Iris Samuels/Kodiak Daily Mirror

A sign at Safeway.

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As small businesses scale back their operations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, grocery stores continue to work to meet the changing demands in Kodiak. Safeway announced on Tuesday that stores across the state will reserve hours for at-risk shoppers, including senior citizens, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals.

The store will be open to vulnerable shoppers Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Other community members were requested to refrain from shopping during those hours. 

“We are asking for customers to honor the reserved hours and we thank the community in advance for their compassion and understanding toward their neighbors and for helping us maintain these temporary operation guidelines,” Safeway said in a news release on Tuesday. 

Kodiak Safeway Manager Mike Murray said the store is also looking to hire additional employees to meet the growing demand, as shoppers stock up for potential periods of isolation. 

“We could comfortably bring in 15 to 20 associates, but I can’t hire that many people at any one time,” Murray said. Because of training requirements, the store can hire between six to eight new employees each week. Murray said the store typically hires year round, but has recently stepped up its efforts.

“We’re giving it a 911 level,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years. I’ve never seen anything like what’s going on in the store.”

The store received a delivery of eight containers from the Matson freighter on Monday, and six containers on Wednesday. The store also received three pallets of meat by airplane from Seattle. Murray said the store will charter a Boeing 737 plane to arrive in Kodiak on Thursday or Friday for a supplemental delivery of dairy, produce and dry goods. One charter plane can carry the volume of one 40-foot container, according to Murray.

“I would need 12 40-foot containers to fill the store,” he said, speaking about the store’s empty shelves. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Murray said that in order to fill the store, customers will have to tone down the volume of their shopping, and the supply chain would have to catch up.

“There are so many moving parts — farmers, packaging, drivers, ship captains. Any one tweak in that long distribution chain could slow things down,” he said.

But Murray urged residents not to panic. “We will get through it,” he said. 

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