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Grocery stores provide lifeline
Super Rama lady.jpg
Donna Griffith works the register at Super Rama Foods. Grocery stores have remained open and buzzing with activity during stay-at-home restrictions. - photo by Atlanta Northcutt

Jennifer Woods & Atlanta Northcutt

Heroes don’t always wear capes or badges. Some wear gloves and masks while scanning groceries and typing items into a cash register.

These individuals are on the front lines as they put their lives at risk by simply going into work each morning to provide the necessities for their community. 

Donna Griffith has been an employee at Tietgens Super Rama Foods for over three years.

“All of our staff members are definitely using gloves and some of us are wearing masks to not only protect ourselves, but our customers as well,” says Griffith.

Grocery store workers are making sure to keep individuals and their families safe, while still providing all of the food, supplies and necessary items to customers during these viral times.

“All of us are working together to help each other out, and the customers are really trying to help too,” says Griffith. “Many of them are wearing masks and gloves for protection and have been wonderful in helping with the safety of the staff and those who they come in contact with while shopping.”

These heroes working the front lines to supply the public with food are located throughout the county’s grocery and convenience store chains, including Warehouse Discount Groceries, Walmart, Kroger, Save-A-Lot, United Grocery Outlet, and gas stations located on every corner.

“I’m absolutely afraid I could come in contact with this virus and infect myself, but I just do a lot of praying and continue to have a lot of faith,” says Griffith. 

These grocery and convenient store workers come in each day, stock groceries, produce and meats, speak with customers, handle cash and other forms of currency and bag groceries, all while doing so with smiles.

“Everyone is definitely a family here and we’re all very close so we’re making sure to take care of and look out for one another,” says Griffith.

These individuals put their lives on the line each and every day in order to bring a sense of normalcy, as well as benefit the community.

“I’m not nervous about coming in,” says longtime patron of Super Rama, Linda Fults. “I trust this business and the employees working here.”

Special times have been set up to ensure the safety of customers.

At Tietgens Super Rama Foods, the allotted hours for senior citizens aged 60 or over to shop are Monday through Saturday from 7 to 8 a.m.

Hours of shopping have been changed to 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

At Warehouse Discount Groceries, Arianna Hutchins has worked there for six months. As a cashier, she uses a small bottle of hand sanitizer during her shift and cleans her register regularly.

“Customers have been pretty nice for the most part. I am not scared but maybe a bit nervous to work during the pandemic, but I am worried about my dad who also works at a grocery store,” said Hutchins. “I would tell everybody to keep up with the social distancing to minimize the spread of this virus. I just wish the pandemic could be over soon.”

WDG district manager Matt Campbell has worked for Mitchell Grocery Corp., the parent company of WDG, for a little over 30 years. Campbell has been a district manager now for the past six years after store managing for a little over 18 years. He is based out of Sheffield, Alabama. The McMinnville store is the company’s only store in Tennessee. 

“We are currently on conference call three times a week with the managers updating them on this pandemic and cleaning and sanitizing stores on a daily basis,” said Campbell. “We are encouraging social distancing practices in the stores with our employees as well as trying to maintain safe distancing with customers. Our customers have been very understanding of the current situation as we have seen unprecedented amounts of groceries go through the stores. We are experiencing out of stocks from manufactures at rates we have never had to deal with.”

When asked I asked if he was nervous or scared to work on the frontlines of the pandemic he said he was too busy. He also shared, “I guess one thing coming out of this is that you just never know what to expect. In the 30 years I have been in grocery business nothing has compared to what we are seeing from a retail level of grocery buying. In just a few short weeks, we as a grocery industry, are trying to figure out ways to get customers to our stores and eating more meals at home to not be able to keep up with demand for many items that you never thought would be a problem.”