COVID-19 Takes Toll on Grocery Stores, Summer Staff

The Sister Bay Piggly Wiggly has toilet paper, but that’s the least of the concerns for manager Jay Kita, who said his staff is getting bombarded by the demands of customers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re doing all we can right now trying to stay afloat,” he said, praising his crew for working overtime to keep the store going. “We’re doing summer business with a winter crew.”

He said he’s limited to two delivery trucks per week. He gets five during the summer. Two employees took a trailer to Milwaukee on Monday to pick up a load of toilet paper. “Why everyone needs toilet paper right now, I can’t figure,” Kita said. 

Meanwhile, he can’t get sanitizer or sanitizing wipes.

At Main Street Market in Egg Harbor, owner Kaaren Northrop posted Sunday that staff members will shop for customers who choose to call in their order for pickup. She reports that this is the busiest the market has ever been in March. 

“Do not be offended when we do our jobs while distancing!” said a message posted to Facebook on Tuesday. “Seems like the most important thing right now.”

Main Street Market has already reduced hours to 8 am – 5 pm. Starting March 19, the store will close and shift to pickup orders only. 

Northrop encourages customers to email their orders to [email protected], which is the easiest way for the staff to process them. Staff members will also take phone orders from 8 am to 3 pm and ask for daily requests rather than future orders. Please allow at least one hour for orders to be prepared before arriving at the store to pick them up.

Two of Kita’s employees said they don’t feel comfortable working during the crisis, so they are remaining at home. Because guidance now limits gatherings to 10 people, Sister Bay Village Administrator Beau Bernhoft said he may be able to make staff available to help monitor crowds at Piggly Wiggly and stock shelves safely. Shoppers will be required to wear gloves. 

Sister Bay/Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht said that when his crew members shop for Scandia Village, they will shop during off hours. 

Kita said he’s looking at special hours when only senior citizens (or, potentially, appointed shoppers) could shop to feel safer. They will be implementing this starting Monday from 9 to 11 am. He also said people should not take their own shopping bags into the store because the bags can carry the virus.

Pick ’n Save in Sturgeon Bay is taking direction from Kroger, which has changed the store’s business hours to 6 am – 10 pm, Sunday through Saturday, until further notice. Aside from increased cleaning and sanitizing practices, the store should operate as normal.

The same goes for Healthy Way in Sturgeon Bay. Owner Adam Goettelman said that in addition to increased cleaning, the store is operating close to normal and is open the same hours. He also confirmed the information posted on Facebook on March 15 that said, “We’ve been working diligently to monitor the COVID-19 situation, and we’ve taken several steps to amplify our cleaning and sanitation efforts. We’re also taking extra precautions in our kitchen and will temporarily close the soup bar. We will keep our grab-n-go running.”

Goettelman also encourages customers to call with questions, curbside pickup requests and ordering ahead, and the staff will try to accommodate home delivery.

Walmart has updated its store hours to 6 am – 11 pm and pickup hours to 11 am – 7 pm. The store will also be implementing no-contact pickup, during which customers will be asked to stay in the vehicle while associates load the groceries. Customers may also ask associates to sign for their orders, meaning customers will not have to touch the keypad to accept them.

No-contact delivery to homes will start next week. Associates will deliver orders to residents’ doors, and they will not have to sign for them.

Additionally, high-priority items such as paper goods and cleaning supplies will be limited per customer to ensure that as many people will have access to them as possible. The store will update its online inventory to reflect what’s available in the store.

Ordering groceries ahead is available, but the time frame will be shortened to two days ahead: the current day and the next day.

The store asks that customers keep in mind that with high demand, there may be cancellations, delays and long wait times during delivery and pickup. Staff members will stay in contact by text, email, the website and the mobile app, should issues arise.

Summer Workers in Flux

Door County Board Chair Dave Lienau said he’s now being told to expect this to last into July or August – something President Trump admitted in a Monday press conference that was his most realistic to date. 

That puts another aspect of the county’s economy in limbo: the summer influx of J-1 student workers. 

Sister Bay trustee Rob Zoschke, who is also the general manager of the Yacht Club at Sister Bay, said the situation has been evolving rapidly, with some J-1 students instructed to go home, and dates for new J-1s changing. Lienau has said a lot of the J-1 students are backing out on their own because of the airline situation. 

Sister Bay Advancement Association coordinator Louise Howson said most Sister Bay retail stores are closed or will close, and most bars and restaurants planned to voluntarily shut down by Tuesday or had done so Monday. 

“There are businesses closing that fear they may never open again,” Howson said. “They could lose the season.”

Howson reported 20 cancellations for this weekend already, but businesses throughout the county are reporting that there is an influx of people fleeing cities to hunker down in Door County. 

The Yacht Club at Sister Bay has canceled all reservations through April 15.

“With support of staff, our owner rental committee and the Yacht Club at Sister Bay board, as GM I have canceled all rental activity through April 15, including full refunds of deposits paid,” Zoschke announced Tuesday. “I have also strongly urged all condo owners to stay at home and not come to their condos through April 15. Should they still decide to come, they may find that access to the staff, office/lobby, lobby bathrooms, pool and fitness room are restricted or prohibited.”

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