Local stores adding safety features, special hours


Grocery and liquor stores are changing hours and adding protective shields to better serve their customers – and protect their employees – during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stores like Winn-Dixie, Publix and The Fresh Market are working tirelessly to stock shelves and provide a safe environment during a time when many residents have been told not to leave their homes.

Winn-Dixie and ABC Fine Wine and Spirits already have installed Plexiglas shields at most of their registers and Publix plans to have the same partitions in place in the next week.

ABC was quick to respond to the virus that’s easily spread by contact, sneezes and coughs.

“We have a woodshop in Orlando, and they made enough shields in one night for 125 stores,” the assistant manager at the Ponte Vedra ABC said. “We got them up right away.”

Liquor stores reported an unprecedented rush during the second week of March when restrictions and cancelations were announced by federal, state and local officials.

The company has the following statement on its website: “Currently, all shelter-in-place orders allow ABC and our team members to continue working.”

And that means extra business.

“We were holiday busy,” said one store operator in St. Augustine. “It was crazy, crazy, crazy. It was like the week before Christmas.”

In Ponte Vedra Beach, staff at ABC said many of their customers were stocking up in case stores are ordered to close. However, in most jurisdictions, liquor stores provide “essential services” and wouldn’t be subject to closures like local bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

All stores have adjusted their hours to help elderly people complete their shopping early, to allow first responders to shop late and to provide extra time around the store for cleaning.

The Fresh Market now is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. During weekdays, the first hour of operation is limited to senior citizens who are considered the most vulnerable to catch the novel coronavirus.

“We ask that our other guests who do not fall into these categories respect these special hours for those who fall into the higher risk categories as outlined by the CDC, so they can feel more comfortable shopping in our stores,” the store said in a company release.

The Fresh Market has also closed all café seating areas, and in states that have banned gatherings of no more than 50 people, we are monitoring the guest count in our stores to adhere to these guidelines.

Winn-Dixie, along with other stories in the Southern Grocers chain, has adjusted its hours to allow for senior citizens to shop from 8 a.m.-9 a.m. during the weekday. Store hours also have been extended an hour to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesday for first responders.

“At Southeastern Grocers, we are a people-first company and we are dedicated to being there for the community when they need us most,” said company president and CEO Anthony Hucker. “Our first responders and healthcare providers are working extra-long hours to take care of the community and we want to do our part to take care of them. Beginning this Monday, all of our stores will remain open from 8-9 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday to allow these heroic individuals the opportunity to stock up on fresh food and essential items. We ask that our customers be respectful of this time we have dedicated to our frontline warriors.”

Many Winn-Dixie stores also have markings on the floor to remind shoppers to maintain a two-cart-distance from other shoppers and cashiers.

Publix stores across the First Coast are closing two hours earlier at 8 p.m. Stores, including the pharmacy, are open for senior shopping from 7 a.m.-8 a.m. on Thursdays and Wednesdays.

Many Publix stores said customers often are waiting outside for the doors to open during their special shopping hours.

“As a company that started as a small business 90 years ago, Publix wants to help businesses renting from us survive the economic impact of these unexpected closures,” said Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous.



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