So these are interesting times. As I knelt on the floor of my store today, marking off the recommended ‘social distancing’ boundaries for our till line up, trying to infuse a bit of lightness into our customer’s day by writing friendly reminders on the floor… I had one of those ‘is this real?’ moments. Am I really kneeling on the cement floor as customers walk around me, asking people to respect personal space for the safety of others. I never thought I would write #personalspaceisthebestspace in relation to the running of my grocery store… but here we are, all of us, in this together.
Before I lose you with my long winded message, I’d like to speak to ‘panic buying’. Please STOP. We aren’t seeing it here, and for that we are grateful. This causes unnecessary stress on the supply chain, on staff in stores, and renders others without. I want to assure you that we do not have supply chain concerns, we will be here for you, with food on our shelves. You will however, notice a few compromises being made in our store due to lightened staff levels, we ask for your understanding as we prioritize everyone’s health and safety by having fewer staff on shift at any given time, (for example, we will not have baggers on our tills, and you will see a few less options here and there in order to accommodate our increased sanitation procedures).
There’s no course for this in business school (I didn’t go). But should there be? Probably not… what there should be is a course on trusting your instincts, in engaging with your team & your customers to ensure that their needs are met and their fears are abated. This is what we are focused on right now. On ensuring that we are doing ALL that we can within our resources to represent our space as local entrepreneurs, as grocers, as friends, family and parents with the utmost integrity.
We assure you from the bottom of our hearts that your health & safety is of our utmost priority. We are grateful that as a small business we can respond with immediacy to our rapidly changing circumstances. Today for example, following the provincial news briefing, we immediately removed all customer seating from our store. Thanks for coming, but please move along, for the health and safety of all.
Our current circumstances and recent call for all to ‘social distance’, will deliver quite a blow to our island economy, first to the small businesses that define our culture here in Victoria. As a member of the small business community we feel that it’s our obligation to urge you to make mindful decisions when choosing where you spend your dollars.
We can only speak for our own store, where our customers thus far have impressed us beyond belief with their overwhelming support, and their rational shopping habits, allowing us to manage the slight increase in sales volume without making huge compromises.
Think also of your grocery list as you write it, we are a small business, so is Fatso Peanut Butter, so is Golda’s Pesto and Saltspring Jam, not to mention the farmers growing this season’s local produce, about to be abundant. These companies need sales, need healthy staff, and need our support to stay afloat. We cannot IMAGINE a world without these products (among so many others) in it but the fact of the matter is that when life resumes normalcy, many of our favourite places to shop & eat, and our favourite products to buy may not exist when that time comes.
We urge you as always to vote with your fork and with your dollars. Our community of small businesses, growers, makers, bakers and shakers needs us right now. Mindfulness is contagious.
We all need to eat, and though many of you have gone out of your way to stock your pantries, the need for food, particularly fresh food will be ongoing. Many cannot afford to stockpile, others prefer not to, a lot will just want a reason to leave the house.
Please be aware that our staff have been trained to be mindful of social distancing when going about their daily tasks. You are less likely to be approached while shopping; please know that we want to chat with you and lend a hand, but as a result of our efforts we may appear less friendly than usual, we assure we are not!
Some suggestions we have for integrating social distancing into your essential grocery shopping:
We are currently open 8am-7pm, 7 days a week. Our busiest hours of operation are from 11am-5pm, with our highest customer counts from 2-5pm. Avoid these shopping times if you can.
We are strongly suggesting that the first hour of the day 8-9am is the ideal time for the elderly or vulnerable to do their shopping (if they don’t have someone to do it for them). Our customer volume is low, our staff levels are high and our store will have been freshly sanitized. We will not turn you away but If you are a low risk individual we suggest that you honour this window of time if you are able, out of respect for those in our community that are comforted by this accommodation.
Shop alone, not as a couple or a family if you are able. The fewer bodies in our store at any given time, the lower everyone’s rate of exposure.
Make your shops larger and less frequent. If you have always been a 3x/week shopper, consider becoming a once a week shopper. Just plan ahead.
Shop for your friends, family & neighbours, (particularly the vulnerable) take turns running errands for each other, again, the less bodies in circulation in the community the greater impact we are having on flattening the curve.
Use a shopping buggy instead of a basket, ‘social distancing’ isn’t human nature. The nature of a shopping cart’s size will ensure distance between you and other shoppers & staff.
Clean your hands before and after leaving the store, be mindful that coming in with clean hands reduces risk for all staff and customers sharing the space. We have a well equipped customer bathroom available, and a limited supply of sanitizing stations.
Amongst the constantly changing social climate, we want to take a moment to remind you that we are still running our Island Food Caring Campaign. While this may feel like a nuisance, we urge you to consider the vulnerable, the hidden hungry in our community during this unsettling time. Imagine, if on top of the instability we are all experiencing, you also didn’t know where your next meal was coming from. Everyone’s food sustainability commitments are being tested right now, we stand firmly planted behind ours, and pledge to DOUBLE ALL CUSTOMER DONATIONS to Island Food Caring made between now and March 22nd at our tills. Those in need, need us more than ever. I am a huge fan of the beautiful words below … we need to BE THE HELPERS right now.
With warmth & gratitude,
Adam & Daisy Orser
The Root Cellar Owners