Many of you are rightly concerned about the Novel Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, and have asked how the virus is affecting the Co-op. We’re committed to doing the best we can to take care of our customers and our staff, while still keeping our shelves stocked with essentials.
We have adjusted our store hours to 9am – 7pm, in order to allow our staff extra time to clean the store, unload deliveries, and re-stock. This will also provide some much needed relief to our staff, who are working incredibly hard to keep everything running smoothly.
We are actively monitoring the situation and following the advice from the CDC, as well as state and federal officials. We have many procedures already in place to help protect the safety of our employees, members, and shoppers—procedures we rely on to reduce the spread of foodborne illness and seasonal colds and flu every year.
We will regularly update this page as the situation progresses, so please check back for updates.
Keepin’ It Clean
We are making extra efforts to keep the store clean and sanitized, particularly in high-contact and high-traffic areas.
Our janitorial service cleans the store every night, and sanitizes high-contact areas including doors and handles. light switches, counter tops, registers, restrooms, shopping cart handles and more. This gives us a head start, so that when we open at 9 am the store is as clean as possible.
Our staff then continues to clean throughout the day. Every two hours we announce a cleaning blitz and each department mobilizes to once again clean those high contact areas.
For health and safety reasons, we have closed dine-in seating in the co-op cafe. The sinks are still available for hand washing as needed.
Our shopping baskets are sanitized each morning. We have sanitizing wipe stations in our entry and exit areas if you’d like to clean your shopping carts and baskets before use.
We have touchless hand sanitizer stations now set up in the entry and exit, as well as near the restrooms, produce area, bulk area, meat department and dairy. Please look for these grey wall-mounted boxes the next time you are in the store.
Our cashiers disinfect the register belts and bagging stations between each order, as well as sanitize their hands before waiting on the next customer. Please be patient while this process is taking place as it is for your health and protection.
Please do not bring your reusable shopping bags to the store. This is a temporary order from the State of NH. We have paper bags as well as recycled grocery boxes at the registers for your use.
Our credit card pin-pads are wiped down frequently. Please use the stylus to enter your information, since that is easy to clean between uses. We encourage customers to pay with debit or credit cards if possible, since it vastly reduces the amount of cash we have to handle. We also accept touchless payments such as Google Pay and Apple Pay, which are even safer.
When you visit the store you will see many reminders about social distancing, maintaining a 6-foot distance, shopping solo and wearing a face covering. Please keep away from other shoppers as well as our staff while they work, for your own safety as well as ours.
At the registers, we’ve installed plexiglass barriers to protect you as well as our cashiers. There are also marks on the floor so that you know where to stand while you wait in line, and stay a safe distance apart. We have also discontinued the practice of having additional staff pack up your order. We felt this introduced one more person handling your food as well as a challenge to proper social distancing at the checkout counter. Please plan on assisting your cashier in bagging or boxing up your groceries.
In the aisles, please give employees extra space when they are stocking. It is a difficult and challenging job keeping the shelves full while the store is open. Please do not reach over employees or other shoppers to retrieve something from the shelves. Maintain a safe 6-foot distance and ask about the item you need. Our staff will gladly move aside or reach the item for you.
Here are some grocery shopping tips to keep everyone safe & healthy:
- Customers should wear a cloth face covering or mask at all times within the store.
- Stay home and do not shop in the store if you are sick.
- Please stay 6 feet away from other people while you shop.
- Shop solo to limit the number of people in the store.
- Make a shopping list, considering ways to minimize shopping trips. Shop efficiently (use our map!) and socialize outside.
- Cover your cough or sneeze, wash hands often, use sanitizer and only touch items you intend to buy.
- Only buy what you need, and leave some for your neighbors.
- If possible, pay with a debit or credit card, or use contactless payment, which is far less germy than cash.
Our employees follow a strict set of standard operating procedures when handling products. No employee goes near the Co-op’s prepared foods or other products without extensive training on how to handle them properly and safely.
For the time being we are discontinuing our self-serve hot food stations, including soups, pizza, and self-serve coffee. Pre-packaged grab & go options are still available. All of our fresh-baked items are now packaged.
