernier is so wealthy from his 3 stores that he is able to donate in the highest donor categories to our arts organizations, ($10,000+, as printed in TheVineyard Playhouse program, for example). Dem’s a lot of $5 avocados taken out of the hide of unsuspecting shoppers who may not know they can pay much less everywhere else on the island. Gouging people may be legal, but it is unethical. Oh, who paid for the solar arrays that mostly go unused? Gouged shoppers, that’s who.

  6. I am not a Cronig’s fan, but I admire Mr. Bernier’s management skills and ability to think outside the Island Box. No one is entitled to have a discount at a Bernier Managed Business, he can and should do what he feels is in his best interests. The fact that his innovative management practices include priority on: community, environment and moving his business into the future should be explored and adopted by other island businesses and government.

  7. It has often surprised me that we do not have a Co-Operative Grocery Store here on the island. Through out New England there are now many of these locally owned, non-profit, Full Service grocery stores. It is not like the old, pick up food co-op, of the past. These are member owned, opened to all, grocery markets, with the absence of a for profit model. The absence of the for profit element naturally keeps cost lower to the public and members recieve additional discounts and profit sharing over time. Everyone I ever talk to that is familiar with these new Co-operative Grocery Markets are equally amazed that our community does not own one here. Maybe it’s time we try a different approach all Together. Someone has started a Face Book page in hopes of this, check out FB “Martha’s Market Food Coopertive”.

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