The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for businesses, and Hermann's three grocery stores are no exception when it comes to putting safety at the forefront of the battle.
All three stores have taken special steps to ensure their staffs and customers are as safe as possible against the virus, enabling them to fight back effectively in terms of generating money for the local economy.
At Village Supermarket, store owner Tim Hubbard told the Advertiser-Courier there is now enhanced routine cleaning because of the coronavirus. He said that happens despite the difficulty in obtaining the necessary cleaning supplies.
"You get what you can," Hubbard said, adding paper towels have been hard to come by since the pandemic started.
In the spring, Village installed plastic shields at the checkout lanes.
"Our biggest thing is, I don't force them (staff and customers) to wear (face) masks," he said. Masks are available for staff if requested.
Hand sanitizer is available at the service counter for customers, and the salad bar remains shut down for the time being.
He credited the Gasconade County Health Department and the store's warehouse of Associated Wholesale Grocers with keeping him aware of pertinent regulations.
At Save A Lot, owner "Wif" Kotthoff said shoppers are not required to wear masks, saying it's a matter of personal choice. However, he said store employees are at least being encouraged to wear masks if they desire as precaution against getting sick. Yet those who work in the meat department are exempt from wearing masks due to the cold temperatures, he added.
Kotthoff said he has noticed that customers are issuing friendly reminders to one another regarding the need for social distancing in the checkout lanes. There are social distancing signs as well, and other signage asks customers to go home if they feel ill.
"It's a matter of comfort," he said of the social distancing situations.
Another means taken by Save A Lot toward minimizing virus exposure is allowing only two persons to use a single grocery cart while in the store. Door handles and freezer doors are wiped down with disinfectant every two hours. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are available to customers. The store's corporate owners provided Plexiglass shields for the checkouts.
Loutre Market co-owner Erik Palladino said the presence of some elderly store staff heightens the need for safety.
"Our employees are all wearing masks," he said. "We want to keep them safe, and we want to keep our customers safe."
Shopping carts and checkout lanes are regularly wiped down. Hand sanitizer is also available for use while in Loutre Market.