Stokes Grocery

Stokes Supermarket owner John Childers stands by shelves that have been cleared of toilet paper and paper towels. 

John Childers, owner of Stokes Supermarket in New Albany, urged people to stay calm as the country’s fight with the coronavirus continues.

Childers said he is having trouble keeping some items, such as toilet paper, stocked. Rubbing alcohol and “anything that sanitizes” are also popular items. Canned meats, fresh meats, water and canned vegetables are also flying off the shelves, he said.

He said the rush starting hitting the grocery store almost two weeks ago.

“You could tell people were kind of panicking a little bit,” Childers said. “The way they were buying you could tell they were very concerned because they were buying unusually large amounts of stuff.”

Greg Cooper, store manager at Reed’s Market in New Albany, said “it’s been kind of hectic” at his grocery store.

“I think there’s too much of a scare going on out there,” Cooper said. “People think we’re going to run out of food. The only problem is that we can’t keep the shelves full.”

The customers are just “kind of in a panic right now” and there’s no need to be, Cooper added.

He is having trouble keeping some items stocked at Reed’s, such as bread, eggs and toilet paper.

Reed’s is imposing limits on how much toilet paper customers can purchase so everyone can buy some.

“There’s no need to hoard,” Cooper said. “If people would just kind of calm down and slow down, they’ll see things are just normal. We’ll see where it goes.”

Wholesalers are under pressure to fill large orders for grocery stores that have seen their shelves cleared of toilet paper and other items, said Childers.

“They’re just doing the best they can, and that’s all any of us can do,” Childers said. “We’ll get through it. The food industry is a huge, huge organism and once you deplete that it takes a while to build it back up.”

Everyone is just going to have to be patient and do the best they can with what they’ve got, Childers said.

“We’re still getting three trucks a week,” said Childers. “But we can’t get everything that we want because of the high volume at the warehouse.”

Some people are hoarding large quantities of items, and that has hurt supplies in grocery stores, said Childers.

“That means other people don’t get any,” he said.

Stokes is not limiting the amount of items that people can purchase. Childers hopes people will limit what they buy on their own.

“If they care anything about their neighbor that’s what they’ll do,” he said.

If everyone would just get about two weeks worth of supplies, “I think we could keep the flow going,” he said.

Manufacturers are still producing products but are struggling to keep up with the demand.

“They’re trying to reach maximum efficiency and trying to fill needs as much as possible,” Childers said.

 For instance, he said he recently ordered three pallets of toilet paper but only got one.

“It’s just physically impossible to make that much that fast,” said Childers. “We’re getting all we can as fast as we can and getting it to the shelves.

There is no reason people need to buy toilet paper in bulk because the manufacturers are still making it, Childers said. If people would limit how much they buy, it will be there for others when they need it.

Childers said people should “use some common sense” and that everything will be OK. He noted that people have been through tornados, Hurricane Katrina, 9-11 and ice storms, and “We’ll get through this.”

He thinks Mississippi will fare better than most other places because of the way people cooperate here.

“We tend to pull together when things get tough,” he said.

However, he noted that people become afraid and panic because they do not understand what is going on.

“That unknown creates a fear,” Childers said.

He said it gives people some measure of control to go out and buy something such as toilet paper or water.

“It helps them in some way psychologically,” Childers said.

But he said this is not a two- or three-day situation, adding, “It’s going to go on a little while. It will get better and everything will get back to normal. It may be the end of the summer before that happens.”

Fortunately, people in the grocery industry are hard workers and diligent, Childers said.

Childers also said senior citizens, who are vulnerable to the coronavirus, can call in grocery orders and have them delivered to their vehicles.

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