According to the Harvard Health Blog, it’s not clear if the virus can spread through food. Even if so, it would be highly unlikely. Regardless, health officials cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of transmission from infected food handlers – which is why we ask our staff to stay home when they are sick.
Because of the increased risk of exposure that comes as a result of working in a grocery store, all of our staff are receiving a hazard pay increase.
Out of care for our community, our policy has always been for staff to remain at home when they are unwell. All of our employees accumulate paid time off to cover sick time.
We have several options in place to provide paid time off for those employees who are self-isolating due to illness or immune vulnerabilities, as well as those who need to stay home to look after their children. There are also many emerging options provided by the state and the federal government to support our employees who cannot work.
Events and Sampling
Out of an abundance of caution, we are discontinuing our all food demos & sampling at this time. We are also suspending all community info tabling events.
We’ve also made the hard choice to postpone our sampling event days, in-store classes and workshops until it seems prudent to bring them back.
In order to promote healthy social distancing practices, we have moved our monthly Board Meetings online. We are postponing the Annual Meeting until a future date, with annual board elections occurring online as well.
We are also temporarily suspending Member Appreciation Days & Senior Discount Days, opting instead to begin a floating member discount that our membership can use on the day of their choice. We want to emphasize that we still love and appreciate our Members, but we don’t want to encourage people to congregate at the store on a specific day.
You may have heard stories about grocery stores running out of food and household needs as consumers stock up on the essentials. One of our strengths is that we source from multiple suppliers and don’t pull from a central warehouse.
We are working diligently with our suppliers to keep essentials and pantry staples in stock, but please bear with us as some items may become out of stock or unavailable.
New Hampshire Stay at Home 2.0
On May 1st, Governor Sununu’s Economic Reopening Taskforce announced new guidelines for retail establishments operating in New Hampshire. We were pleased to see that most of these recommendations and mandates were already being followed here at the Co-op, and had been for quite some time. Among those many notable procedures not already mentioned above are:
- All co-op staff must wear cloth face coverings at all times in the workplace.
- All co-op staff have been trained on proper mask wearing and hand washing.
- Hand sanitizer stations have been set up in all departments, each register, and around the store for shopper use.
- All co-op staff are screened daily before reporting to work with a temperature check from a touchless thermometer as well as a series of health questions regarding COVID exposure and symptoms.
- Signage must be in place inside and outside the store promoting cloth face covering use and 6-foot social distancing reminders.
- All co-op staff are empowered to monitor and enforce the compliance to social distancing practices of customers and staff alike.
- Customer self bagging promoted at the front end to reduce exposure of one more staff member per register.
- Curbside pickup service established to assist medically vulnerable or elderly shoppers.
We are also constantly monitoring the number of customers within the store at any given time to make sure we do not exceed the 50% total capacity mandated by the governor. As of yet, even during our busiest peaks we are well below that number, but we will continue to monitor to make certain. We have limited the number of shopping carts to assist in this measure, so if you arrive and there are no carts available, please be patient and wait for the next cart.
Work with Us
Finally, we ask all of our members, shoppers, and employees to partner with us in this. Please be courteous and mindful as you shop, realizing we are all working through these challenges together. Please be patient when needing to wait, or when a product is unavailable due to supplier issues. Social distancing is key – please stay 6 feet away from other shoppers and store employees.
WHO has great advice on how to be responsible in order to protect yourself—and by extension your community—from the virus.
Please shop solo, shop efficiently and wear a face covering. Again, we love seeing you all, and we’ll be here when brighter times are back for the usual smiles and chit-chat we all love in our co-op community. But for now we’d like to try to reduce the number of people in the store at any given time, for the health and safety of everyone.
If you are older or in need of assistance with your grocery shopping, please give us a call. At this time we are unable to offer delivery or special shopping hours due to logistics and safety concerns. We do offer a Curbside Pickup service for seniors, people who are highly vulnerable to COVID 19, or people who are sick and staying isolated.
More thoughts or questions? Reach out anytime. For general questions please call the store at (603) 444-2800 or email your comments to email@example.com. Remember that our employees on the front lines have their hands full with the challenging new essential position they have found themselves in. If you have a concern or suggestion, please ask for a manager. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be glad to listen and provide assistance.
