When a crisis strikes, people want their comfort foods, their household goods and, perhaps most of all, their toilet paper to be available without delay.
“It’s very busy,” Gary Gristick, owner of Zweiers Market on South Lincoln Avenue, said Tuesday. “It’s never been busier than it’s been the last three days. Much worse than a bad snowstorm.”
Zweiers, like most supermarkets and grocery stores in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has closed many schools and businesses around the country and forced many people to shelter at home, has been hit with a wave of customers hoping to stockpile the necessities.
“The hardest part is just getting stuff,” Gristick said. “We’re running low on chicken, toilet paper, water. But that’s the thing — if you order 50 cases of water, you might get three. We order 100 gallons of milk, we only get 30. … It’s going to take a couple of weeks to catch up.
“We got a bunch of toilet paper this morning,” he added. “It’s all pretty much gone now, but we’re getting more in on Thursday.”
People are buying up supplies all over the state, he said, and replacement goods take time to produce.
But customers aren’t leaving the store empty-handed, he said.
“People are getting huge orders,” Gristick said. But, for the most part, he noted, “people are only taking what they need. They’re not going crazy.
“That’s what hurts us, when people come in and take 50 rolls of toilet paper for themselves. Just take what you need.”
Gristick urged people to “be patient” until the crisis passes.
“We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “We’re ordering everything we need, but we’re limited in what we can get.”
Jason Bennett, co-owner of Dutch-Way Farm Markets, said they “have been blessed with the ability to keep most of our store stocked and serve our customers well.”
At this point, he said, that means the family-owned chain, which has locations locally in Schaefferstown and Myerstown, has been able to keep bathroom tissue and paper supplies on hand “through these unprecedented sales volumes,” Bennett said. “We do not have a full variety, but we are still able to get a number of items in these categories.
“Sanitizer bottles, however, are unavailable through all of our suppliers at this time, but we will continue to order until we see some arrive,” he added. “Thankfully, we have enough operational supplies on hand so we are able to operate safely.”
Bennett said the stores have been “sourcing from every angle we have available to us in the grocery, restaurant and hardware supply chain. This has been extremely beneficial to our stores and we will continue to work hard to serve our customers.”
Ashley Flower, manager of public relations for the Carlisle-based chain of GIANT food stores, said their 24-hour locations would be closed daily from midnight to 6 a.m. “to give our team more time to sanitize and restock shelves.”
That means, she said, that “existing cleaning procedures have been reinforced with team members, and in all stores, we are implementing a cleaning checklist focused on high-touch areas including shopping carts and baskets, checkouts, self-service food stations, and fuel pumps.”
GIANT has local locations in Lebanon and Cleona.
Flower acknowledged that supplies are still running low in some departments.
“Regarding supplies of products, due to overwhelming demand, we are currently experiencing shortages and out of stocks on many household staples, including disinfecting and cleaning products,” she said in an email. “We are focused on getting back in stock as soon as possible. We apologize to our customers for this inconvenience.”
Despite high levels of demand, Flower said they are continuing to offer delivery and pickup through GIANT Direct, “although slots are limited” for the services.
Beginning Tuesday, she noted, “GIANT Direct will only provide contactless deliveries for all customers in all areas until further notice. We reached this decision out of deep respect and care for all of our team members and our customers. Contactless delivery means that your driver will practice social distancing during the delivery process.”
The chain has also suspended in-store sampling events.
According to a statement issued Monday on the Weis Markets website, the Sunbury-based food retailer with locations in Lebanon and Palmyra will also be closing its stores from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, effective Tuesday until further notice.
“This modification allows store teams more time to replenish products and sanitize stores so that customers can shop safely,” the statement explained.
Do you have questions about the coronavirus and its impact locally? Send them to our newsroom using the contact form below.
LebTown exists to provide accurate and timely information.
If you are thankful for what LebTown brings to the community, consider joining our cause as a member. Members get an inside look at our publishing schedule each week, plus invites to our members-only Facebook group and happy hours (once those are a thing again).
Sign up for an annual membership using the link below, and we’ll give you a free LebTown mug at the next happy hour.
Learn more and join now here.