IFP plans to purchase Tony’s Market

The Island wholesaler made an offer after other buyers opted out.

Tony's Market will likely have a new owner by the end of the year. - Rich Saltzberg

Tony’s Market will likely have new owners by the end of the year, as owner David Richardson works out a deal with local wholesaler Island Food Products (IFP).

Speaking to The Times by phone, Richardson said he and his wife Ellen did not initially think of IFP as potential stewards of the business.

Richardson had been in talks with three potential buyers at the beginning of the year, but did not receive any attractive offers. Richardson then entered talks with Elio Silva, who owns Vineyard Grocer and other Island businesses, but Silva opted out, giving IFP the opportunity to step in. IFP could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We just didn’t think that a wholesale company would want to have a retail company,” Richardson said. “They said, ‘Jeez, we wish we got in touch with you.’”

Tony’s Market has a longstanding relationship with IFP, which has provided the market with all kinds of groceries, ice, and dairy products.

“We knew them very well and they knew the company very well, and they’ve done business with us for a long time, and it had been a very successful, comfortable relationship,” Richardson said. “There’s a reciprocal respect for things that make for a good thing. It’s like neighbors over a fence.”

The Richardsons have owned Tony’s Market since 1992, and employ about 25 people who work a variety of shifts, year-round, at the store.

The mMarket has a long history on the Island. In 1877, Tim Swift opened a store in one room of his house. In 1926, he sold it to a man named Otto from Switzerland, who then sold it to Tony Veira in 1945, and gave the store its current moniker. 

There hasn’t been a final sale yet, but Richardson said IFP has made an offer. Now lawyers for IFP and Tony’s Market have begun drafting purchase and sale agreements to sell both the business and the real estate.

“When those are effected, we hope before the end of the year and they hope before the end of the year, they will own exactly what we own, which is the business and real estate at 119 Dukes County Ave.,” he said. “What they’ve said is they like the business, they like the people, they like the way it’s going. It’s not a broken umbrella that has to be replaced.”

Tony’s Market customers can expect few, if any, changes to the market. Richardson said IFP’s plans are to keep the status quo.

“I’m lucky to have just phenomenal people in this store who have been there, in two cases almost 30 years,” Richardson said.

As for what’s next, Richardson said he and his wife are looking forward to living in Bristol, R.I., where they’re beginning the next chapter of their lives. They still plan to spend time on the Island.

“We have one foot in Bristol and one foot on the Vineyard. People that know both places say, ‘Gee, that doesn’t sound bad,’ and boy, it’s not,” he said.

Along with thanking the market’s employees, Richardson also thanked the store’s many loyal customers, saying the business has been successful because there’s been good people on both sides of the counter.

“We’ve got customers coming to Tony’s long before we bought it. I think they’ve liked what we had before, and they’ve liked what we have now. The store has been and is a successful place,” Richardson said. “It’s kind of like making chocolate chip cookies. It’s not all chocolate, it’s not all flour, it’s not all butter, but if you get everything together in the right way, things come out nicely.”