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Market Profile: Long’s Pic Pac Pleased To Serve Pineville


Owner: ‘We do things for people…we are full service’

by John McCurry, contributing writer

With a population of less than 2,000, Pineville, Kentucky, is small. The nearest city of any significant size is Knoxville, Tennessee, some 70 miles south. 

The region is economically challenged due to the recent decline of the coal industry. The local hospital went through bankruptcy and is now owned by a bank. And then there’s the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted the area’s tourism.

But holding fast through all of the hardships has been Long’s Pic Pac, a constant in Pineville.

Mike Long has been working in his family’s grocery store since he was in high school. His father, Arthur “Ray” Long, who passed away in 2015, opened his first store in the 1960s. After owning several through the years, he bought what is today known as Long’s Pic Pac.

Long, who shares ownership of the store with his stepmother, Sandy Long, has been heavily involved in the Pineville community. 

“We do things for people,” Long said. “If we don’t have a product, we can get it for you. Our meat department is well known. We have three meat cutters on staff. Our deli and bakery are very popular. We are full service.”Pineville

A few years ago, Long upgraded the store with all new cases and LED lighting. He strives for a chain store look blended with a hometown feel. He also relishes the fact that his store is a Pineville focal point, where employees, friends and customers can interact.

Long also enjoys the day-to-day routine of grocery work, though that work has been anything but routine since early March. The store posted a record second quarter in sales as customers filled their carts during the spring months of the pandemic. 

While Long hasn’t offered online shopping thus far, he has devised something close for the time being.

“We came up with a Facebook modification, where people could send us their shopping list and we were shopping it for them,” he said. “We had curbside pickup and have done as much as $10,000 a week with that. That worked out pretty well, and we are now working on getting the Freshop app up and running. 

“Our Facebook page has helped us get the word out about our curbside option. We post videos of what is happening at the store. We posted pictures to let people know what we had available.”

During the first weeks of the pandemic, serious supply chain issues forced Long and other independent grocers in the region to buy different products from unfamiliar distributors. These sources normally supply the restaurant industry, which has suffered due to closings and curtailed capacity. As a result, Long carries many odd brands he never carried before.

“Our most high-demand items in the early months were fresh meats, dried beans and all kinds of cleaners, wipes and sprays,” Long said. “Of course, we had the runs on toilet paper and paper towels. Now we have more demand for packaged meats, such as bacon and bologna.”

Fortunately for Long, employee turnover hasn’t been a problem. Most workers stayed with the store. Those who did received a $2 an hour “hero pay” boost, plus bonuses. 

Keeping the supply chain flowing remains an issue. Meetings with distributors have gone virtual. A three-day food show in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was moved online.

Long’s store receives three deliveries weekly and each one comes with a lengthy list of out-of-stock items. 

PinevilleThe latest challenge is related to the aluminum can shortage. Long said some sodas are no longer available in 12 packs. He attributes that partly to the popularity of new canned seltzers resulting in increased demand for cans. But there is also good news for grocers.

“People are still eating at home more, and the kids are not going back to school yet, so they have to be fed at home too,” he said. “We can see the effects of people cooking more, and since the summer, grilling more at home, too. We are lucky that we were in a pocket that did not have any of the virus in the county for a long time.”

Customers are buying more meat, beans and produce of all type. Customers are stir crazy and looking for new food to cook. One example: Long’s meat department has begun displaying kabobs, which quickly sell out. 

“We have made inroads in the community during this emergency time, and we have worked hard to keep our shelves looking better than ever, and tried to get whatever people needed,” he said. “We have done deliveries for those who could not get out, or who felt like they should not get out. We will do whatever is asked of us, within reason.”

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