Major Market weathering the coronavirus storm as well
Last updated 4/13/2020 at 10:34am
It's easy to say, "Well, grocery stores are doing great, what do they have to worry about?" The truth is, quite a lot.
Sure, profits have continued to climb since Governor Gavin Newsom closed all non-essential businesses in the state, but for the small, independently owned grocery chain, making adjustments on the fly was and continues to be trying.
Ultimately, they want to serve the community safely and responsibly as best they can, said Store Manager John Alarcon on Monday, April 6..
Those first few days after the orders came down, he said, were tough.
"There were more customers in here than we had carts the first week," Alarcon said. "So that was scrambling, running. I was out in the parking lot doing carts and we were running around. Then it was the end of the day, you have to restock everywhere and that was the problem. There wasn't anything to restock with.
"Nobody was ready for it. None of the suppliers, nobody. And it's still backlogged. We hear that at the warehouse, there are two miles long of delivery trucks delivering product to the warehouses and then another couple miles of trucks waiting to get in to pick up. And then they have to get it in the warehouse sorted, get it on trucks. There's only so many hours in a day. The biggest thing was logistics in the beginning."
Luckily for the market, which employs many young workers in the town, schools were closed so they had plenty of manpower to handle all the work that needed to be done. In fact, they hired more.
"We hired a few more high school kids just to be able to keep up," Alarcon said. "We have a lot of part time employees that have other jobs, all of a sudden they weren't working anymore, so all of sudden they became full-timers. Within a few days with staffing we got up to speed."
When the orders came down last week that everybody needed to have face coverings at the store, that was a problem. Nobody could find masks.
"We had one of our regular customers she made like 10 masks for us and came by again today to drop off masks again," Alarcon said.
There have been interesting interactions as well.
"I personally had one customer, out of nowhere. I thought she was calling me, she slapped out her hand, screaming 'Stop, stay out of my social distance, 6 feet,'" Alarcon said. "I was like, 'Oh, excuse me, I'm sorry.' We've had a few people who take it to the extreme, but all in all it's been okay. I get the social distance part, but they freak out. They forget to be polite and we all have to be polite."
Alarcon said they are doing their best to keep everything clean and sanitized. They are making their own cleaning wipes and have two employees cleaning carts and shopping baskets after each customer uses one.
As we talked, customers came up to Alarcon to ask about an item they haven't been able to find, wondering when it will be in stock.
"We've actually been reaching out to our restaurant supply companies and since they don't have anyone to deliver to we're actually bringing in bigger quantities, like 25 pound bags of flour," Alarcon said. "Bigger bags of pasta, pasta sauce, canned beans that we're outsourcing. We've been getting toilet paper from these guys, they are single rolls, but we have something.
"We've all had to get creative bringing in things and packaging them ourselves. We're not restricted. We're not limited. We can buy it from whomever is a reputable company and it's big companies like US Foods, Shamrock, all the big restaurant companies, we're buying from them."
They are also working with the Foundation for Senior Care, fulfilling orders for seniors that can't get out to shop. Major Market is also offering curbside pickup on a limited basis and customers can email or call in their orders.
"We're dabbling with the curbside, we just have to figure out a game plan for that," Alarcon said. "We're in the process of working to get our grocery orders all online and formatted to launch in a few weeks, but now we're trying to speed that up and get that going so the customers actually can order online."
Alarcon said they are doing their best to keep up with best practices for their customers.
"The owners are looking at following the CDC and listening to the recommendations," Alarcon said. "Also of course what the county is saying because there's so many entities involved – the County of San Diego, the state or the federal government – we're following all of their guidelines, seeing what we should be doing every day. It's almost day by day."
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]