By Eric Boyd
HOT SPRINGS – Grocers and food suppliers across the nation have been thrust into the spotlight since the spread of COVID-19 was declared a national emergency on March 1. Panic buying, empty market shelves, strained supply lines---all symptoms of a sudden shift in consumer habits toward preparing for the unknown. Four weeks since, panic has subsided, supply shipments have normalized but challenges remain. Grocers are gearing up to meet a new challenge: keeping our communities fed while preventing community spread of COVID-19.
The Center for Disease Control states: “Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown.” To prevent this type of spread and to minimize this risk of exposure for both customers and staff, grocers across the United States have instituted a variety of safety procedures, installed new protective measures, and worked to educate shoppers on the merits of good social distancing and hygiene practices. Our local grocers are no different.
Hot Springs’ major food providers, Lynn’s Dakotamart, Sonny’s Superfoods, and Earth Goods Natural Foods are all on the front lines of this developing pandemic. All are approaching this challenge in slightly different ways. All are focused on one core objective, keeping Hot Springs healthy.
Lynn’s and Sonny’s have installed plastic barriers at every check stand to protect their workers from sneezes and coughs that can propel germs. Personal Protective Equipment, or “PPE”, has been made even more available to grocery store workers and increased cleaning procedures are the new norm. Staff now regularly wipe down check stands, belts, and shopping carts as much as possible.
Taped markers can be seen in checkout lines, spaced 6 feet apart to help customers maintain social distancing guidelines. Lynn’s has closed their in-store pharmacy window to customers, extending their prescription pickup window and delivery services to the public. Sonny’s has closed every other check stand to provide even more room for customers and staff to safely coexist in enclosed spaces. Working in an even smaller footprint, Earth Goods has recently closed its doors to in-store browsing and purchasing to help serve the community in a safer way.
As preventative measures evolve to prevent the possibility of increased illness in our area, local grocers like Earth Goods are providing “Curb Side Pickup” and delivery services for anyone interested. Lynn’s Dakotamart began pickup services last week and Sonny’s Superfoods is also providing order pickup along with their weekly delivery service. These pickup and delivery services will provide an option for local grocers to make goods available to anyone considered high risk while also providing everyone an option to keep their pantries stocked while minimizing contact with others.
Even with all this preparation in place, the risk of infection still remains for anyone in contact with the public. Risks are higher when workers come into contact with shoppers who refuse to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines. Grocery store staffers who provide their invaluable service to the community do not have the same luxury as those who can stay at home, and if they get sick, communities are at risk of not receiving much-needed nutrition and supplies.
Dan Grapentine, Store Manager, Sonny’s Superfoods, says a very big challenge at the beginning was, “the public’s varied education on social distancing.”
Before deciding to close their doors to browsers, Jackie and Rich Gericke, owners and operators of Earth Goods Natural Foods also experienced challenges when trying to enforce prevention guidelines. Some customers, traveling from as far as San Francisco, refused to honor the Gericke’s requests for social distancing and hygiene etiquette.
“We’re all going to have to feel awkward [while] learning to make this work,” said Jackie Gericke with Earth Goods. “[but] People that shop with us are the sweetest people.”
Overall, the Hot Springs community has responded to the changes to its shopping habits in a positive way, following social distancing and hygiene guidelines and remaining patient as circumstances progress.
“I think this town has done a great job. We’re rollin’ with it. Early on we had a lot of problems with stock, but now we’re starting to come back around,” said Dewey Fisher, Store Manager at Lynn’s Dakotamart.
“Everybody’s been so understanding… so kind on the phone, so decent. Everyone’s doing their part,” Fisher added.
“Hats off to the community. We’ve closed down two registers to help with social distancing, and have had a very positive response,” said Grapentine at Sonny’s. “We get a lot of thank-yous.”
A reminder to shoppers in the community, CDC guidelines suggest keeping a 6-foot minimum distance between people. If you are sick, stay home. Even if you are not sick, stay at home as much as possible. Wash or sanitize your hands and surfaces, going to and from the store. Sneeze or cough into your elbow and wear a face covering to prevent others from coming in contact with projected germs.
Above all else, consider your neighbors and respect those providing these essential services to our community. Lynn’s, Sonny’s, and Earth Goods all thank Hot Springs for their support.
Orders taken by phone on Wednesdays, 9am-11am. Pickup on Thursday morning.
Customers to provide payment and contact information at time of order.
Limit 25 items per order. Please, no alcohol, tobacco, or lottery items
Change in store hours starting 4/5/2020: Sundays, 7am-7pm, Monday-Saturday, 7am-8pm.
Lynn’s Dakotamart Pharmacy:
Morning and afternoon prescription delivery available
Curbside service available with call-in
Prescription mail home service fees are waived
Curbside pickup available Mondays
Delivery orders on Tuesday, call before 11am to place a delivery order.
Credit Card payments only.
Earth Goods Natural Foods:
Orders can be placed by phone, email, or Facebook.
Curbside and delivery options available.
Hours: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri from 10am-1pm, 4:30pm-6pm.