by KAAREN NORTHROP
One of the proud owners of the Main Street Market in Egg Harbor
February 22 has been designated Supermarket Employees Day by FMI, The Food Industry Association, and this year marks the second annual celebration.
Last year we were in the midst of the pandemic, and as “essential” workers, the industry thought this group of employees should be officially recognized. Before the pandemic, supermarket employees did not often get credit for the high amount of intelligence, common sense and hard work necessary to excel in this industry. The country figured that out very quickly!
I can tell you that the staff members of the Main Street Market are extremely deserving of this accolade. This is nothing new, but it was certainly illuminated during the past two years. When the whole world seemed to be on the verge of falling apart, we made sure you had food and other essentials necessary to get you through the day. Our employees used their brains, experience, ingenuity and spirit to figure out the logistics of serving you.
This was done with a strong sense of purpose: There is nothing worse than the potential end of the world and a pantry devoid of sustenance! And not just the dregs from the depths of the pantry, but delicious meals planned with care and creativity to occupy some of the many hours that needed to be filled during those endless days.
Our staff shopped for you. We deciphered lists, found substitutes for the many items that were unavailable and called you if we absolutely could not figure something out. We walked miles every day, up and down the aisles in endless circles, with hourly breaks to wash our hands. We divied up the tasks each day to spread out the workload. Ultimately, everyone fell into the tasks they were really good at, and we became incredibly efficient.
It takes many people to operate a grocery store. Placing orders, working with vendors, unloading trucks, preparing products, stocking shelves – there is a lot of coordination and work done behind the scenes to fill the shelves. On any given day, we receive 10-20 deliveries, some of them truckloads of pallets of groceries piled high. Everything that comes through the back door is touched by multiple people before it ends up in your cart. It also takes an impressive team effort to get those groceries through the checkout, out the door quickly and in the same condition in which you put them in your cart.
Grocery stores are open every day. We do not close for months, weeks or even days. We do not work Monday-Friday, 9-5. Weekends? Open. Holidays? Open and working. Remote work from anywhere with an internet connection? Nope. We are here in person every day.
The past two years have been hard for supermarket employees. I think we have all gained a measure of respect for doing our jobs every day in communities throughout the country. Food is essential, and especially in rural areas, grocery stores are hubs of a community. People can talk to people, socialize if they choose and find out what’s going on in their community. The pandemic was lonely for many people; we were happy to be their connection to something outside their homes.
Although the official recognition is nice, we don’t really need it to do our jobs well. I believe our customers know that we are intelligent, kind, hard-working individuals who, together, try our best to provide them with a positive and enjoyable shopping experience.
On Tuesday, Feb. 22, we will celebrate Supermarket Employees Day. You know where we’ll be!