Grocery stores in the Wood River Valley are among many across the country that have implemented new policies to make sure that shelves remain stocked and at-risk populations can buy what they need.
Albertsons in Hailey and the Village Market in Ketchum have cut back their hours to allow staff to restock. Most stores are recruiting temporary workers. And, as hand sanitizer, Clorox cleaning wipes and toilet paper fly off the shelves, sales limits are being enforced.
Here’s a roundup of changes that have come to four area grocery stores:
On Thursday, thousands of Albertsons grocery stores—including Albertsons Market in Hailey—began reserving 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. shopping hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for customers over 60, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women.
Healthy customers under 60 are urged to avoid Albertsons stores until 9 a.m., Hailey Store Director Donnie Green said.
“We’re hoping it won’t have to come to checking IDs, that people will understand the needs of the elderly and those more susceptible to coronavirus,” Green said. “We aren’t going to impose martial law, but we do hope that people will rally together.”
Green said that in order to meet increased stocking demands, the store is now opening an hour later—7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.—and will continue to stay open until 10 p.m.
“We’re seeing some items go out of stock, but I think some of the panic-buying last week has subsided,” he said. “We get around five loads per week, and last night alone we received two full semis.”
Green said that as of Wednesday, the store is also hiring temporary employees who were laid off due to coronavirus closures across the valley.
“The last thing we want to do in a small community is take [workers] from other employers, but we’re offering temporary jobs until people can get back to their regular work,” he said.
Normally open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Village Market in Ketchum is now closing an hour early at 9 p.m. to allow employees to restock shelves.
Front End Manager Georgette Hardin said the store is also placing sales limits on high-demand products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, both of which have gone out of stock. At the deli, she said, new preventive measures to reduce food contamination are in effect.
“If you can cough on anything, we don’t have it out,” she said. “We have no self-serve, and most items are now prepackaged.”
Hardin added that the store has lost several employees, including those who have repeatedly called in sick and those with J-1 visas, and is hiring.
“We’re just so busy,” she said.
Atkinsons’ Markets in Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. this week, closing two hours earlier than normal, co-owner Whit Atkinson said.
Though the stores are not currently offering “special senior” hours, Atkinson said, they are ramping up delivery efforts. Customers who believe they’re vulnerable to contracting coronavirus can order groceries by filling out a delivery request at atkinsons.com/delivery or by emailing email@example.com.
“At this point we’re pretty stable,” Atkinson said. “We got stocked up again today, and things are looking encouraging for the future.”
Besides toilet paper and hand sanitizer, sales limits at Atkinsons extend to milk and eggs.
“Customers are limited to one gallon of milk and one dozen eggs,” Atkinson said.
Instead of closing at 9:35 p.m. as usual, Natural Grocers in Hailey is now closing at 7:35 p.m. for additional cleaning and restocking purposes, Product Assistant Maria Rodriguez told the Express.
The store is also hiring temporary employees to help disinfect high-touch areas and restock shelves, Rodriguez said.
Natural Grocers does not yet have product limits in place, but customers are encouraged to give priority to the elderly and immunocompromised.
“We’ve put out small pieces of paper throughout the store saying ‘Please Be Considerate,’” Rodriguez said.