Though City Feed and Supply has closed its Boylston St. store, the Centre St. store remains open and running save for the cafe portion.
City Feed President and Co-Founder David Warner told the Gazette that he has been taking safety precautions even before Governor Baker declared a state of emergency and restrictions were placed on restaurants.
He said even with the option to provide takeout, he still decided to eliminate all food service. “I just didn’t feel like it was worth the risk to have additional customers coming in,” he said. Additionally, having the cafe would mean having more people working at the same time which makes it hard to maintain space between employees.
Now that they’re grocery only, Warner has time to focus on extra cleaning and sanitizing using a quaternary ammonia solution to spray down all high contact areas, including shopping carts. He said they are running all shopping baskets through their warewashing machine to sanitize them after each customer.
Additionally, City Feed has installed visual cues for customers to distance themselves from one another, as well as plexiglass shields at the checkout counter to limit customer and staff exposure to airborne particles. He said they are also trying to prop the store door open as much as possible on warmer days to avoid having people constantly touch the door handle.
“We were able to secure one small case of disposable masks that we’ve been able to provide to our employees,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of gloves and sanitizer.” There are also sanitizer stations at the exits and at one other location in the store for customer use.
City Feed has also launched online ordering for pickup or delivery. Warner said he currently makes all the deliveries himself and though the service was offered seven days a week, starting this past week deliveries will not be made on Tuesdays or Fridays.
He said the most orders he’s done in a day was around 40, but he averages about 25 to 30 a day. Orders can be placed on the City Feed and Supply website, or for folks who do not have computer access or may not be comfortable with computers, orders can be placed over the phone as well.
The deliveries are being made in a refrigerated van which is also being constantly sprayed down with the sanitizing spray. While a lot of larger stores are very backed up with orders and people are waiting two weeks or even longer for their deliveries, Warner said “we’re mostly just one or two days out from when you schedule a delivery.”
Warner also said that some of the items that are usually the slowest sellers at City Feed, such as rice, flour, and beans, are now flying off the shelves. He said that they’ve been able to do a “pretty good job” of keeping these items in stock by purchasing them wholesale and repacking them for retail sale.
“We see that the grocery store supply channels are having logistical challenges,” he said, but he has been able to get some items for retail such as beef and chicken through restaurant suppliers.
Some things are easier for him to keep in stock, though. “Eggs we’ve been pretty good on,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been a day where we’ve run out of eggs.”
An orchard in western Massachusetts that’s typically a vendor for City Feed has started selling wholesale again, Warner added. “Now we’ve got a ton of local apples.”
He said that the stock of produce has been “pretty good” since much of it comes from local and regional growers. But things like frozen vegetables have been pretty much wiped from the freezers. “Suppliers haven’t really had fresh re-supply on that yet,” he said. “We have a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables available every day.”
The Boylston St. location has been temporarily completely shut down in an effort to “focus on getting down to what we needed,” Warner said. He added that since the Boylston St. location is smaller, it’s harder to maintain distance and they would have had to limit the number of shoppers to around two at a time.
“A lot of the Boylston St. regulars have been ordering online or coming to the Centre St. location,” Warner said, so those customers are still being serviced.
The number of shoppers allowed in the store are limited at the Centre St. location to 15, but Warner said it only happened once where people had to wait outside for someone else to finish. Senior shopping hours are from 7am to 8am on Monday through Saturday and 9am to 10am, where “priority service” will be given to those ages 60 and over.
“I’m encouraging everyone to be kind and patient with each other and work harder to maintain distance,” Warner said, “as everybody is doing, reiterating and encouraging.”