fields foods on lafayette avenue is hosting senior shopping hour during the covid-19 pandemic. photo by michelle volansky

St. Louis grocery stores adjust service, hours during coronavirus pandemic

Recent days have seen STL-area grocery stores with long lines, empty shelves, customers and employees trying to practice safe social distancing to prepare for significant time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You plan for Thanksgiving, you plan for Christmas, you plan for Easter,” said Fields Foods owner Chris Goodson. “You don’t really plan for March 15th,” he added, laughing. “We’re just keeping the supplies there, and we’ll continue to do that.” 

He said his stores have always strived to hit the Food and Drug Administration standards for grocery stores, but now they’re taking extra steps to make sure customers can be safe while stocking up.

“We do intense cleaning anyway, but we’re doing extra deep cleaning,” he said. “Wiping down carts, every aisle, every department. All employees are wearing gloves.”

Goodson said Fields Foods has recently instituted Senior Shopping Hour at its location at 1500 Lafayette Ave. From 7 to 8 a.m., the store is open only to customers older than 60, since people in that age bracket are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“Anyone over 60 can come and shop and feel safe,” he said. “A lot of young people aren’t up at that time anyway. It’s been working.” 

As reported by KMOV this morning, other local grocery stores have also started exclusive hours for seniors. Schnucks will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for seniors; Dierbergs will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for the same purpose. 

Goodson said Fields Foods will continue to find ways to adapt to the neighborhood’s needs. “We built a grocery store here to provide for the community,” he said. At the moment, the Lafayette Avenue location is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The 1706 Washington Ave. location is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the 625 N. Euclid Ave. store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Local Harvest Grocery at 3108 Morgan Ford Road has also seen an increase in customers.

“We’ve been super busy,” said owner Maddie Earnest. “Had a lot of people coming in. New people in the neighborhood coming in. So that’s nice, to meet new members of the community.” 

Of course, the higher flow of customers has taken something of an effect on the store’s shelves, though Earnest doesn’t seem to be worried. “We’ve had to increase a lot of our ordering. We’ve tried to order a lot more nonperishables,” she said, adding that they’ve also been trying to stock more beef and meat in general. 

She said the store is working extra hard to keep bread in stock. It’s been completely sold out some days. Since bread deliveries don’t come every day. 

On a lighter note, Earnest was amused by the sales of one item in particular: oat milk. “I had to laugh, because you hear about oat milk being [popular],” she said. “We have not sold out of oat milk. I will say that.” 

Local Harvest is now offering curbside pickup for “any customers with compromised immune systems or in the more vulnerable populations.” Earnest said customers can now email their grocery lists via email on the website and will be notified about the best time to come pick up their food. 

Local Harvest works closely with many members of the farming community, and those relationships are changing, as well. The Tower Grove Winter Farmers’ Market has closed, and Local Harvest is trying to help some of those vendors sell their inventory. She also said she’d been talking to a few local restaurants about starting to sell their prepared foods and even full meals out of the store.

Local Harvest is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Adam Rothbarth is the staff writer at Sauce Magazine.