A Ponoka store on March 17 was well-stocked except for one item: toilet paper. Signs on the shelves advised customers of the difficulty of keeping some items in stock and informed of a two-per-customer limit on toilet paper. Photo by Emily Jaycox

How Ponoka retailers are coping with current COVID-19 crisis

Several local stores announce ‘Golden Hour’ shopping times

Local residents are becoming frustrated with the lack of availability of certain items, but people in Ponoka may not be the ones to blame.

Ponoka senior Dallas Ruggles went to a local store at 9 a.m. on March 20, just trying to find a can of tomatoes, but found a store full of people she didn’t recognize, and assumed they must be from out of town.

“It makes me mad,” said Ruggles.

“There’s nothing here, and we’re not hoarding, we’re just buying regular groceries.”

Other people she spoke with were having similar issues.

At another store, there were people lined up at the door.

“This is stupid,” she said, adding it’s not fair that the people who actually live here can’t get what they need.

READ MORE: Letter: Reader is disgusted with hoarders

A number of local businesses have started holding early dedicated shopping hours for seniors or those with disabilities or mobility issues — so-called ‘Golden Hour’ shopping times.

Gord’s No Frills

Gord Lodge, owner of Gord’s No Frills, was able to confirm that its dedicated shopping hour for seniors or those with other challenges will be from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Ponoka Shoppers Drug Mart

Ponoka Shoppers Drug Mart is dedicating its first hour of the day, 9 to 10 a.m., to seniors to allow them to shop in a “clean and calm” environment.

Shoppers is asking the rest of the general public to respect that time, and hold off on their shopping until after 10 a.m. Seniors also receive a 20 per cent discount from 9 to 10 a.m.

The pharmacy will also deliver prescriptions. Delivery services may eventually be extended to other items, with a nominal charge, if the situation with coronavirus becomes more prevalent locally.

Ponoka Shoppers owner Hiren Parmar says there has been an increase in purchases of toilet paper and food essentials, and some items have been difficult to keep in stock.

Staff have been advised to keep a safe distance and are sanitizing on an hourly basis.

Hamilton’s IGA

Starting on Sunday, March 22, Hamilton’s IGA will be adjusting its store hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the first hour being dedicated to seniors and those with disabilities or mobility issues.

There will be a dedicated staff member assigned to help with finding and fetching items or carts for shoppers during that hour.

IGA is now sanitizing high-touch surfaces such as doors, handles, knobs, front of shelves and counters, on a daily basis.

If any employees have cold or flu symptoms, they are not being permitted to come to work.

Owner Jim Hamilton says they’ve had no trouble with customers, and if anything, he’s seen people come together in cooperation.

In one instance, he witnessed a group of customers buy a pack of toilet paper together and split it amongst themselves.

“All I’ve seen are people working together, pulling together, to get us all through this,” said Hamilton in an interview March 19.

Employees are tired as they are working “phenomenally hard,” says Hamilton, and customers are understandably stressed and scared.

“Overall, it’s been very, very positive.”

READ MORE: Resist the urge to panic shop despite COVID-19 fears, Trudeau says

Makkinga Market

Makkinga Market is another local retailer of food items that is taking further precautions and offering additional services.

The store posted on its Facebook page that they’re “doing our best to keep things disinfected in our store and also want to make shopping easier for you.”

Customers can call in their orders and staff will have them ready for them to pick up.

Ponoka Health Foods

Kathy Masters, owner of Ponoka Health Foods, has also seen an increased demand for certain natural products and cleaners.

“I feel the Ponoka Health Foods is one of the essential stores for the public,” said Masters.

“We are taking COVID-19 very seriously and doing all we can to keep our customers safe,” she said.

“We are planning to stay open to support the community however we can, supplying them with options from making their own hand sanitizer, vitamins and food choices.

“I do feel this virus has impacted the store by the rapid onset of it and not having the time to prepare and stock items people have been requesting.

“We feel for all that are struggling at this time and we are very proud of how our community is doing its part to stop the spread of this virus.”

Editor’s Note: Some local retailers contacted by Ponoka News were unable to provide comment due to corporate policy.

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