I have watched with dismay much of the social media uproar over the news that Cronig’s will be pulling out of Our Island Club’s discount program. Unfortunately, many of the people posting have a limited understanding of the program, its history, and the goals of the underlying business model.

As year-round Islanders, we all live in a collective environment that seeks to service the tourist industry and the seasonal visitors. The population explosion during the summer requires that goods and services and their distribution follow a skewed routine, with businesses ramping up their activity during the summer and scaling back, by necessity, during the off-season. This shortened selling period often results in those goods and services being priced dramatically differently than on the mainland, where access to chains and big box stores provides an incentive for merchants, even in seasonal locations, to adhere to competitive pricing and reasonable availability. Add in the reality that year-round Vineyard residents have some of the lowest per-capita income rates in the state, and you have a recipe for the pain that many feel in having to purchase needed goods and services at inflated costs.

As a friend of the founders of Our Island Club, I remember the early discussions surrounding the concept. Islanders were forced to endure the seasonal economy, paying more than is reasonable for many of the things that they used regularly. But what if efforts were made to link a series of merchants, including those providing essential day-to-day needs, to help defray the difficult costs endured by residents? If the right mix of providers were willing to lend a hand to Island residents, Our Island Club would have the ability to meaningfully affect the lives of the year-round population, as well as support charitable organizations and student scholarships.

Steve Bernier saw the value in the concept from the beginning. By including Cronig’s in Our Island Club’s list of merchants supporting the Vineyard community, the founders were able to accrue a list of providers that covered much of the essential services of Island families. Many retailers were happy to be included in a set of services that specifically addressed the needs of island residents and workers.

As Steve Bernier has indicated, it appears his intention is similar with his new discount program. He wants his discount program to be an effective tool for Island families, and avoid providing out-of-pocket assistance to wealthy seasonal visitors. Steve has an excellent track record of wide community support, and I imagine that the new program will be a welcome relief to those who worry about losing the discount they have come to depend upon.

I know that Jonathan Bernstein and Geoff Rose, founders of Our Island Club, continue to have the same goal as at the outset of the organization: to try and provide a set of services and discounts that have a positive outcome for Island residents. Islanders want to help Islanders. That was the spirit of the founding of Our Island Club, and it was the spirit in which Cronig’s played an important role for many years.

Our Island Club was and continues to be a good idea, excellently administered and thoughtfully maintained. And Cronig’s deserves a large round of applause for their ongoing support of the residential and working people of the Vineyard. These organizations have always sought to be good neighbors to us all, and embody the ideal we imagine when we think about the Island as one community.

Josh Sommers
West Tisbury