Covid-19 has created an environment similar to a war zone at one Mott Haven CTown Supermarket, according to manager and owner Angel Nuñez.
The global pandemic has got everyone running to the closest grocery store. “We have a very strong increase in customers coming to the store. Probably three times,” Nuñez said.
Before COVID-19 spread to the U.S., his store’s busy hours were from 4-9 p.m. But now, they’re seeing customers all day, according to Nuñez.
Not only are customers bringing business, they are also bringing anxious energy.
“More or less, everybody is in panic,” he said.
CTown Supermarket has 140 independently owned and operated stores spread across the Northeast. Nuñez owns and manages the branch at 809 Southern Blvd. There are three other CTown stores in the South Bronx alone.
As for the 30 employees at this Longwood location, Nuñez is paying his staff overtime to compensate for the demanding work environment. But for the CTown Supermarket staff, it’s not just about the money.
“It’s not about overtime, they’re risking their own life. They feel that they’re providing a critical service,” he said.
What stands out the most in this hectic time for Nuñez is the city’s lack of resources, given that the cashiers are at high risk of exposure. “We don’t have any protection from New York City to protect our employees,” he said.
Decrease of supplies is another factor putting stress on Nuñez.
Grocery distributor Krasdale supplies the store with all products besides produce, meat and bread. The supplier typically gives Nuñez four to five pallets of water per week. But this last week, Nuñez only received one pallet, and the store ran out the next day.
Water is on a long list of items Nuñez’ store is not getting enough of to supply demand. That list includes deli items, milk, eggs and frozen food.
Despite the shortages, he doesn’t blame Hunts Point-based Krasdale for not having enough goods. “I understand they’re doing their best,” he said.
Nuñez attributes the shortages to both the high demand and manufacturers not being able to churn out products at a faster pace.
Food distributors are also feeling the effects of the virus.
Moving higher along the food chain, Super Bread is a food distributer that supplies bread for local supermarkets, including CTown supermarkets.
Nelson Eusebio, an account executive at Super Bread, says the virus has dramatically increased demand. “We’re working around the clock,” he said.
Although Eusebio is working longer hours, he admits that Super Bread has its limitations. “Unfortunately, we’re a distributor and not a manufacturer. Our manufacture is cutting back supply,” he said.
Over the course of a week, Super Bread received eight trucks from their manufacturer, rather than the typical 15, according to Eusebio.
Although Eusebio has to deal with frustrated managers on the home front, he worries that manufacturers could be cutting supplies to smaller distributors like Super Bread in order to supply larger chains across the country.
“We feel that it’s unfair to the inner city,” he said.