ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Business is booming at meat markets, garden supply stores and hardware stores in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Business is actually doing pretty well,” said Erin Childress Salyers, co-owner of Farm Fresh Meats in Robertsdale. “We have a lot of local suppliers and are able to keep up with the demand of our customers.”
The bigger markets are having trouble keeping their meat stocked, Salyers said, and a lot of people are afraid to go in and shop at the bigger markets.
Farm Fresh closed its doors to the public on Saturday, March 28. Now they post inventory on Facebook and customers can call ahead and have their order delivered to their car outside.
Last week, they also made the decision to stop accepting cash and only take orders by credit or debit card payment over the phone.
“We did lose some business by closing our retail operation,” said Salyers’ father, Farm Fresh owner Chuck Childress, “but our main focus right now is to be able to serve our customers and keep them safe at this time.”
Customers are encouraged to visit farmfreshmeatsal.com to check on availability. Farm Fresh is also constantly updating its Facebook page to let people know what’s available, but with availability changing so rapidly, the best way to communicate is to call the store and place an order.
Customers are encouraged to call when they arrive at the store after placing their order, open their trunk or back door and get back in their car. Someone from inside will bring their order to their vehicle.
“We just want to stress that we are doing everything we can to keep our store clean and to limit physical contact with our customers as much as possible during this time,” Salyers said. “We are going to get through this together and we are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our customers at this time.”
The business also now closes on Mondays to restock from weekend sales and give the store a thorough cleaning. It’s also a chance for Farm Fresh employees to get together and determine what to do moving forward.
“There are so many small businesses in our community that have been forced to close and we’re focusing on ways that we can help the community right now,” she said. “That is something that we’re still trying to figure out how we can get the word out.”
Lee Racine, owner of Racine’s Feed and Garden Supply, said their business has also been busy at this time with a big demand for planting and gardening supply, in particular vegetable plants.
“There are several reasons for this,” she said. “Part of it is just the normal spring vegetable rush. Part of it is that people have kids at home and are looking for something for them to do. We also have people that are concerned that there will be a shortage on food and want to grow their own. We sell plenty of seeds for growing, but a lot of people right now want that instant gratification of growing vegetable plants.”
Racine said they are open for business regular hours Monday through Saturday and are still receiving regular shipments.
“There will eventually be a shortage of vegetable plants because suppliers simply can’t grow them fast enough to keep up with the demand,” she said. “But we still have plenty of seeds and are doing everything we can to serve our customers and keep them safe.”
While most of their business is conducted outside, Racing said, and they do have pick up and delivery service available for customers who call ahead, they are also taking extra measures to ensure customer safety if they have to come inside the store.
“We are trying to stick to social distancing guidelines,” she said. “We had two registers together and we moved one to the other side of the store and we are trying to limit the number of customers that come into the store at one time.”
Racine’s also supplies feed for livestock and pets, she said, of which sales have not slowed down since the outbreak.
Weekend projects have become fulltime jobs for customers at Loxley Auto Parts & Hardware, said owner Rob Davis.
“We’ve been super busy Monday through Saturday in both our auto parts department and our hardware department,” he said. “We’ve been talking and it’s not people making panic buys. It’s just people who have a lot of projects built up and now they are home and able to do them.”
At the same time, David said, the business has an auto repair shop that has been largely empty since the outbreak.
“We’ve just have a lot of people coming in getting supplies for do-it-yourself projects,” he said, “but at the same time, they are not wanting to spend $400 to $500 on an expensive repair.”
As far as safety is concerned, David said, everyone who comes in is pretty much aware of keeping six feet apart and they are not experiencing long lines.
“We just let people stay back and call them up as we get to the next person in line,” he said. “We are also trying to disinfect as much as possible and keep our areas clean and safe for our customers.”