Stores discourage hoarding, daily shopping


March 26, 2020

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Cathy Flory, manager of Northwind Natural Food Co-op, sanitizes the register counter between customers on Tuesday at the downtown Ironwood grocery store.


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Ironwood - Local grocers are saying product shortages are temporary, and usually refilled in a day or two, while also emphasizing social distancing and reducing store visits to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall the staff and community have been great in adjusting to prevention strategies for the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19, said Lawrence Glatczak, manager of Super One Foods in Ironwood. The store is doing what it can to limit shopping on items that people fear will not be available.

"We have disinfectant wipes in today and we are limiting them to two per person," Glatczak said. "Otherwise everyone will want a case."

The governor's shutdown order on Monday has caused concern with people, he said. There is not a sense of panic mode but people are thinking they need to stock up on things before they are gone, he said.

It's understandable that people are wanting to be prepared, he said. But hoarding doesn't help anyone.

The supply warehouses are sending trucks more frequently to replace items that disappear quickly, he said. One day it will be toilet paper, the next it might be milk, eggs, vegetables and fruits, and non-perishables such as rice and pastas, flour, dry goods and canned goods.

The store is limiting ground beef to four pounds, he said. Toilet paper is limited to two packs.

The situation with milk is that the dairies process and package milk products for several different labels, he said. During the coronavirus pandemic the dairy in DePere, Wisconsin is making milk under the Kemps label only to keep up with demand, he said.

"That is so they don't have to keep changing the machines," Glatczak said.

For the time being the 1% and 2% milk will come in one-gallon jugs, he said. The skim and whole milk will come in one-half gallon containers.

The warehouses are delivering less because all the stores have higher demand, he said. Super One is working with other sources to find things like eggs and repackaging them, he said. This way there will be supply but not variety, he said.

The other challenge is ensuring the store is sanitized to protect staff and customers from potentially getting the coronavirus from touching surfaces.

The checkout counters are sanitized on average every 30 minutes, he said. This includes wiping down the credit card swipers for the customers.

When someone uses cash then the money is placed on the counter, he said. The purpose is to eliminate contact of hands during transactions.

The checkout counters may soon be fitted with cough and sneeze guards, he said. This will help eliminate the chance of spreading germs between shoppers and cashiers.

On Tuesday the staff placed tape on the floor at the checkout lines to encourage shoppers to follow the 6-foot social distancing rule. This is difficult to do in store aisles but wherever possible it should be practiced, he said.

"We've got things posted all over the store," he said. "The messages discourage congregating or pooling or people. That is tough to do in the aisles but the main thing is no touching."

Another way to reduce the number of people in the store is for customers to plan their shopping, he said. It's better to come once with a big grocery list than it is to shop daily for a few items and risk constant exposure, he said.

"If you need one or two items then that is not a reason to come to the store," Glatczak said.

Fight the impulse to go out and see what everybody else is doing, he said. That will help to reduce the chance of someone getting sick.

First responders, the elderly and others with an increased risk for contracting coronavirus are encouraged to shop during the first half-hour the store is open, he said. There will be fewer shoppers and the store will be highly sanitized.

Pat's Foods IGA in Hurley is experiencing the same temporary shortages and distancing issues, said Rich Friederichs, store manager. 

"We only have so many suppliers up here, and we all pretty much use the same suppliers," he said.

The shortages are about the increased demand recently and not because warehouses are no longer delivering, he said. The items out one day will usually be in stock the next, he said. 

"The trucks are coming as quick as they can," Friederichs said.

Pat's Foods is also sourcing other suppliers to fill shortages, he said.

The store is not designating a special hour for certain customers but those at high risk for the virus are encouraged to shop at 7 a.m. when the store opens, he said. This is when there are fewer customers and the store is at its cleanest.

"My staff have been doing a great job keeping their spirits up," Friederichs said. "They laugh and talk while keeping a safe distance from customers and each other. They come in and they understand this is what we've got to do."

Cathy Flory, manager of Northwind Natural Food Co-op in downtown Ironwood, said that commodities leave the store as soon as they are on the shelves. Eggs, bananas, aloe and sanitizer products are hard to keep in stock, she said. 

Customers are blending aloe with rubbing alcohol to make their own sanitizer, she said. 

Flory, who also serves on the Downtown Ironwood Development Authority, said she is fortunate that the store is considered essential and is doing well during the crisis. That is not true for other businesses and she is doing all she can to help.

Bake Superior Bread has closed its retail outlet but Northwind is now selling their bread at the co-op as of Tuesday. 

"Their doors are closed but they are making fresh bread for the co-op," Flory said. 

Northwind is taking call-in orders for curbside service so people won't have to leave their cars. It has been popular with the elderly but also for mothers who need to bring their small children with them in the car without having to come inside.

Little things like shopping with credit and debit cards or writing checks rather than handling cash are good prevention, Flory said.

"Our hands are all dry and a little raw from washing them so much and sanitizing everything," Flory said. "We don't like to use bleach products here but it's necessary right now."

Customers are resourceful but the need now is to be a little less "nonchalant" about frequenting businesses and other people until the coronavirus pandemic has passed, she said. 

"We want people to come in and shop but not to buy one thing just as an escape to get out," Flory said. "People should be taking this seriously. We haven't really seen much of (the virus) here yet so let's try and keep it that way."


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