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Rouses Invests $1M In Team, Ole Smoky Distillery Switches Gears

Ole Smoky Distiller, hand sanitizer
Ole Smoky Distillery donated its first batch of hand sanitizer to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department. Pictured: Ole Smoky CEO Robert Hall, Sevier County Sheriff Ronald Seals, Chief Deputy Michael Hodges and Ole Smoky Founder Joe Baker. 

Last updated on September 13th, 2022 at 02:57 pm

As the situation begins to look more dire from the Covid-19 pandemic, more states are ordering their residents to stay at home. Certain industries are exempt from these orders, including the grocery industry and those making medical supplies. In the Southeast, Rouses Markets continues to be open for its customers and is rewarding its frontline employees with bonuses, meals and more, while Ole Smoky Distillery is starting to produce hand sanitizer for local first responders. And the State of Georgia is among the latest to issue shelter-in-place orders due to Covid-19.


Rouses Markets invests $1M in frontline team members

Thibodaux, Louisiana-based Rouses Markets is investing $1 million in its team members who are on the frontlines. CEO Donny Rouse said the company is paying April bonuses to thousands of hourly store employees as a thank you for working tirelessly to serve the needs of its customers. The company is also accelerating scheduled quarterly bonuses for store management and employees who oversee store departments. 

“I have never been more proud of our team than I am today,” Rouse said. “They have been absolutely remarkable in taking care of our customers during an incredible time of need.” 

Increasing team member compensation is just one way Rouses Markets is rewarding and recognizing its 7,000 team members for all of their hard work. The company has been providing store employees meals during their breaks since the outbreak began. 

Rouses Markets is also giving team members an additional paid holiday this year—and much-deserved break—on Easter Sunday.

“We want everyone to have the full day to spend time with family,” said Rouse. 

Shoppers will notice that Rouses Markets also has increased protections to support team members who work in their stores. In addition to rigorous cleaning routines already in place, to be extra cautious the company is in the process of installing plexiglass partitions at checkout counters. There are already floor markers at the checkout lanes indicating how far apart to stand to maintain safe distances, and they’ve asked their cashiers to sanitize after each customer transaction. The plexiglass partitions add yet another level of protection.

“We know what an essential role our team members play during this pandemic, and we are doing everything we can to keep them—and you—safe,” said Rouse.

Rouses Markets is also providing all team members, and their immediate family members, free access to Ochsner Anywhere Care, a telehealth program, regardless of whether or not they have health insurance. Team members can connect to a licensed healthcare provider to get a diagnosis and treatment plan or see a licensed therapist face-to-face without ever having to leave their home. Rouses Markets is extending the service to all 7,000 team members through the end of May. The company will be providing this service free of charge to team members, so there are no charges or co-payments for telemedicine, urgent care, physician visits or therapy.

Ole Smoky Distillery produces hand sanitizer

Gatlinburg, Tennessee-based Ole Smoky Distillery is joining other members of the distillery community who are producing hand sanitizer in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The new hand sanitizer is being produced by Ole Smoky Distillery associates, who all have been recently affected by the closing of the Ole Smoky Distilleries to visitors. As production scales up, distribution of the new alcohol-based hand sanitizer will begin with prioritized requests from local law enforcement agencies and first responders.

“One of the greatest needs right now is to take care of our East Tennessee local police and sheriff departments, as well as first responders, as they continue their work while needing protection from this virus,” said Joe Baker, founder of Ole Smoky.

Ole Smoky will be first distributing its hand sanitizer in 5-gallon commercial grade pails to these departments, including Cocke County Sheriff’s Department, White Pine Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff’s Department and their workers at the county jail and courthouse.

Ole Smoky also has begun production of smaller 50ml jars of hand sanitizer. These will be distributed first to Ole Smoky employees and their families. As production increases, the company also intends to offer them to consumers when they utilize the internet ordering and distillery pickup option, which begins this week at their Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge distilleries.

“With our new online ordering platform, consumers can order directly from our distilleries, pay online and schedule the pickup of their favorite Ole Smoky Moonshine and Whiskey products. With each purchase, we will include a free jar of our hand sanitizer,” said Robert Hall, CEO of Ole Smoky.

To order online, click here.

Ole Smoky is the leading distiller of premium moonshine in the world and the first federally licensed distillery in the history of East Tennessee. Founded in 2010, Ole Smoky’s roots can be traced to the Smoky Mountains’ earliest settlers, families who produced moonshine with enduring pride and Appalachian spirit.


Georgia governor issues shelter-in-place order

The Georgia Food Industry Association has updated its members that while Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has issued a shelter-in-place order due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it does not include the grocery industry.

Kemp said April 1 that he will issue a shelter-in-place order for Georgians that will begin Friday, April 3, and run through April 13. GFIA says it has been in touch with Kemp’s office to give feedback.

According to the GFIA, Kemp said the more stringent language was needed after health officials announced “game changing” new projections on the disease’s spread in Georgia and health officials have made recommended increasing the restrictions.

Kemp said the shelter-in-place order will include exceptions for grocery stores, medical supplies and certain manufacturing, among others.

“People have to eat. We have to continue to process our food supply. We have to have our pharmacies open, we have to have Georgia-based companies that are making PPE, medical supplies,” he said.

Kemp urged Georgians not to panic and make a run on grocery stores. “The grocers are ready for this. They’ll be ready to restock,” he said. “People don’t need to be worried about buying for two weeks or two months.”

He also ordered K-12 schools closed for the rest of the academic year due to Covid-19.

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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