Grocery shopping in Prince Edward County along with most everywhere else in North America has taken on a new set of rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food supply, distribution and sale is and will likely always will be an essential service for Ontarians and, the rapid ramp up in response to the outbreak, parent Loblaws, Metro and Sobeys have all mandated precautionary measures to help promote social distancing and help flatten the curve of COVID-19 and stop the spread of this respiratory virus.
At all three major grocery outlets in Picton, that’s meant staging areas for customers checking out and having a cleaning rotation for all frequent touch surfaces.
“We basically have a rotation going around the whole store making sure all frequent touch surfaces get cleaned,” said Picton Sobeys storeowner Jamie Yeo. “We’ve installed plexiglass shields at the tills we have open to keep separation between the customer and the cashier. We’ve also closed all our service fresh departments to help promote social distancing as well so there’s no handing over the counter of food and product and possible hand touching.”
By only utilizing every other checkout line, the store is also promoting social distancing.
Sobeys have a person at the front cleaning all hand baskets and carts for customers from the moment they open at 7 a.m. for senior shopping until they close at 8 p.m.
Another person is going around cleaning pin pads on the debit machines and all touch surfaces at every till as customers use them.
“We’re doing senior shopping from 7-8 a.m. so people with a weaker immune system or don’t want to be in the crowd they can come in and shop before the masses come out,” added Yeo.
Like at Sobeys, Andrew and Emily’s No Frill’s is limiting the number of people in the store at any given time. It might mean a wait but it’s the a practice.
We’re trying to maintain minimum social distancing in the store and keep everyone six feet apart,” Store owner Andrew Januszkiewicz told the Gazette. “While their waiting at the door, our staff are educating customers what they can do to maintain that safe distance.”
It’s clear at any three of the local grocery store there have been runs on popular items. Never have any of there stores had gaps in their displays and aisles as they do right now.
Toilet paper seems to be the hottest item since the development of sliced bread and No Frill’s has a limit on one package per customer.
“We are getting more and more product on the shelf,” Januszkiewicz said, adding praise for his staff.
“Everyone is doing a great job and I really commend my staff for being so dedicated. I know that if everyone pulls together at this time that we as a community will get through this.”
Metro of Picton manager Murray Lupenette added he is in regular contact with his employees to gauge their emotions during this unprecedented time.
“The biggest part right now is social distancing, cleanliness and just trying to keep groceries flowing to the community,” said Lupenette. “The employees seem totally fine and it’s totally at their will if they want to work or not work.”
None of the three stores have experienced anything like this in their life times.
“I’ve never experienced something like this before and I’ve been in the business 40 years,” Lupenette added.
And employees aren’t the only ones helping out.
“Customers have been great,” Yeo expressed. “Everybody is appreciating what we’re doing and the extra steps were going through to help keep them and our employees safe and everyone has been relaxed about it. Even when I had a lineup outside, not letting people in I was apologizing and they said ‘Stop apologizing, we’re happy your doing something. We’re happy you’re open’.”
“Customers have been amazing,” Lupenette added. “It’s great how the people have been dealing this situation and how appreciative they are. We’ve really only had one or two that just weren’t right, but 99 per cent of our customers are just absolutely amazing. And I think it’s very important the people know they’re being amazing. Everyone is being understanding and that’s important to us because it alleviates a lot off of us when the customers are so good, it makes our job just that much easier in trying times.”