First things first--I want to thank all of our owners and customers who come into Common Ground and take some time to show their appreciation to our staff for being here. It means so much to all of us that we are acknowledged for the daily risk we take just by showing up for work. I want to give special thanks to those who were encouraging our staff even before COVID-19 came to our country.
As we enter into this time of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to reassure you that we at Common Ground are doing our best to make sure the needs of all of our stakeholders are being met. We know that our owners, our staff, our local farmers, and our community depend on us. Nothing like this has ever happened before and we are doing the best we can to remain viable and relevant. This is the type of event that has the potential to change the world we live in, and we must all accept that even after this threat has been mitigated, we may be changed for a long time to come. How long will the worry of close contact with our fellow humans continue? Will gatherings at concerts or sporting events no longer happen? Will we continue to wonder about what illness we may contract if we leave our homes? In all of this, I am concerned with what the face of retail will look like going forward and what steps small businesses like ours will need to take to ensure our survival. There are many questions and few answers at this point.
For now, the questions I receive are on a less grand scale, but are just as important. They revolve around how we are taking care of our staff, what are we doing to make sure it is safe to shop, and when is the toilet paper going to be back in stock!
How are we taking care of our staff? Remembering that we are a small single store (not a chain with large cash reserves to carry us through tough times), we are doing all we can for our staff. Any of our staff who are considered at-risk and have medical documentation are being granted FMLA leave. Further, any staff who do not feel comfortable working right now are allowed to take whatever time off they need and are welcome to return when they are ready. No one will lose their job, unless--in the most extreme circumstance--we have no choice but to reduce staff due to low sales.
Additionally, we are aware that many grocery stores have added hazard pay for staff. As essential workers, our staff are receiving hazard pay, but in a slightly different way than other stores. Instead of writing checks directly to staff or raising their pay rates, we are issuing each staff member who is still working a $50 stipend every week for 8 weeks to buy food at Common Ground. We feel that this is the most effective benefit that ensures our people get the healthy food they need at a crucial time, while allowing them to allot their earnings to pay other bills instead of worrying about where their next meal will come from. We are a cooperative grocery store after all, and our primary concern is feeding people.
Is the store safe to shop? To ensure the coop is as safe as possible to shop and work, we are sanitizing frequently touched surfaces on a regular, hourly schedule (and more often if necessary). After we close, we do a thorough sanitization of the entire store. We are also making sure that everyone knows the basics of how to avoid getting sick. These include: frequent handwashing and santizing, wearing gloves if necessary, social distancing, and refraining from touching any area of the face.
To all of our shoppers, we recommend these basic guidelines to protect yourselves and our staff:
- Commit to buying each item before touching it
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Don’t go to the store if you have any respiratory illness or have been exposed to COVID-19
- Don’t allow loved ones over the age of 60 to go the supermarket; drop groceries off at their home
- Plan to buy two weeks worth of groceries to reduce shopping trips
- Respect posted senior and at-risk shopping hours (7:30-9:00AM)
- Keep your social distance – remain six feet away from other shoppers and staff
- Do not bring in reusable containers for the time being
- Use a credit or debit card instead of cash
- Disinfect groceries if possible before putting them away in your home
If you haven't heard yet, we are offering curbside pickup on Thursdays and Sundays to reduce some of the traffic inside. Common Ground is NOT closed on curbside pickup days. We are simply offering an additional service to community members who do not wish to shop in person right now. Please see our website for details!
Now for the last question, when will items be available? Honestly, at this point, it is hard to tell. We continue to place orders for all our usual products; however, there are many items unavailable through our distributor right now. I suspect that over time these items will become available sporadically and eventually the supply will be just as regular as before. It will just take time. As more information becomes available we will let you know. Please remember that we may need to set limits on many of these items when they do start to come back.
Finally, I just want to remind everyone about our fantastic local suppliers and how important they are to all of us at this time. I would guess that buying local items instead of non-local items, especially produce, is much safer now than ever before. When you consider the number of people who could be handling food from beginning to end in the supply chain, know that only the farmer and our staff have had a chance to touch it. Also, please remember that we don't know if or when the farmer's market is going to be available and our local farmers need your support as much as we need the food they produce. We will do all we can to continue to prioritize our local purchases, but of course, we need you to shop here to get it.
We will get through this, together. It's what coops do!
Thanks for reading and please stay safe,