Stores, restaurants continue supplying goods amid COVID-19 fears

Shoppers wait in line at Port Isabel’s H-E-B store. Photo by Angie Gamez.

By Angie Gamez
Special to the Press

Local grocery store managers and employees have worked tirelessly to stock groceries and merchandise and thoroughly clean their stores, floors, and shopping carts during store closure hours. They have all dealt with the logistics of providing and placing limits on high demand products. 

Large sections of shelves are empty but still customers walk through the isles in hopes of finding just one item left behind or misplaced. Their shock and disbelief is slowly wearing off, as empty shelves have become the norm recently. Many customers that go to the grocery store early morning when the stores open say that most of the high demand products are stocked – milk, eggs, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, water, cleaning products and store brand disinfecting wipes. 

However, by mid-morning, most of these products are gone. 

“There would be plenty of merchandise if people stopped hoarding,” Gary Meschi, owner of Blue Marlin on South Padre Island said,

Growing fears of novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its spread across the world have caused some shoppers to buy groceries in bulk, clearing shelves. In response, grocery stores have placed limits on the high demand products. 

Blue Marlin Supermarket Manager Bocho Sanchez (left) and store owner Gary Meschi (right).

“Customers wait in line prior to the store opening at 7:00 a.m. in hopes of getting essential items, but once the store opens there’s no waiting in line,” an assistant manager at Port Isabel’s Walmart store said. “Fortunately, we haven’t had any altercations, because the company was proactive and started limiting items early on.” ‘

Signs are clearly displayed with the allowable number of items per family and a store employee stands in the high demand area as a reminder to adhere to the limit.

On March 20, more than 150 customers waited in line at HEB. The first 10 in line had arrived between 5:00-5:30 a.m., hoping to find essential items. The store opens at 8:00 a.m. 

Customer comments regarding why they were waiting in line ranged from their preference for HEB products, that store employees were very helpful, that people aren’t “running into you,” and that HEB regularly restocks their meat. They were hoping to find the basic high demand products – water, milk, eggs, toilet paper, meat, and canned goods. HEB store manager Rene Martinez addressed the crowd as he made his way from the start of the crowd all the way to the end, saying there was milk, eggs, water, and other essential items on Isle 3. 

At Blue Marlin Supermarket on South Padre Island, Meschi is still greeting people at the door. “Service is our first priority,” he said.

Bocho Sanchez, Blue Marlin’s manager, said the store has capped high demand item limits to 1-2, depending on how much they receive. Major deliveries are twice a week and local vendor deliveries are daily, between their store hours of 7:30 am to 10:00 pm.

The Dollar General Store on South Padre Island has toilet paper, disinfectant spray, and cleaning products at the checkout counter, where customers can purchase one of each product. The store is open 8:00 am to 9:00 pm daily.

Some local restaurants are becoming grocery providers in the meantime, now unable to offer in-room dining services as restricted by state mandate. 

Daddy’s Seafood Market is selling a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, pasta, flour, sugar, bacon and beef, chicken, and sausage meat products, along with bleach, toilet paper, and napkins. 

Employees at Joe’s Oyster Bar in Port Isabel advertising their to-go and delivery services. Photo by Gaige Davila.

“We’re trying to adapt to the recent changes and are providing curbside and delivery service of restaurant menu items as well as providing very reasonable below market price groceries and high demand products,” Daddy’s General Manager, Armando Lee, said. 

Joe’s Oyster Bar in Port Isabel is doing curbside service for their menu items and they also sell fresh seafood. Joe’s Manager, Ricky Hernandez, said they are not selling fresh produce, though if grocery stores ran out, they would be willing to help out the customer.

Most of the area restaurants (Senor Donkey, Pier 19, Pirates Landing and many more) are doing curbside, pick up and delivery. Jake Falgout, owner of Jake’s on South Padre Island is offering pick up service and no extra charge for delivery service. 

Martin Baldovinos, General Manager of Whataburger on South Padre Island said, “customers love the drive through.” Whataburger closed their in-room dining a few days before the state-issued mandate, offering curbside and drive-through orders only.

Baldovinos, like many others in the hospitality industry, knows that the demand is not like in Marchs of years past, before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“This week was supposed to be the big week – Texas week.” 

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