HONESDALE, PA — Grocery stores are often people’s first stop when a crisis, or the threat of one, racks the community. Mike Flederbach has been in the grocery store business his entire …
HONESDALE, PA — Grocery stores are often people’s first stop when a crisis, or the threat of one, racks the community. Mike Flederbach has been in the grocery store business his entire life, owning and operating the family business, Dave’s Super Duper. He said that running the store during this COVID-19 pandemic has been “nothing like anybody’s ever seen.”
Home delivery and pickup went from 30 orders per day to more than 100 per day, he said, and walk-in traffic during the first three weeks “quadrupled plus.”
“It was just stuff like you wouldn’t believe,” Flederbach said. “One day we sold 24 pallets of toilet paper in one day; 24 pallets would generally last us two months.”
With such a high volume of traffic, grocery stores across the country have had to quickly implement new procedures like restricting the number of shoppers in the store at a time, limiting how much each shopper could buy of every item and setting aside times for blocks of time when only senior citizens were allowed to enter the store.
The past couple of months have also transformed the daily lives of grocery store employees as they work on the frontlines of this national pandemic right alongside hospital workers, law enforcement officers and emergency responders.
“Most of [the employees] were younger kids, they were high school kids that were off from school… they were working for 50 hours rather than 30 hours” he said, adding that the younger workers have filled the shoes of the store’s more elderly workers who have taken time off to stay safe from the virus. Especially during the first three weeks, dealing with the tensions of worried—sometimes panicked—shoppers, the once relatively low-stress, after-school job amplified into an intense, potentially dangerous job nearly overnight.
“They’re still continuing to go above and beyond, more than you’d expect to really have to do because it is a simple job… it’s [usually] very low-key, low-stress, you put your time in and you go home,” he said. “The transition was really seamless.”
In addition to disrupting the average workday of grocery store employees, COVID-19 has caused huge disruptions in the supply chains, leading to shortages and empty shelves nationwide. By using alternative suppliers, Flederbach has been able to keep highly sought items in stock.
“I have a lot of suppliers that aren’t technically grocery suppliers,” he said. “They had all of this retail stuff that they would sell to schools, they would sell to nursing homes, they would sell to hospitals, so they called me and said ‘Hey we have all this stuff, what do you need?’”
Through this non-retail supply chain, Flederbach has been able to keep toilet paper in stock, just not the kind shoppers are used to seeing in Super Duper. They might recognize it from the last time they stayed in a hotel, however.
As for Flederbach’s own stress level through this unprecedented time in recent memory, his staff, his lifelong involvement with the store and his connections in the community have all helped keep him from getting overwhelmed.
“Yeah it was definitely stressful, and it still is stressful, but it wasn’t anything other than really not having any days off,” he said. “I have a lot of people around me: all the employees, all my department people, that made it very simple… we have so many good people here that make the challenge less challenging.”
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