By Greg Ferrara
NGA President & CEO
Almost overnight, independent supermarkets found themselves facing an unprecedented demand, driven by panic surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. As shelves were emptied, retailers and wholesalers began what has been nothing less than heroic efforts to restock and replenish shelves, stretching the supply chain to its limits, not for a lack of food, but due to the unprecedented national demand.
It’s often said that during a time of crisis we see true heroes emerge. From meat cutters to grocery stockers, produce clerks to cashiers, distribution center order selectors to truck drivers, the independent supermarket rallied to support their communities like no other. These Supermarket Superheroes rallied when their communities needed them most and never looked back. They have put in long hours, serving their neighbors with a smile on their faces during these trying and scary times. Their dedication and passion earned accolades from the President, Governors, Legislators, and Hollywood, but maybe most importantly the appreciation of their local communities and customers. And those communities have come together like no other, showing up to help unload supply trucks, lend a helping hand, or just offer words of encouragement. Police chiefs, fire fighters, former employees, and everyday citizens, have all come together to lend a hand or provide a pat on the back.
When supply lines ran short of certain products, the entrepreneurial spirit of the independent came alive, finding alternative sources, often working with local growers and purveyors to ensure their customers had access to the products they needed. They supported local restaurants, allowing them to sell their foods, and worked with restaurant supply companies to redirect product destined for now closed restaurants, to supermarkets. Through it all our wholesalers have worked 24/7 to deal with the historic demand, fighting to get product through the supply chain to store shelves. Their long hours and behind the scenes efforts helped keep our stores and communities strong.
The resilience of the independent grocer comes through during the darkest hour and this could not be truer for the Lowe’s Market team. On the night off Friday March 20, Roger Lowe, Jr. and the team at Lowe’s Market, faced a historic disaster when their supermarket in rural San Saba, Texas burned to the ground. The fire left this town of 3,000 people without a supermarket during a time when they needed it most. By the next day, the Lowe’s team was already working with the community to get a temporary store up and running and in a little over a week accomplished just that. At a time when most supermarket companies were stretched to the brink, this regional independent demonstrated why independent supermarkets are so important to communities and to our country.
Unfortunately, we are just at the beginning of what is likely to be a long road to economic recovery for so many communities in our great country, but we will get through this together, as one nation, as Americans, and then we will celebrate the resilience of our communities, of our country, and the resilience of our independent supermarket industry.