OREGON – It has been a little crazy lately for Jim Kaufman, owner of the Oregon Super Valu grocery store.
“We didn’t ever anticipate what was going to happen,” he said at the start of another busy day last week.
But that doesn’t mean the run on grocery stores brought on by the COVID-19 virus and the state-imposed shelter in place directive was a total shock to the longtime grocer. He said he heard from relatives in the Chicago suburbs a couple of weeks ago that Walmart was running out of toilet paper. That was surely a sign.
“I got kind of a jump start on it because of them,” he said.
That means Kaufman started bumping up his orders early to try and keep up with the coming demand.
But, why the run on toilet paper?
Kaufman said people saw that it was happening overseas and started buying it in bulk. And when Walmart started running out, that really pushed people to buy.
“It’s something you don’t want to be without really,” he said.
Kaufman, whose family bought the store in 1970, said people are buying enough to last two or three months. He said others are buying it to stockpile and try to sell at a higher price.
He said the store is still getting toilet paper in regularly and limiting the number of packages customers can buy, but it doesn’t last long. He said he always holds some back for customers who really need it, like the elderly.
Kaufman said with the closure of stadiums and restaurants – other places people use toilet paper – that put a lot of pressure on grocery stores.
“The biggest problem is the grocery stores got kind of blindsided in the United States,” he said.
He said his meat department employees are working long days to try and keep up. He said people are buying a lot of meat, fruits and vegetables. And bread is hard to keep in stock.
“The bakers can’t keep up,” Kaufman said.
He said eggs are also difficult to keep in stock. He said Mexico is taking more eggs than usual, and the government is using 900,000 eggs a day to try and develop a vaccine for the virus.
Kaufman does have some advice for people on how to handle grocery shopping right now.
“I would say don’t panic,” he said. “Buy what you need.”
He said it doesn’t hurt to have extra canned goods and frozen items on hand in case the shutdown is extended. And if there is something you just can’t be without, just buy a little extra of that item.
Kaufman also praised his staff, who have been working long, hard hours.
“My employees have been killing it,” he said.
And while a few out of town people have complained, Kaufman said his regular Ogle County shoppers have been “just wonderful.”
He said that while people have changed where they are buying their food, there is still plenty of it.
“The world is not running out of food,” he said.