Proud that employees understood importance to their communities
by Eric Pereira / staff writer
With the many changes brought on by the pandemic, some grocery store owners in New Hampshire are predicting barriers like sneeze guards will be here to stay.
Glynn Bingham owns Jeannotte’s Market in Nashua, where began working in 1981. He’s been owner of the city’s “oldest, continuously operating grocery store” since 2000.
With tight spaces in a building that dates back to 1899, his employees appreciate any barriers.
“Our cashiers enjoy the sneeze guards for both their safety aspects, as well as offering a barrier between themselves and the customers. Many have told me they feel safer and not just in a health way but in a physical way,” Bingham said.
Jake’s Market in Enfield is one of nine convenience/small grocery stores that Bruce Bergeron owns in New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont. He also believes sneeze guards will stick around, as will individually wrapped “grab-and-go” food items.
“I hope the industry educates the public on real versus perceived health concerns,” said Bergeron, who also serves as the chairman of the New Hampshire Grocer’s Association. “It seems the risk of transmission from food has been nearly non-existent. If this is the case, we should be sure to limit over-reaction moving forward.”
In regard to public knowledge of the coronavirus, there seems to be a constant dialogue between store employees and customers. Bingham recalled how during the first wave of the pandemic they had to defend how they were adapting.
“We were doing everything we could to keep our employees and customers safe, trying to keep the store open for the neighborhood,” he said. “And I feel like a lot of people at first were just looking for ways to call us out on safety protocol, the big one being social distancing in the store.”
Bergeron said the biggest challenge has been masks.
“Customers get upset when we ask them to wear masks, and customers get mad when other customers are not wearing masks,” he said. “We have been put in the middle and have done our best.”
Fortunately, Bingham has found that mask wearing has been “almost 100 percent” over the past month and there have been fewer instances of safety protocal conversations with customers.
Turning to other challenges, Bergeron noted that the pandemic has heightened the reality for convenience stores that “petroleum sales will decrease, which is going to make it very difficult for small stores to remain viable.”
“We are very proud that our stores have been open every day since the pandemic started, providing essential goods and services in a safe environment, and I am very proud of our staff for coming to work so we could stay open,” Bergeron said.
Bingham added, “I’m most proud of my employees and how I only had one stop working during the pandemic. Most of them understood our importance to the neighborhood and the community. And we wanted to be there for all the people who have supported us for years and years.”
In regard to vaccinations, Bingham said he will be encouraging his employees to get vaccinated but acknowledged he can’t force them to do so.
Bergeron said he will encourage staff members to get their shots and provide a stipend if they do. He mentioned that just one of his 125 employees has tested positive for COVID-19.