If you are a community organization or you would like to find a way to volunteer, please contact our Community Outreach Coordinator, Becky Colpitts, at email@example.com, or call (603) 444-2800 x 241 and leave a message.
Q: Is the Co-op planning on offering a Senior-only shopping time?
A: We take the well-being of our senior customers very seriously. In our management meetings we have discussed the idea of setting up a dedicated shopping time for seniors, but we decided that for the health and safety of our older and vulnerable customers it would be dangerous and inappropriate to encourage elderly people to congregate in our store.
If you or someone you know needs help with shopping, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Community Outreach Coordinator, Becky Colpitts, can try to put you in touch with community resources for volunteers and services. You can also contact the 211 hotline for Granite State United Way to find assistance.
Q: Can the Co-op offer pick-up, delivery, or curbside service?
A: We now offer a Curbside Pickup service for seniors, people who are highly vulnerable to COVID 19, or people who are sick and staying isolated. You may place an order online or by phone, and come pick your order up outside of the store.
Again, if you or someone you know needs help with shopping, please reach out to email@example.com. Our Community Outreach Coordinator, Becky Colpitts, can try to put you in touch with community resources for volunteers and services. You can also contact the 211 hotline for Granite State United Way to find assistance.
Q: Are you limiting the number of customers in the store?
A: We’re limiting the number of shopping carts that are available at the store entry area, thereby limiting the number of customers in the store at any given time. We count the number of shoppers in the store at frequently throughout the day to monitor capacity. We’re also restricting our entrance and exit areas so they are one-way.
Please help us reduce traffic in the store by shopping alone. Leave your children at home if you are able to do so, and refrain from bringing your spouse or family members with you.
Q: Can you make the aisles one-way?
A: We’ve talked about that option extensively with our staff and managers, and we decided it’s not a good fit for the store at this time. The consensus among our staff is that it’s much quicker to skip the busy aisles and loop around to come back. If we set up traffic rules not only would we have a difficult time enforcing them, but it would also cause major backups and pinch points. Our Co-op has many narrow corners and differently-facing aisles, so letting shoppers choose the path of least resistance will allow for a quicker, safer shopping trip, especially when armed with our store map and a plan.
Q: Why aren’t all the employees wearing gloves?
A: Gloves are not a substitute for hand washing or regular hand sanitation, and can pick up and transfer the virus just as easily as bare skin. Gloves are not meant to be worn for an extended period of time, since they can cause cross contamination if they are not changed almost constantly. We wear gloves in our food service areas and our bulk department, as part of our regular food safety protocols. Our staff have the option of wearing gloves for their own protection but they are not required to do so.
Q: Should I wear gloves when I shop?
A: If you would like to wear gloves when you shop you are welcome to do so. Please remember that gloves transfer virus just as easily as bare skin, and you should still avoid touching your face or any items you do not intend to purchase. Disposable gloves are available in the Bulk Department for your use at any time. They are required for customers using the bulk scoop and gravity bins, but you may use them elsewhere in the store as well if you wish.
We’d appreciate it if you’d put on a clean pair of gloves or sanitize your hands (at the sanitizer station on the inner door) before you enter the store, so that you don’t inadvertently bring the virus into our community. Also, please dispose of your gloves properly when you leave; use a trash receptacle and do not discard used gloves on the ground or in the grocery carts. There is a trash receptacle in the exit, near the entrance, and at the cart corral for this use.
Q: Should I wear a mask when I shop?
A: The CDC recommends that people wear masks when in public, to protect the community from asymptomatic transmission. The State of New Hampshire requests that customers wear face coverings at all times when inside a retail establishment. Please wear a mask when you come to the co-op. If you forget your mask, we will provide a free one to you! Just ask at the service desk and one of our friendly associates will get you one. We do apologize it is a bit of a walk from the entrance, but we wanted to make sure these were kept in a safe, sanitary location.
Q: May I still bring my reusable bags to the store?
A: Please do not bring your reusable shopping bags to the store. This is a temporary order from the State of NH, to protect not only shoppers, but mostly vulnerable cashiers and other grocery staff. We have complimentary paper bags as well as recycled grocery boxes at the registers for your use.