Among other moves, a Naples grocery opens an hour earlier for seniors and disabled folks, considers curbside pickup

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Business is exploding at family-owned, rural supermarkets as customers scramble to stock up during the spread of coronavirus. As toilet paper, cleaning products and other necessities have disappeared from shelves at the big box stores, many people have turned to their neighborhood grocery.

“It’s crazy,” said Dave Bowser, manager of West’s Shurfine in Honeoye. A shipment of toilet paper that arrived Monday morning was gone in less than an hour. “We’ve been so busy it’s hard to keep up,” said his wife, Michelle Bowser, the store’s front-end manager.

While mom-and-pop groceries also battle to keep up with demand, some are getting creative and going the extra mile.

Customers packed the door at noon Monday at Rennoldson’s Market in Naples where the store opened later than usual to allow for cleaning and restocking shelves. Beginning Wednesday, the store will open with new hours — 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the general public. The store will open early, at 7 a.m., for elderly and disabled customers only.

“They can have this time to themselves, to come through the store and shop,” said co-owner Renea Rennoldson. “We noticed on Thursday, there were a bunch of older people here and they had a really hard time dealing with the crowd,” she said. “It frustrates us and frustrates them that they can’t shop. We want them to be able to get what they need.”

Rennoldson’s is also considering curb-side pickup, as well as making deliveries. They may hire additional part-time staff.

“A lot of people have offered to help for free,” Renea said Monday, as the store was teaming with employees and Rennoldson family members preparing the store for opening. They were wiping down shopping carts, shelves and checkout areas, unloading boxes of canned goods, paper supplies, and posting notices.

Under new hours Wednesday, after the store closes at 7 p.m. employees will stay on to clean and restock. Rennoldson’s also plans to hold back a stock of certain necessary goods such as baby formula, toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies that customers will need to ask for.

At most stores on Monday, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other paper and cleaning products were in short supply or didn’t appear on store shelves. At West’s Shurfine in Honeoye, Bowser said the dairy products they ran out of over the weekend were back, with plenty of eggs and milk. As for hand sanitizer, “we’ve been out for two weeks,” Dave said. He didn’t know when he’d be able to get more. “I don’t know what to expect,” he said.

At the Gorham Market, manager Sabrina Evans said the store was out of toilet paper, paper towels and a lot of cleaning products. Evans said the owner was driving back from Florida and picking up supplies along the way, to replenish what they needed.

Grocery store owners are concerned about protecting customers as well as employees from the coronavirus. Michelle Bowser at West’s Shurfine said a number of store employees are senior citizens and so are most at risk for COVID-19. Along with keeping up with customer demand and sanitizing the store, there is also additional work due to changes in the way some things are done because of coronavirus, she said. For example, delivery drivers are instructed to “drop and go,” to avoid contact, Michelle said. That means more work from store employees when deliveries arrive.

At Rennoldson’s, the deli section has stopped offering self-serve. Deli manager, Margaret Ryan, said customers can still find everything they normally do at the deli counter, they just need to ask. That includes Tuesday’s special to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, corned-beef and cabbage.

Renea said when customers check out, she asks that they load their own groceries, after checking out, to avoid contamination from reusable bags.

At Breen’s Market in Palmyra, owner Dan Breen said he expects to be busy and scrambling to keep store shelves stocked for quite awhile.

“We are winging it, day by day,” he said.