The Working Waterfront

Market economics, island style

Vinalhaven store one example of effective response to pandemic

Phil Crossman
Posted 2021-06-02
Last Modified 2021-06-02

It’s only been a year since the scope of this scourge began to make itself apparent. During those 12 months, several island businesses have closed and probably won’t re-open. Others have only clung to existence and hope to resurface this year. A few have remained healthy and prosperous because the goods or services they provide are essential and their continued prosperity is thus assured.

It’s tempting, for some of us who struggled to keep our heads above water, to resent those businesses that have thrived. On the other hand, some of them had to clear significant obstacles and went to great lengths to continue to provide the community with what we and our families needed to simply get by.

It was impressive and many of us have expressed our appreciation. They absolutely rose to the challenge.

Our island’s lone grocery comes to mind. Early on, when the startling increase in contamination and contagion alarmed authorities and resulted in increasing restrictions of the numbers of people who could be in close proximity, Carvers Harbor Market could only allow a very few people in the store at one time. We are 1,200 customarily hungry people and it often seemed most of us were strung out in a food line on the sidewalk outside, while someone from the store opened the door for one to exit and for another one to enter.

The Market tried and managed all sorts of options to keep us all fed and themselves in business. For those of us who were very reluctant to or simply couldn’t stand in line in such proximity and were even less eager to go into the store with others and find ourselves further compromised, life became much easier and certainly less stressful when the store instituted a policy whereby those of us who felt safer doing so could call in or email our orders and then simply stop by to pick it up or have an employee deliver it to our hands outside.

And for others, less able or more cautious, the market delivered to our doors.   The staff was endlessly patient and helpful, kept shopping carts and surfaces sanitized, managed allowable numbers of shoppers, all the while keeping shelves stocked while trying to stay away from one another.

It was impressive and many of us have expressed our appreciation. They absolutely rose to the challenge. Eventually, of course, restrictions lessened; more of us were allowed in the store at one time and the numbers waiting outside diminished.

Through it all, this island community has proved itself remarkably tolerant of demanding, sometimes threatening circumstances, and the protective precautions imposed by the town to deal with them. Those officiating over those circumstances, in particular our emergency operations team, have managed the tumultuous realities of COVID, the need to control the movement of people, to remind us of our responsibilities, to keep us informed and, most  recently, to oversee the procurement and efficient administration of vaccines to a greater percentage of islanders than is being experienced by others throughout the state and country, have risen to and remained on top of the challenge.

Due in large part to their efforts, the virus has affected less than one half of one percent of our population. All in all, we can say, as we emerge from the most debilitating experience most of us have ever had to endure, we have fared remarkably well and it’s been due to the efforts of nearly all of us to cooperate and to take our obligations to one another seriously.

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven and serves on the town’s select board.