HOPE VALLEY — A bright orange sign taped to the door of Ma & Pa’s Country Store on Main Street asked customers to remain outside on Tuesday. The popular family-owned deli and grocery store is following the directive issued by Gov. Gina Raimondo that there be no on-premises food or beverage service.
But business continued nonetheless, with customers phoning in their orders and stopping by to pick them up. A harried Christian Walsh, son of owners Larry and Wendy Walsh, stepped outside for a few minutes to reflect on how things were going.
“We had a ton of orders and we actually ran out of meat on Friday,” he said. “Our order comes in on Monday, so I was telling people for a few days ‘We’re going to be getting our big meat order in so if you order something, we’ll just put you on the list.’ Well, the list got so long that now it’s carrying over to today, and we’ve got people coming in looking for stuff for today. We’re still trying to play catch-up, but I still think it’s safer for everybody to be in their cars and for us to bring it out, wash our hands between everything we do and just try and keep everybody as safe as possible.”
Walsh said that so far, he was not worried about getting the supplies he needed to meet the local demand.
“For right now, we’re pretty well off and from what it sounds like, people are always going to need food and they’re going to keep the distributors going and even if there’s a shutdown, I think grocery stores will be forced to stay open, in which case we’ll maintain doing this and maybe even only start taking credit cards over the phone or something like that so there really is no hand-to-hand transaction,” he said.
In Richmond, the Richmond Farms Fresh Market was well-stocked with foods that are in short supply elsewhere.
“I’m literally working the phones at midnight to get product,” owner Chris Menta said. “Yesterday … we had people coming from East Providence and I had fresh eggs. Chicken, same thing. We were the only people that had chicken. I have five and six deliveries a day of product, constantly, to the point where I don’t know if I’m stretching out my guys, but I’m sending trailer trucks all over New England, upstate New York, down to Maryland to get product. I have a trailer coming back with chicken from Maryland on Thursday.”
Menta, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler with a warehouse in Boston, added that he had done something he never thought he would do. He teamed up with a competitor so the two companies could add home delivery to their retail sales.
"I crossed a wholesale boundary line against somebody who I was actually a competitor of for a number of years, Roch’s Produce in West Warwick,” he said. “He’s got 30 trucks on the road. He’s got a fleet of trucks, so I went to him and I tapped him. I said, ‘Hey your trucks aren’t moving, your guys need work. Let’s put ‘em to work.’ So we’re actually going to be doing home deliveries starting in a couple of days with his 30 trucks.”
Menta said he had begun opening the store for senior customers only at 7:30 a.m. for one hour. The rest of the day, he said, his store was constantly busy.
“It’s insanity,” he said. “Let’s just say that people are buying an exceptional amount of products … We’re constantly wiping down the baskets with Lysol wipes, we’re constantly washing all the doors of the refrigerators, wiping everything down. I like to think that we’re being very, very responsible for what we’re going.”
Another local favorite, the Hungry Haven restaurant in Charlestown, will remain open, co-owner Michael Dennen said. He and his wife, Liza Spencer, are asking customers to get their orders to go, since the dining area is closed.
“As ordered by our governor, it’s pickup only,” he said.
Dennen said he would also be giving away meals to local residents who need them.
“We’re going to remain open to help people who weren’t fully prepared for this situation,” he said. “We will be selling food, but if one of our neighbors comes to us and they got caught with their pants down, by no means do we turn anyone away.”
Dennen said he had stocked up on takeout supplies.
“We’ve just ordered more supplies for our takeout service,” he said. “We’ve been amping up on our supplies for sanitary reasons for weeks now. I think today, I ordered 10 cases of shelf stable milk, shelf stable creamers. I’ve got 10 cases of potatoes coming in tomorrow, four cases of eggs, more bacon, more sausage and we’re preparing to hunker down, I think, for more than two weeks.”
Dennen said he was optimistic about getting through the next few weeks.
“I’m confident that that we will be here on the other side, with our community,” he said.