Grocery stores and markets are among the essential businesses called on to remain open from the start and throughout the continued duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronado’s grocers — including Boney’s Bayside Market, Smart & Final Extra!, and Vons —stayed open and as stocked as possible while adjusting to virus safety precautions.
Boney’s bookkeeper Bobbi-Lyn Carter lives in Alpine but has known the Boney family for a long while, and has worked at the store for three years after being a retail buyer at the Hotel del Coronado.
“With it being a grocery store, we never closed — which was great for being able to still have an income — but it was also terrifying, especially in the early days,” Carter said, explaining how things seemed to change minute by minute.
Carter touches the money that passes through the store, and she found herself fearful and wondering about the danger involved for her as well as the entire store. She said the team took it very seriously from the very beginning, taking on a lot of research as well as reaching out to the county and its great 2-1-1 resource.
She described the numerous processes, forms and helpful memos from the owners sharing information and encouraging the staff. Carter also noted how the owners have provided staff bonuses as well as masks made locally.
“At the very beginning, we were scared; you want to stay home,” Carter said. “But we thought, at least we can still get people food.”
She also highlighted how if folks don’t want to come in and wear a mask, Boney’s offers curbside pick-up free of charge. And she added they have the best produce prices in town as well as phone orders for deli sandwiches starting first thing in the morning.
“Boney’s has been a Coronado family for a really long time,” Carter said, sharing how from live community interaction to flipping through Facebook and from residents to non-residents, the store and its community feels like a close-knit team. “It’s nice to see the community support … We’ve seen mostly kind people who care about their neighbors and want to do what they can to support their community as well. It’s nice to see. It takes some of the pressure off.”
Dillon Joy lives in in Coronado and is a college junior; when not in school he works part-time at Smart & Final on the island. It’s his first job in the grocery industry and he started in March this year.
“I feel, and have felt since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said, “that if everyone takes responsibility in keeping the store clean, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, then coming to work during a pandemic will not be as stressful.”
Joy said he thoroughly enjoys connecting with the customers and building relationships with his community. He added how lately the continuous focus to ensure the safety of his coworkers and community, in addition to his normal job responsibilities, has been the hardest part.
“I’d like to remind my community that wearing a mask is solely for the safety — not political beliefs — of myself, my coworkers and our customers. During these times, safety is truly our top priority.”
Joy’s coworker Morgan Chadd lives in San Diego (Del Cerro) and has worked at the Smart & Final for four years but in the grocery industry for 20.
“At first I was really frightened about getting sick,” Chadd said. “We didn’t know a lot about what was going to happen, and that was a bit scary. It has gotten better now — we’ve put a lot of safety precautions into place, our customers are feeling more settled, and we have toilet paper! That helps. Of course, we wear masks all day and have to maintain a social distance, but it didn’t take too long to get used to the changes.”
Chadd said he’s so grateful to be employed and have his benefits. Though it’s a lot of work, he’s glad to be able to get out of the house and be active every day. The hardest part is having to cover his face all day, he said, especially when being more physical. It’s harder than one might think, he observed, but he said it’s his part to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Please, just wear your masks in the grocery store!” he encouraged.
Vons employee Michelle Morrison lives in Imperial Beach and started working at the store in Coronado at the beginning of 2020.
“Vons made me feel safe then and now,” she said of the pandemic’s start and present day, mentioning how the hardest part about her job is keeping things in stock, but the best part is being able to help out the community.
She reminded residents: “Be kind to one another and remember to smile.”
Vons’ Scott Thompson hails from Point Loma and has worked at Vons for 35 years.
“I felt anxious and was a bit concerned,” he said of when the pandemic hit. “However almost immediately I saw how much the community needed the store and how much my employees needed my support. I adapted. Now, it seems like ‘the new normal.’”
Thompson said the best part of his job is helping customers and assisting employees in reaching their goals. He also encouraged patrons to don masks.
Joe Hamlisca, from Poway, has worked at the store for seven years.
“I look at it as serving the community,” he said of being a frontline worker. “It does not cross my mind that it is a pandemic anymore.”
He said managing 75 employees is challenging but helping people is rewarding.
“People just need to come together and it will be back to normal before we know it.”