PRIMGHAR—Bob & Scott’s grocery store was a busy place leading up to Thanksgiving, although not all customers who shopped there did so in person.
The Primghar store has given customers the option to place orders over the phone or through e-mail for pickup during the coronavirus pandemic, which proved especially popular in late November.
“We were having a huge influx, I suppose with the holidays,” said Sherry Heppner, who co-owns the store with her husband, Scott.
To help keep up with the orders, the store briefly added another phone line — an employee’s cellphone — that customers could call instead of the main number.
After orders are placed, store employees gather the products customers requested. Shoppers then can pick them up either by coming into the store or through curbside pickup. Since Thanksgiving passed, the volume of phone calls has settled although the pickup option remains available.
The store started offering the curbside pickup option about the time the pandemic began to hit N’West Iowa in the spring; however, Heppner noted cases of the virus began to increase in Primghar more recently.
“We didn’t have it in Primghar until this next round, and then we had several sick families and we just take care of each other now,” she said.
The pandemic also hit the Heppners close to home earlier in late October when Scott had COVID-19.
“He was in the hospital, he had COVID and pneumonia,” Sherry said. “He’s five weeks out from being sick and then three weeks out from the hospital.”
The store switched to doing only curbside-pickup orders for a day while employees did a deep clean of the inside of the building before opening the next day.
Around the same time, Sherry and another employee also had the virus and had to stay home. Eventually, they were able to return to work, although Sherry said she was temporarily handling a few more tasks than normal.
“I usually just order the dry goods and the produce, so pretty soon I was doing dry goods and produce and dairy because that guy was out for a different reason,” she said. “And I was ordering the meat to have somebody come cut for us.”
Since then, she said the store has been getting along well but noted some products are occasionally hard to come by, such as McCormick-brand items. Earlier in the year, the store saw shortages of products such as toilet paper, milk, bread, hamburger and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
“You get it, you don’t get it, you just adapt,” Sherry said. “Nobody’s upset, nobody gets mad, they just understand you get it when you get it.”
The store also recently shifted to its winter weekday hours, which are 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. The weekday hours allow the store to close an hour earlier than normal. It also will be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ll all get through COVID eventually,” Sherry said.
This story was first published in the Dec. 5, 2020, print edition of The South O'Brien Sun.