This sign at the entrance of St. Germain Sentry Foods asks shoppers to limit their shopping party to one individual. —Photo By Wally Geist
This sign at the entrance of St. Germain Sentry Foods asks shoppers to limit their shopping party to one individual. —Photo By Wally Geist
Essential businesses are caught between the need to provide products for community members and keeping both the public and staff safe from the highly infectious coronavirus. 

Sentry Foods in St. Germain is one of those North Woods businesses addressing this twofold need.

David Weber of Sentry Foods explained the steps his store is implementing to achieve both goals. 

The protection for all begins at the store’s front door, where a sign alerts shoppers to help keep the store population density as low as possible.

The sign instructs shoppers that they should only send one shopper into the store in the event there are multiple people in the vehicle that transported them to the store. 

“For example, often there are two parents and some children in the vehicle,” said Weber. “If they all came into the store, the likelihood of spreading the virus would go up.”

Store management also is asking shoppers not to touch products they may not buy. 

“The rule is simple, ‘If you touch it, buy it,’ ” said Weber.

Even though the store is deep-cleaned and wiped down before and after the business day, Weber said touching products may leave infected material behind which someone else may touch and contract the illness.

Weber said checkout clerks are particularly vulnerable to contracting the illness because they are closer than 6 feet from customers leaving the store. In order to protect workers, Weber had custom plexiglass shields made to separate clerks from customers. 

Meanwhile, the social distancing recommendation is being addressed at the store checkout lines with decals which read, “Stand here.” These are placed 6 feet apart on the floor in the checkout line.

Weber said all credit card readers are being wiped down with sanitary wipes. In addition, the conveyor belts which carry groceries to the clerks are sprayed with sanitizer between customers.

Weber said his mission is to supply products needed by community members. He also is cognizant of what happens when customers hoard products, so the store has mandatory limits on certain products.

While Weber’s model may seem counterproductive to a successful business, he wants the public to know that his methods are not in place to scare them.

“The emphasis is on operating in a way that benefits the greater good,” said Weber.

He said customers may also expedite the shopping experience by making a list before coming to shop. 

“Making a list makes a shopper more efficient, spending less time in public and touching less items such as grocery carts and refrigeration equipment while in the store,” said Weber.

Weber said he is trying to remain open and reduce the impact a closed business would have on his employees and on the community at large.

Other area grocery stores have followed suit, including Trig’s in Eagle River, with plexiglass protectors at the checkout lines, and Roundy’s Pick ’n Save in Eagle River with space markers on the floor.