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Essential businesses weather the storm amid struggles

By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 07, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Peavey's General Store in Montville, shown here April 2, provides items that are sold out at larger stores. The store temporarily closed April 4 after several staff members decided to stay home out of concern about being exposed to the coronavirus.

Montville — The Republican Journal toured Waldo County April 2 and visited several essential businesses that are still open and providing needed services to the community.

Peavey’s General Store in Montville

“It’s actually been steady,” said D.D., a store clerk at Peavey’s General Store in Montville. “We have a lot of groceries and that helps.”

She said the store has not had to limit how many people come in at one time. It has not been an issue, she said, and added that Peavey’s also offers curbside service for people who call ahead (589-4211).

Owner Carrie Peavey said she had noticed a huge drop in business, but that it “comes in waves.” This morning, she said, there were quite a few seniors who couldn’t get eggs or flour at the bigger stores, and came to Peavey’s looking for those items.

Peavey said she is buying food in bulk and repackaging items. “I’m buying 50-pound bags of flour and sugar and flats of eggs,” she said. She is also helping supply food to the Liberty Food Bank.

“The general public is so happy that they are getting stuff they couldn’t get at big stores,” Peavey said.

In a Facebook post April 4, Peavey said she was temporarily closing the store after several members of her staff made the decision to stay home for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus.

"We can only stretch ourselves so far before we break," she said. "I had to make a decision, and believe me it was not easy. ... Three weeks ago it was week by week, last week it was day by day, and from Thursday to today it was minute by minute of the unknown and drastic decisions. I will keep you all posted if and when we reopen."

Unity Shop 'n' Save

Shop 'n' Save owner Jeremy Edwards said the store did “pretty good” opening early for seniors. “I think a lot of people got scared with the governor’s stay-at-home order,” he said.

The first couple of weeks after Gov. Mills declared a civil emergency in the state, he said, the store was extremely busy, but the “supply chain couldn’t keep up.” A few things, such as toilet paper and bread, are currently available in limited quantities. That changes according to deliveries received at the store, he said. The store does have hand sanitizer and face masks.

As a precaution, he said, the store has put up signs reminding shoppers to have a grocery list ready, along with debit cards and money, and also to respect the 6-foot rule of distancing. Plexiglass sneeze-guards have been installed on each register and also at the deli counter.

On this day, Edwards said, Shop 'n' Save had started limiting the number of customers in the store. Several shopping carts were removed from the queue, leaving only 15. When customers arrive at the store, Edwards greets them and gives them a cart. When all the shopping carts are in use, he said, “we ask customers to wait.”

He said he expects to be busy in the coming months with stimulus checks going out. “We’re doing the best we can to follow the rules and keep everybody safe at the same time,” Edwards said.

Wentworth Family Grocery in Brooks

Floor Manager Jason Clark said Wentworth's Brooks store was very fortunate in that its warehouse has been keeping up with the increased demand. “They have really stepped up,” he said. The community, Clark said, has been understanding and the store is doing what it can to make the best of the situation.

“Last few weeks have been very busy,” he said. “People tend to stock up and lay low for a few days,” motioning to the dwindling toilet paper selection.

Clark said the store has not had to be too “hardcore” in limiting the number of customers inside, but instead is letting customers police themselves.

“I am hoping we don’t have to keep people outside,” he said. “People have been doing it on their own. We’re trying to keep the draconian measures at bay until it doesn’t work anymore.”

The store is taking the situation seriously, he said, fitting each checkout station with a plexiglass shield. “People aren’t panicking as bad as they could be,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate everybody is hanging in there, getting through it.”

According to the company’s Facebook page, curbside order pickup is available at the Northport and Brooks stores Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Northport offers Saturday pickup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and orders can be placed any day during normal business hours. To place a curbside pickup order for Brooks, call 722-3177; for Northport, call 338-1897. The order must be a minimum of $25 and no age-restricted items are allowed.

Belfast Laundry Center

Kitty Harvey, an attendant at Belfast Laundry Center, said customers usually come in at a pretty good pace, but now, only five people can come in at a time. “They can’t stay,” she said. “They have to drop off their clothes and leave.”

She feels this new order makes it hard for people. As an attendant, Harvey said she enjoys meeting and communicating with customers, something she now misses.

“It’s kind of sad we can’t do that,” she said, “but we have to abide by the law and stay 6 feet apart.”

1 Mill in Belfast

Paul McCarrier is the “boss” at 1 Mill, which sells medical cannabis. He said his essential business could definitely be busier. “There is a lot of concern about what’s going to happen next,” he said.

“People are lonely, with no social outlets left,” he said. “They come in and want to spend time and chat. Imagine how people would be if they couldn’t get cannabis.” The store helps treat people with seizures, pain and sleeplessness, he said.

A big concern, McCarrier said, is whether the situation will kill small businesses. All that will be left then are big multimillion-dollar companies, he said. Overall, he said, he felt lucky to live in Waldo County, where he thinks people are extremely charitable compared to other parts of the country.

Belfast Hannaford Supermarket

A line of grocery shoppers waited outside in the rain at the Belfast Hannaford Supermarket on this day, until they received the all-clear sign from the store manager and security guard at the entrance.

In an email April 3, Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said the store had implemented a comprehensive social distancing program, including signs for customers and associates to maintain the 6-foot distancing rule, decals at checkout stations and the pharmacy explaining where to stand and plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers.

The store asks customers to shop alone or with as few others as possible, make one larger trip and try to visit the store during off-hours. "Our busiest times are from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, Saturday mornings and early afternoon Sundays. We also are busy when stores first open daily," Blom said.

Hourly retail associates, according to Blom, have received $2-an-hour raises, while salaried managers will get an additional $100 per week. Additionally, Hannaford is actively hiring full- and part-time associates to "better support demand, better serve customers and provide some relief to our store teams." Individuals interested in applying can visit Hannaford.com for more information.

"We want customers to know that the food supply chain in the United States is healthy and resilient, so this is not a supply issue," he said. "The challenge is getting product delivered and on store shelves at a speed that matches this extraordinary demand." High-demand products now have purchase limits in place to ensure more families get the essentials they need.

Blom said Hannaford has received great feedback on the dedicated shopping hours for seniors and other high-risk customers. Stores open from 6 to 7 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to serve these shoppers.

Morrill General Store

Bruce Benjamin, owner of Morrill General Store, said, “Today was a little slow, but everybody’s been really good. We’re lucky to have such a great community.”

Through the past couple of weeks, he said, there have been supply chain struggles for such things as toilet paper and eggs, but overall it has not been too bad. “We’re doing the best we can and don’t want any conflicts,” he said. “Most people get it.” The new order of five people at a time in the store has not been an issue, he said.

The situation, he said, seems “kind of crazy — the fear of the unknown for everybody.”

He added, “Hopefully we can keep things going and people will keep us going.”

Belfast Laundry Center, shown here April 2, reports business is down. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Shoppers wait in line behind barricades while a security guard lets people in at Belfast Hannaford April 2. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
A sign reminds shoppers to stay 6 feet from others and to get in and out quickly at the Unity Shop 'n' Save, shown here April 2. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Plexiglass sneeze-guards hang above the deli at the Unity Shop 'n' Save grocery store April 2. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Morrill General Store owner Bruce Benjamin says everyone has been very understanding. "We're lucky to have such a great community," he said April 2. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Tape marks the safety zone on the floor at 1 Mill April 2. Paul McCarrier, right, owner of the business, which provides medical marijuana, said he feels lucky to live in such a charitable community. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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