As the freezing temperatures tighten their grip on the small towns of Maine, business is moving along for Edwards Brothers Supermarkets. And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Jeremy Edwards’ stores posted sales increases.
“People weren’t traveling as far to do their shopping. A lot of the smaller mom-and-pop type shops should have seen a boost if they were doing the right things…I think it’s leveled down a little bit,” he said. “But I would say the industry as a whole is still doing fairly well, especially with all the supply chain challenges.”
Edwards said his company has been fortunate when it comes to keeping the shelves stocked.
“Being an independent grocer, it allows us to pull from numerous suppliers,” Edwards said. “So, Hannaford being our No. 1 premium supplier, we get everything we can get from them. And as supply chain has broken down over the course of the pandemic, we’ve used four or five other smaller suppliers to kind of fill in the holes.”
It has helped particularly with restocking cat food and sports drinks.
In regard to inflation, Edwards said it’s “very moderate” with no big spikes yet.
“But based on what’s happening in the world with supply and demand and availability, I would say that we’re probably due for some at any point in time, whether it’s Q1, Q2.
“I think customers should be prepared for grocery prices to go up…to be honest today, I know everybody talks about cost to buy groceries, but it’s very moderate right now. It’s nothing crazy, like we’ve seen with cars or any other commodity that people are buying out there. We haven’t seen a huge increase in grocery yet,” he said.
Trenton Marketplace IGA, which Edwards Brothers Supermarkets purchased in July 2020, has been going through extensive renovations.
“We’ve been working for the last 18 months on a complete store overhaul,” Edwards said. “We put in brand-new refrigerated cases, new shelving, lights, flooring. We built a brand-new bottle redemption center. We’ve upgraded our gas pumps that now support 24 hour fueling…we’ve really expanded the selection probably 100 percent.”
However, COVID-19 has slowed the process.
“You can’t get equipment and you’re just waiting on everything longer than you normally would, so we’re hoping to have everything done by April or May,” he said.
The grocer’s Unity location offers a unique feature – there’s an Airbnb connected to it.
“A lot of parents and professors come up to Unity college, and there was really no place for them to stay,” Edwards said. “They had to go to Bangor or Waterville.”
The former restaurant was renovated into a three-room suite and has been in operation for about four years, according to Edwards. However, with COVID-19 restrictions affecting college attendance, the lodging business has tapered off.
“It did really well leading up to the pandemic. But with the pandemic restrictions, and with the college not being in its former glory – that’s kind of diminished.”
Looking ahead, the goals for Edwards Brothers Supermarkets remain the same as just about any other family-owned business.
“I took it over from my parents. Hopefully, someday, my kids, my brother’s kids will be interested in the business,” Edwards said. “Our main focus always has been and always will be on the customers – providing a clean, safe place for them to shop, the best quality products we can source at the best prices.
“We’re just going to keep doing the same old thing we’ve always done that have worked. We have a lot of people that come to us because we’re a little smaller. I like to say that we’re big enough to serve you and small enough to know your name. So a lot of people still like that feel.”
For more information, visit edwardsbrotherssupermarket.com.