Up-Island Cronig’s (the one in West Tisbury, as opposed to Down-Island Cronig’s, the bigger one in Vineyard Haven) recently posted a notice on its door that after Labor Day (tomorrow!) it would close on Sundays for the off-season.
I live a 15- or 20-minute walk from Up-Island Cronig’s and am in there a couple of times a week, but I learned about the planned Sunday closing when someone announced it in Islanders Talk, a humongous Facebook group with more than 7,000 members. This person solicited comments from up-islanders and volunteered to pass them along to Steve Bernier, the owner of both Up-Island and Down-Island Cronig’s and very much a public figure on Martha’s Vineyard.
My hunch was that the original poster (the OP in online lingo) was Not Pleased by the announcement. I expected a feeding frenzy because people have strong feelings about Bernier and about Cronig’s and because, well, islanders talk and just in general the ferocity of the talk is inversely proportional to the importance of the issue. (Earlier this summer, in “Crusaders,” I elaborated on one of our favorite bêtes noires, mopeds.)
It didn’t happen. True, some people leapt to the conclusion that this was just one more instance of a business dissing year-round Vineyarders and a few zeroed in on Bernier himself, notably for his role in blocking the proposed expansion of the Stop & Shop in downtown Vineyard Haven.
But the pushback started almost immediately. People who’d actually read the notice pointed out that this had to do with staffing — with not having enough year-round employees to maintain Sunday hours. Others noted that Cronig’s has long had the reputation of doing well by its employees, and that the employees are competent, courteous, and loyal to their employer.
It was about the bottom line, several agreed, although exactly what “bottom line” meant to various commenters wasn’t always clear. Often enough “it’s all about the bottom line” implies that economic advantage — money — is the only factor, but here I think it was more about trade-offs and cost-effectiveness. Up-Island Cronig’s shares a parking lot with the West Tisbury post office and Fella’s, a popular takeout. Monday through Saturday it’s a bustling place, one of West Tisbury’s two centers. On Sunday the PO and Fella’s are closed, and the nearby pharmacy is only open a half day. When I pass that way, the parking lot often looks pretty desolate. Sunday could not possibly be a big business day at Up-Island Cronig’s.
One shopkeeper whose business I patronize regularly has said he’d happily close on Sundays if he could get away with it. Business is generally slow. Staff aren’t enthusiastic about Sunday hours. But people expect you to be open.
Quite a few participants in the Islanders Talk discussion, including me, recalled times when nothing was open on Sunday and “bankers’ hours” meant 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (This was before ATMs, by the way.) We survived. “Plan ahead!” someone posted.
True, for up-islanders — residents of Chilmark, Aquinnah, and most of West Tisbury — Up-Island Cronig’s is the closest grocery store, but if you’re driving all the way from Chilmark or Aquinnah, how big a deal is it to drive another three miles or so to Down-Island Cronig’s, which will continue to be open on Sundays?
Not to mention, on Martha’s Vineyard if you run out of anything after 9 p.m. any day of the week, your only option on this side of the island is Cumby’s — the Cumberland Farms convenience store at Five Corners, Vineyard Haven. My neighbors and I have been known to borrow eggs, milk, and flour from each other rather than make a trek to Up-Island Cronig’s, even when Up-Island Cronig’s is open.
And that’s part of what this discussion was about, the subtext, if you will. To live on Martha’s Vineyard, you have to get used to the idea that you can’t have everything you want exactly when you want it. Many businesses close for the off-season, and most year-round businesses close for the day at 5. You can’t even get off the island when the boats aren’t running — with Hurricane Hermine currently making its way up the East Coast, you can be sure plenty of people are thinking about this.
Up-islanders are reputed to be more spiritual than the general island population, more given to meditation, yoga, healthy eating, and ecological correctness. (This is why I like to emphasize that I’ve lived half my Vineyard life in Vineyard Haven.) With this in mind and tongue partly in cheek, I posted this to the comment thread:
“Here’s an idea. Think of Sunday closing at Up-Island Cronig’s as the opportunity for spiritual practice. The lesson: You can’t always get what you want at the instant you want it. Pretty soon it’ll get to be second nature, and you won’t have to pay for a workshop or a class or anything.”