Steve Bernier isn’t retiring just yet

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Steve Bernier of Cronig's Market. —Courtesy Steve Bernier

After 37 years, Steve Bernier sold Cronig’s Markets and Healthy Additions to longtime employee and Islander Andrea Donnelly, but he wonders why everyone keeps asking when he will finally retire.

“She is working me 70 hours a week,” Steve says when Edible Vineyard asks how it’s going.

“By choice,” Andrea chimes in and laughs.

If you know Cronig’s you know Steve Bernier. You see him starting his day deadheading and taking care of the plants surrounding the stores or maybe sweeping up outside. He has worked tirelessly to build and maintain an Island institution. Like the handshake deal Steve made with Robbie Cronig back in 1985 when he acquired Cronig’s Markets, he and Andrea agreed to terms in the fall of 2021, and together with the crew at Cronig’s, have not missed a beat.

Andrea is now at the helm of three stores and in charge of dozens of employees. We chatted with Steve to see how things were going now, a couple of years after the deal went down.

“I didn’t do this to retire right now,” Steve says. “She needs me as I need her. We created an equation that we didn’t know about until we had to actualize things. I did not want to sell to somebody who was going to kick me out of here and send me to retire.”

Lucky for Steve, Andrea is open to keeping him in the loop.

“It’s been kind of special, unique. Divine intervention,” he says. 

One of the first things that happened after Andrea took charge was the refrigeration in the down-Island store failing. It was a baptism by fire for Andrea, and she had a reality check right off the bat.

“We went through this year and we’ve watched the real world unfold, starting with day one with the refrigeration failure, and coordinating all this stuff with everything you can imagine happening,” Steve says.

As fate would have it, history repeated itself when Andrea and Steve set up their deal. The same attorney who authorized that handshake back in 1985 just happened to walk into the store to say hello at the very time they were deciding how to work out the deal, so the Cronig’s legacy continues with another handshake.