‘Beyond scary’: With little guidance and few resources, neighborhood grocers navigated the pandemic’s worst

Chris Henderson of Mylor Stores, in Falmouth, UK, speaks with Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market on Martha’s Vineyard, USA, about managing their community grocery stores through the early days of the pandemic.

Providing essential food to communities in lockdown. Fearful for the safety of their own staff. Facing unexpected and inexplicable shortages in basic goods like toilet paper and flour.

Local grocers became unlikely frontline workers in the early days of the pandemic.

On the island of Martha’s Vineyard, just a few miles offshore of Cape Cod, Cronig’s Market has been serving the community as an independent grocer for more than 100 years. Owner Steve Bernier has been working in retail food for 57 years. But the first monthgoods of the pandemic was unlike anything he’d ever experienced. “When this hit us,” he says, “the unknown absolutely blew our mind and scared the daylights out of us.”

In the village of Mylor Bridge, Cornwall, Mylor Stores turned to volunteers to keep the community fed through the early days of the pandemic. Chris Henderson, an employee, says volunteers were critical for collecting orders and delivering groceries. “We have a lot of elderly people in our village, and we were worried about those people not being able to get their food because they were told to not go outside for 13 weeks. They had to stay in and self-isolate,” Henderson explains. “And of course, we then were inundated with phone calls of elderly people saying, ‘How are we going to get food?’”

 

Steve Bernier and some of his employees at Cronig’s Market on Martha’s Vineyard.

In the first segment of our program, Chris Henderson and Steve Bernier trade stories of coping in extraordinary times, and of the resiliency of their co-workers and communities.