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UPDATED: Pell City grocery store sees pandemic as challenge to be met; Walmart, Publix make adjustments

Pell City Fresh Value

Pell City Fresh Value

PELL CITY -- Pell City grocery stores are adjusting to service during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Brian Rhoten, a manager at Pell City Fresh Value, said his employees see it as a situation they need to meet head on. 

“We see it as a challenge and we are going to meet that challenge,” Rhoten said. 

Rhoten said several stores are experiencing supply issues, but Fresh Value has been able to avoid the brunt of that problem. He said because Fresh Value is an independent store, it is allowed to deal with multiple suppliers, which improves its ability to keep receiving stock.

He explained the store deals with seven suppliers just for meat products alone, and in some cases, can buy directly from manufacturers.

Nevertheless, Fresh Value has felt some of the issues other stores are having. 

“We are seeing, on average, around 20% outages,” Rhoten said. He adds that despite this, Fresh Value has been able to avoid major issues. 

“It feels like we are in better shape than our competition” he said

Rhoten said Fresh Value has taken steps to increase sanitation at the store. 

He said all cashiers have to wear gloves. Other employees are constantly disinfecting registers and other high-contact areas several times a day.

Rhoten said the situation has been an adjustment for many employees. 

“We’re working a lot of overtime,” he said. “Everyone has stepped up.”

Rhoten said he has only had two employees not come to work during the crisis so far, one for a child care issue and one due to being in a high-risk population. 

Publix makes changes

Publix of Pell City will be seeing sweeping changes to its services due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nicole Krauss, who serves as Publix’s media relations manager for Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, said the company is committed to the safety of its customers.

With that in mind, it has taken steps to improve sanitation in each of its stores.

“Each store has a designated team of associates dedicated to sanitizing items, including but not limited to, baskets, cart handles and pin pads at the registers after each use,” she said Tuesday. 

She also pointed to a press release put out by the company Tuesday, March 17, saying it would change hours at stores nationwide to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting March 18. It also said store pharmacies would operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Running normal hours Sundays 

The company added in another release Thursday it would be adding a senior shopping hour to its operating schedule from 7 to 8 a.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday starting March 24 nationwide. 

Krauss also said Publix will be hiring associates companywide to help deal with demand during the pandemic. 

“We take pride in serving our communities during times of need, and with the unprecedented demand we are experiencing, we’re in need of more associates to help across our operating area,” Publix Vice President of Human Resources Marcy Benton said in a press release about the move cited by Krauss. The release said this includes stores nationwide and distribution centers such as the one in McCalla, Alabama.

Krauss also said Publix is taking steps to address the growing demand in stores. 

“Our warehousing and distribution centers are working around the clock to receive product from our suppliers and to ship product to our stores. Last week alone, we delivered almost 12,000 truckloads to our stores,” she said. “Our teams are diligently working to get our shelves restocked and conduct preventive cleaning measures to provide a safe and clean working and shopping experience.”

She said demand from customers remains high, but the company is asking for customers, other than seniors, to use their normal grocery shopping habits. This includes both quantities at which they buy products and when they shop during the day. 

“Also, we’re asking customers not to arrive early, waiting in line for stores to open,” Krauss said. “Since deliveries are made throughout the day, arriving first thing doesn’t guarantee product availability.”  

Walmart’s plan

Pell City Walmart is also seeing special operations during the crisis. 

Walmart announced stores nationwide, including Pell City, would be operating at adjusted hours -- from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The company also said it would be designating the hour preceding its opening on Tuesdays for a senior shopping hour, so that senior citizens will be able to shop without risking exposure to the virus. 

Taylor Mitchell, Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.