Lovell’s only supermarket has not escaped the panic buying that has gripped the nation in the wake of the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with toilet paper and certain cleaning products snapped up by customers as soon as they hit the shelves.
Red Apple store manager Mike Allred said this week that the store has been scrambling to build stock following a rush on the grocery store that began last week and is continuing into this week and likely beyond.
“The biggest thing to begin with is that the panic didn’t hit until after we had ordered for last week,” Allred said Tuesday. “So by the time it hit, it was too late. The order had been in for a day and a half. Otherwise we could have brought in this item or that item and helped out a little bit.”
After a puzzling run on toilet paper early last week, as with stores across the country, the store implemented a one-package-per-customer limit last Wednesday, but even with that the store ran out by Saturday, Allred said.
“We got a new truck in Monday, but we only got about a 10th of what we ordered, so we ran out again,” Allred said. “As soon as it hits the shelves it’s gone. We had a guy from Thermopolis come up to buy a package yesterday.”
Asked why people are buying extra toilet paper when there is no national shortage, Allred said he really has no idea.
“The only thing I can think of is that people have no clue what to do but think, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ There’s not a shortage. Most toilet paper is produced in the United States,” he said.
But even before the toilet paper was all snapped up, Red Apple’s shelves were emptied of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, followed by baby wipes when regular wipes couldn’t be found.
“People are buying them up so the people who need baby wipes are left high and dry,” Allred said. “The biggest complaint I get is that people are hoarding stuff and when someone who really needs it comes in it’s not there.”
In reality, people in this part of Wyoming have it pretty good, Allred said.
“We have plenty of food on the shelves,” he said. “It may not be exactly what you want, but we have food. My daughter Rachael lives in Denver and went to five stores Monday to get what she needed. So we really have it pretty good.”
Cleanliness is also a priority at the store, Allred said. Although germs can be spread by shopping cart handles, Red Apple offers disinfecting wipes for customers to use where the carts are stationed just inside the door, and if checkers have a spare moment, they are up wiping handles and cleaning surfaces, he said.
“Customers are advised to take care of it themselves. We have plenty of wipes to use,” he said.
The main goal of the store is to get back to normal.
“We’re trying to get our shelves stocked so products can be available to the greatest number of people we can help through this,” Allred said. “We all have families, too. We want all of our families to be taken care of. The more we can help, the better off we’ll be.
“It will take a week or two before the wave subsides and the supply chain catches up. We’re just happy it (the initial rush) happened during our case lot sale because we had more product on hand than usual.”
Other businesses in the area are taking steps to limit person-to-person contact that could spread the virus if it reaches the area. The Bank of Lovell announced Tuesday that, as of Wednesday, March 18, the bank (and all Bank of Bridger branches) closed face-to-face lobby services to promote the recommended social distancing designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. The change is being made “for the safety of our staff and community members,” the bank announcement stated.
The bank will continue to serve customers via drive-through facilities, and customers can call the bank to schedule an appointment with a loan officer or for customer support.
Club Dauntless announced this week that the club is live streaming fitness classes via Zoom, free of charge. Customers are urged to check the club’s Facebook page or the Club Dauntless app for additional information.
The club remains open at this time.
Minchow’s Food Court announced Tuesday that Blimpie has mandated closing the dining area at the food court. Minchow’s remains open for drive-up window or take-out service.
Other restaurants have also been reminding customers that they have take-out service, including the new El Torito Mexican restaurant and The Barn restaurant at the Oasis Junction. El Torito and The Barn are both offering dine-in, take-out and delivery service.
Hyart Theatre board president Mike Steenbakkers announced last Friday that the Hyart is suspending movies for the time being after a recommendation from Big Horn Public Health concerning large gatherings. Movie-goers are asked to check the Hyart’s website for information about future showings at www.hyarttheatre.com.
By David Peck