The 49th Parallel Grocery store is a lifeline to the community of Chemainus during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Essentials being provided by 49th Parallel in a thorough manner

Staff at Chemainus grocery store going above and beyond the call of duty to meet demand

Health care workers are pushing the limits during the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s also been anything but business as usual for the grocery industry to provide essential food.

While many workers have faced sudden layoffs and businesses have been forced to close temporarily in the wake of the health crisis around the globe, it’s been a very busy and important time for stores like the 49th Parallel Grocery in Chemainus as the community’s sole major food store. Employees have been going way above and beyond the call of duty since the crux of the crisis hit the province.

The 49th chain of independent stores in Chemainus, Ladysmith, Cedar and Duncan have been meeting the needs and providing comfort in an incredibly stressful situation with great displays of teamwork.

Despite his considerable years in the industry, 49th Parallel president Peter Richmond never imagined anything like this and how it’s required so many important decisions to be made basically on the fly.

“This is something totally new,” he conceded. “Some of the changes we made on our operations are going to last forever now.”

Such things as closing the bulk food department and prepackaging items in the deli are likely to become the norm. The cafe and seating area at the 49th Parallel in Chemainus is also closed.

Richmond and Chemainus store manager Paul McGregor can’t say enough about the job their employees are doing.

“A lot of kudos to our staff, for sure,” said Richmond.

“I think we’ve got the most amazing staff,” added McGregor. “Everybody’s going 100 per cent, not only working their departments but other departments when needed.”

Delivery orders have required a level of service beyond the norm to fill them.

“We have multiple staff shopping so we can deliver them,” noted McGregor.

The Chemainus store has also been fortunate with volunteers from Chemainus Legion Branch 191 and the Chemainus Harvest House Food Bank stepping up to help. It’s literally a tall order to get everyone’s purchases together and delivered.

Richmond indicated Tuesday the delivery system is being converted to an on-line order form only. Same-day delivery can’t be guaranteed with the high demand, but everyone’s doing their best.

A big issue for so many grocery stores from the beginning of this crisis has been panic buying.

“We jumped on that one right away,” noted Richmond. “We’ve been limiting items right from Day One and people have been following those limits.”

“We’ve been fortunate to have fairly full shelves all the way through,” said McGregor. “We’re limiting a lot of our products right away so we’re not having the same empty shelves. The big ones were rice, beans, toilet paper, meat.”

The bottom line, both Richmond and McGregor say, is there’s absolutely no need for hoarding.

“There’s fresh stock daily – no reason to worry,” assured Richmond.

“We’re lucky we’re an independent grocer we can order from whoever we like,” noted McGregor. “A lot of our suppliers are doing amazing to get us the food.”

In a memo to customers, Richmond reiterated every measure is being taken to keep the stores within the 49th communities safe, clean and well-stocked.

“The health and safety of our customers, team members and suppliers continue to be our top priority,” he stressed.

“Our customers have been amazing,” said McGregor. “Everybody’s doing their part with social distancing and sanitizing. We’re cleaning as much as we can.

“Thank you to all the staff and customers. If you’re not well, please don’t come in.”


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Betty Hewitt putting orders through the till at 49th Parallel Grocery in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Colette Campbell keeps the supplies stocked in the produce section at the Chemainus 49th Parallel Grocery store. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Teresa Williams, Betty Hewitt and Cole Battie putting the massive pile of delivery orders through the till at 49th Parallel Grocery in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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