BELOIT—Area grocery stores struggled to keep shelves stocked this weekend amid a buying frenzy of paper products, cleaning supplies and canned goods.
Despite the challenge, the food supply was stable as employees worked extra hours to keep up with customer demand.
“Woodman’s was built for things like this. We have warehouses,” said Beloit Woodman’s store manager Kevin Kolberg.
Kolberg said Woodman’s has done well keeping up on inventory. On Sunday, toilet paper was back in stock with plenty of food. Business picked up substantially on Thursday at the store at 1877 S. Madison Road, Beloit, and stayed robust through Sunday.
The store closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Saturday to give the third shift ample time to restock shelves.
Each morning 50 to 150 people were lined up outside the store, Kolberg said.
Employees were encouraged to work extra hours, with most working two extra hours a day and others coming in on their days off.
By Thursday, the store ran out of hand sanitizer and the paper towels, toilet paper and water stock dwindled.
By Friday the store had set a sales record. The lines wound from the checkouts to over by the break room and frozen food area, with a 30-minute wait.
Despite the flurry of shopping, Kolberg said Woodman’s has a solid food supply with warehouses and truck drop-offs on schedule and employees eager to help.
Woodman’s employee Greg McGhee said he was getting overtime by working extra hours and said he was trying to do his part to help the community.
“Everyone’s in desperate need,” McGhee said.
Woodman’s shopper Mildred Sims, 66, and her great-grandson Chatavier Bell-Johnson, 7, were trying to find hand sanitizer which was sold out. Sims said she was concerned as she is a breast and kidney cancer survivor. Sims said she was able to stock up on groceries on Thursday at Woodman’s. She was planning to head to Walgreens to see what other cleaning products she could find.
Woodman’s shoppers Johanne Hallet and husband Mark Hallet were on their second trip to Woodman’s on Sunday. They had come earlier to get meat, toilet paper and dish soap, but had forgotten the canned goods. Johanne Hallet, who likes sardines, had plenty of them to choose from and found some Spaghetti-O’s along the way. She said she wasn’t too worried about COVID-19, but wanted to have enough food as everyone else was buying it.
Miguel Guzman, owner of Piggly Wiggly, 1827 Prairie Ave., said he lost a couple employees over the weekend due to the extreme business. Other employees had been working extra hours and staff was busy on Sunday morning placing orders and keeping stock up. Although hand sanitizer was sold out, there was a strong stock of canned goods, meat and food items.
“We’ve been closing an hour-and-a-half early just to stay ahead,” Guzman said. “We are getting stuff for the customers and meeting needs.”
Piggly Wiggly shopper Michael Green, 66, had a small cart with bacon, pork neck bones and cabbage. He said he had been stocking up slowly, “a little bit at a time.”
He said his home has already been amply stocked with cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer prior to COVID-19. With a heart condition, Green said he is being cautious about COVID-19 and not shaking anyone’s hand. However, he’s still going to live life.
“I’m not going to stay in all the time,” he said. “I don’t think it will be that bad. Like everything else, it will go away.”
Beginning Sunday, Schnucks stores in Illihnois that are normally open 24 hours will now close at midnight, while all other stores will now close at 10 p.m., according to information from Schnucks. The temporary reduction in hours will allow Schnucks time to focus solely on store cleanliness and keeping shelves stocked.