RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Time now for StoryCorps, the project that's recording your stories as it travels around the country. Today, the story of a store.
For over 90 years, residents on Martha's Vineyard have bought their groceries at Cronig's Market.
Mr. ROBBIE CRONIG (Former Owner, Cronig's Market): My father and his brothers opened Cronig's Market in 1917.
MONTAGNE: That's Robbie Cronig. He started working at the store as a boy. Decades later, Robbie was running the place. Then one day, he sold his family's business to this man, Steve Bernier.
Mr. STEVE BERNIER (Owner, Cronig's Market): Robbie, tell us some of those stories about the old days.
Mr. CRONIG: I did nothing but work from the time I was born. I think that my father took me to the grocery store when I was just big enough to walk then he says, get to work. And before there was telephones in Vineyard Haven, I would go from house to house picking up the orders for Cronig's Market. And every house I went to, they insisted I had breakfast. Oh, they were good cooks. They made beautiful pastry. Oh, I got fat as fat could be. Thank god for the summer because I could work it off. And gradually, my brother Dave and I, we bought the store. I gave my father his salary and gave my mother my father's salary until the day she died.
Mr. BERNIER: You remember those couple of weeks around when we first met each other and night after night sitting there and talking. You slapped the keys in my hand and you said, someday you're going to own this place. Do you remember that?
Mr. CRONIG: Yup. Steve came in the house, and he sat across from me and his knees were shaking. He wanted so badly to buy the store. And it was wonderful because Steve was exactly what I wanted to take over the business, and no way in the world could I refuse. I didn't ask for a nickel down. I didn't ask for any paper or anything. And he was the most honest man I've ever done business with, ever.
Mr. BERNIER: I look back now after 22 years, you were really acting a little like my father. And I think I reacted more like your son than someone in business. Do you remember the hospital up in Boston?
Mr. CRONIG: Oh, yes. I had many operations and Steve came to see me every night.
Mr. BERNIER: Yes. And I'd walk you down the hall and I'd shave you. And one of those nights we shook hands and closed the deal. There was no negotiations. There was no bickering. There was no nonsense. We just shook hands, nodded with approval, and that was it. The deal was done.
Mr. CRONIG: And from there on in, the day we became the best of friends. And at Cronig's Market, we celebrated our 90th anniversary. I hope I make it to the 100th. I'd love to see the 100th anniversary.
Mr. BERNIER: We'd love to have you there.
MONTAGNE: Steve Bernier and Robbie Cronig at StoryCorps in Martha's Vineyard. Steve tells us that Robbie kept a set of keys to the market after the sale and continued working there for 10 more years.
Their conversation will be archived, along with the other StoryCorps interviews, at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. You can subscribe to the project's pod cast at npr.org.
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