The owners of Island Food Products have signed a purchase and sale agreement to buy the historic Oak Bluffs grocery Tony’s Market, marking a first foray into retail for the only Island-based food service distributor.

The agreement was signed Dec. 31 and includes separate clauses for the grocery business as well as the land located at 119 Dukes County avenue, both owners confirmed Monday. The sale is expected to close in late January or early February, owners said. The sale price has not yet been disclosed.

“We’re thrilled,” Adam Bresnick, a partner at IFP, told the Gazette Monday.

Part Island bodega, part everyman general store, the neighborhood market has been operating since 1887. — Ray Ewing

Longtime Tony’s Market owners Dave and Ellen Richardson expressed similar excitement.

“Both sides are enthusiastic about this, and I know this is going to go forward,” Mr. Richardson said in a phone interview.

Part Island bodega, part everyman general store, Tony’s Market has been a cornerstone Oak Bluffs grocery and retail mart for more than a century. The business, which includes a deli counter, food section and alcohol sales, has been continuously operating since 1887, according to Mr. Richardson, and has been known as Tony’s since at least World War II, when it was bought by the eponymous Tony Veira.

Mr. Richardson and his wife purchased the business in 1992 from previous owners Bill and Gerry Correllus.

Formerly a small grocery and deli in a neighborhood that included a fish and meat market, the store was expanded to its current size by Mr. Richardson after he took ownership. And while the meat and fish markets have since disappeared, replaced by what are now galleries in the Oak Bluffs arts district, the ever-reliable Tony’s remains.

“In the very beginning, it was groceries. The business center of Oak Bluffs was up there,” Mr. Richardson said. “It was handy for people. And it still is.”

Mr. Bresnick said that while Tony’s ownership is changing, the market, its mission, and name would stay the same. Although IFP will own the business, management will remain largely unchanged. And Mr. Richardson expressed excitement that longtime staff, including 30-year veteran manager Kelly Hill, would be staying on as well.

“Tony’s Market is Tony’s Market. They’re doing a great job, and the goal is to make it so that when our group does become the owners, nobody knows anything happened,” Mr. Bresnick said.

A broadline food distributor, IFP was founded in the late 1980s by John Roberts and now has an ownership group that includes Mr. Roberts’s son, Mr. Bresnick, as well as others with minority interests. The business has grown to become an essential cog in the Island’s food chain, supplying Vineyard restaurants and retailers with any and all items associated with food service, from paper to protein to dry goods, and transporting the products to the Island from the mainland.

“We’re the biggest little business nobody knows about,” Mr. Bresnick said.

The distributor has worked with Tony’s Market as a client since their founding and has deep familiarity with their operations and stock. But owning a retail business represents a new frontier for IFP — one Mr. Bresnick said they are excited to explore.

“There’s a very good synergy between the companies,” Mr. Bresnick said. “And it just seemed worth the risk to see if we could do something like that, to make the base of the business stronger for both sides.”

Both IFP and Tony’s owners said that the pandemic had created new challenges for their businesses. While Tony’s saw rare dips in sales, IFP had to adapt to a restaurant industry that essentially shuttered for the busiest months of the year. But retail remained strong, Mr. Bresnick said, and when Mr. Richardson, who just turned 80, put the grocery store on the market, purchasing Tony’s seemed like a safe next step.

The 10,000-square-foot market sits on a quarter-acre parcel assessed at $974,000, according to land records. Mr. Richardson purchased the land in 1995 for $165,000.

A separate agreement and down payment by Vineyard Haven grocer Elio Silva to purchase Tony’s fell through in November, Mr. Richardson confirmed, when Mr. Silva withdrew his interest. That left IFP to come to an agreement with the Richardsons.

“They’re sort of the retail version of what we are. When you walk in there they do a little bit of everything,” Mr. Bresnick said. “It just fits.”

Mr. Richardson, who is now living in Bristol, R.I., said he never considered changing the name of Tony’s Market when he purchased it. He expressed excitement that Mr. Bresnick and IFP felt similarly.

“As far as we were concerned and involved, it would always be Tony’s Market,” Mr. Richardson said. “It’s a good thing for the community, and the old ‘fella’ who turned 80 back in August.”