St. Lawrence County grocers keeping essential goods flowing with curbside pickup
Friday, March 27, 2020 - 5:41 pm

Walmart manager Jeff Bonno and Nyah Plunkett load food into a customer’s car at the store’s pickup site.

BY CHERYL SHUMWAY
North Country This Week

Grocery stores have been providing an essential need, keeping the flow of food coming to St. Lawrence County during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sanitizing stores and restocking food and supplies, after panicked shoppers emptied shelves, have kept store employees extra busy.

“Trucks are coming seven days a week to resupply our store. It’s beginning to level off, and now we are well supplied again,” said Walmart manager Jeff Bonno, Potsdam.

“We are hiring temporary workers every day who have been recently laid off in the community. Walmart has sped up the hiring process, so I can hire a person within a couple of hours now,” Bonno said.

“Save A Lot is in great shape right now, and we are 90-95% stocked again,” said owner Jeff Proulx. “Our team has rallied together to support each other and keep customers safe. We have strict sanitation policies.” He operates stores in Potsdam, Canton, Ogdensburg, Gouverneur and five other locations.

Bonnie Jacobs, in a Facebook post, said shopping at the Canton Save A Lot “blew me away. I saw three workers sanitizing every railing, door handle to every freezer and fridge. Even the cashier wiping down the conveyor belt, handles to the carts, credit card keypad and railing.”

Many stores are reserving the first hour of each day to seniors and those with health issues, including Price Chopper, Walgreens, Save A Lot, Dollar General, Big Lots, and BJ’s.

Walmart reserves the hour before starting time on Tuesdays as senior (60+) shopping hour, with vision and pharmacy open also. Aldi has senior shopping on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Stores offering curbside pick-up or delivery are struggling to keep up with the increasing demand since COVID-19.

“Walmart has a lot of people now using pick-up. If time slots for pick-up are filled, keep trying. We are opening more slots. Using the Walmart app, you can order up to seven days ahead,” said Bonno.

Price Chopper in Potsdam offers Instacart services for both curbside pickup and delivery, and Canton’s store offers delivery only. Instacart time slots are limited due to high demand.

Potsdam Food Co-op was to have transitioned to curbside grocery service only starting Monday, March 30, according to their Facebook page. "Call 315-265-4630, or order online at http://bit.ly/coopcurb and arrange pickup from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.” it said.

LaVigne’s IGA manager in Potsdam, Amber Hughes, said their store is “pretty much back to normal. We are constantly cleaning all the time. When business was getting hit with constant customers, employees worked their butts off to take care of them.”

Potsdam Aldi door signage on March 15 said the store was temporarily closing, but they remained open. The store’s stock of food is now almost back to normal, but their Instacart delivery was temporarily not available as of Friday, March 27.

Some stores have a temporary increase in pay for workers. For example, Walmart is giving a bonus of $300 for employees. Save A Lot is giving an increase of $2 per hour to full-time workers and $1 per hour for part-time workers for the next three weeks.

At Save A Lot, Proulx said, “The employee pay increase is “in appreciation for their serving the community and our company.”