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Local

DeKalb County grocery stores fight to keep shelves stocked amid COVID-19 crisis

Inboden's works hard to keep shelves stocked during coronavirus pandemic

Vicky Miller, a cashier at Inboden's Gourmet Meats & Specialty Foods, restocks shelves with fresh products Wednesday at the store in DeKalb. Inboden's has been busier than usual but hasn't had problems keeping up with demand as shoppers rush to stores to stock up in the wake of the coronavrus outbreak.
Vicky Miller, a cashier at Inboden's Gourmet Meats & Specialty Foods, restocks shelves with fresh products Wednesday at the store in DeKalb. Inboden's has been busier than usual but hasn't had problems keeping up with demand as shoppers rush to stores to stock up in the wake of the coronavrus outbreak.

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DeKALB – Full parking lots, long checkout lines and loaded carts have made it difficult for stock workers to keep their stores filled in the past couple weeks because of the coronavirus.

Tom Inboden, owner of Inboden's Gourmet Meats and Specialty Foods, 1106 N. First St., said stores like his and others in the area have been busy because people have been stocking up with the intent to stay home and cook meals.

"The supply has been a little bit difficult this week because the plants are not operating at full capacity," Inboden said. "The livestock's out there, but [some of] the workers in the plants aren't able to [work] because they have to stay home with their children."

Inboden said there is plenty of food for stores in DeKalb County, but it's just bringing a constant flow of it to the stores during the current climate that is the difficult part of the process. Target, Aldi and other stores have had to amend hours and close overnight to give the staff time to refill shelves in anticipation of another onslaught of shoppers the next morning.

While Inboden's, which has been in business since 1962, has been able to keep its shelves ready with its various meats and specialty products, it's been a challenge, Inboden said.

"They're certainly working hard," Inboden said about his employees. "There's no doubt about that."

Inboden said employees are unloading trucks at the store as quickly as they can and trying to get the shelves stocked.

"We've been tremendously busy for the last six or seven days," Inboden said.

Inboden said his store is asking some employees to work overtime.

"If they get tired, we send them home," Inboden said. "Safety's always an issue. But they're all working hard."

He said the store's been fortunate because the customers have been patient.

"On Saturday and Monday there was a long line for the meat department and a long line at the registers," Inboden said. "The public has, in our experience, been patient. They understand what's going on. I haven't seen anyone really [get] out of line."

The volume of customer calls for various meats, especially red meat and ground beef, has not helped the work flow.

"That's created a short supply on poultry, lamb, beef and pork," Inboden said. "A lot of vendors are short in certain categories. We've taken a concerted effort to go and fill the holes we have."

Inboden said he's hopeful that in a few weeks the shortage stops.

He said Inboden's deals with companies from Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Omaha.

"It's the same [for vendors] all over," Inboden said.

Inboden said he's been going out and making sure the store has the quality of product it needs and that the product gets there on time.

Inboden said the current, temporary shortage for meat will correct itself once things get back to normal.

Despite trying to keep the store stocked, Inboden said his store will remain closed on Sunday.

"We like that, because being closed on Sunday gives our staff time to decompress," Inboden said. "They have a dedicated day they know when they're off [work.]"

Aldi

Like many other area grocery stores, Aldi, 2540 Sycamore Road, changed its store hours to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the nation in order to give its employees time to clean and restock the stores.

"Our entire team – including a vast network of employees and partners, from our distribution centers to our drivers and store associates – are working tirelessly to ensure groceries are on shelves as quickly as possible," a message on the company's website states.

The message also addressed how Aldi is working with its suppliers to source as much additional product as Aldi can to keep its distribution centers stocked.

Aldi's corporate branch also weighed in the work its store employees have given the company.

"We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of our team members each and every day," said Jason Hart, Aldi's CEO said in a letter to its customers.

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