No need for panic shopping
By Joshua Maloni
Lewiston Tops will continue to meet the needs of River Region residents, even as demand for food and supplies increases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
That was the message supermarket owner Anthony DiMino shared with the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce and local elected leaders on Monday.
“Obviously the extension of the shutdown … it's going to affect us just as much as it’s done the last three weeks,” he said. “Right now, in regards to commodities, produce is not a problem; because I have more than one supplier, besides Tops. Meat is not a problem, because I have more than one supplier for meat. Dairy is, obviously, the egg category is a little shaky. I might not have all the sizes, but I should have eggs. Same thing in the milk category. Frozen foods is in great demand, so there is going to be some outages in the frozen food category.
“In regards to nonperishables, the two to three categories that are in dire need is pasta is hit and miss. So, you might be able to get one size. Right now, we have Barilla, but not Tops. Can beans, or pork and beans, is in short supply. Rice was a commodity that was in trouble before this emergency, so that's all over the country there's a shortage of rice.
“Paper goods, as you know, toilet paper is in short supply. We’ll get, maybe, 10-15 cases of one kind per order – and it'll be gone by 10 o'clock. And that's even with us limiting it to two per customer. Bottled water is now becoming in short supply, because they cannot manufacture it fast enough. And cleaning goods, you know, forget about. We ordered – in that aisle alone – almost 1,800 pieces, and we got 200. So, you know, Clorox wipes, sanitizers – pretty much you're not going to have it for a long while. That's just the way it is.”
He explained senior citizens are taking full advantage of exclusive shopping hours (6-7:30 a.m. Tuesday/Thursday). DiMino asked these patrons to remember the social distancing measures put in place across the state. The store has taped lines in front of the checkout lanes separating shoppers the suggested six feet.
“In regards to social distancing, just because you're older doesn't mean that you should not follow that type of rule,” DiMino said. “People are waiting at the door at six o'clock in the morning on Tuesday.”
“We have stuff,” he said. “You don't have to rush in there. I understand they want to stay away from younger clientele, but it doesn't help anybody if everybody's gonna be kind of thrown together, because they want to get there before something might be gone. There’s plenty of stuff for everybody.”
As part of her community update on Tuesday, Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh advised, “When you are going out for those things, it’s not a time to take the family out on a trip together to the grocery store, because you need to get out of the house. We all understand that people need to get out, but take a walk instead. You don’t need to have the whole family go into the grocery store. One person should be doing that, if that’s a possibility.”
DiMino said the corporate Instacart program is running behind based on the program set in place. “But our home delivery ourselves, the Tops Lewiston home delivery, been working pretty much the same day, or maybe early the next morning.
“It used to average about 15 to 20 orders a day, Monday through Friday. Now, we're up to like 60 or 70 orders a day. I've added more help; so, we went from one personal shopper to two. I've added a second delivery person. In that, we're in pretty good shape.”
The Lewiston store is among all Tops locations implementing additional safety measures for employees.
“What we're attempting to do, we're putting up plastic shields at the registers,” DiMino said.
He explained, “My help is obviously very taxed. Of the 200 associates I have right now, I've lost 15 people that wanted to take a leave, which is fine. They're mostly older associates, or it's an associate that has a mother or father that is older or is sickly. So, they didn't want to chance that.”
Chamber President Jennifer Pauly said, “We appreciate everything that you're doing to keep people fed in this area, and keep things clean. I know every single time I've gone in, it's been no issues, and people have respected space, and we appreciate that.”
Tops has meat, bread and produce.