More changes for Mid-Michigan grocery, home improvement shoppers

MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) – (4/9/20) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer moved to extend her stay at home order, she also announced changes to how Michigan will shop in the days and weeks ahead. Fewer people inside grocery stores, and, the big one, closing off access to areas where home improvement supplies are kept.

“We’re here every day ourselves trying to be a part of it, doing anything we possibly can to keep us safe.”

And yet that’s easier said than done. Pass any home improvement store and take note of just how many cars are parked in their lots.

During the pandemic, home improvement stores have seemingly become magnets for bored DIYers looking for relief. Yet under an updated order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer – requiring retailers to close off access to flooring, furniture, paint and gardening supplies – these crowds may now be out of luck.

Evidence of the new normal, also the first thing shoppers lay eyes on when they walk into virtually any grocery store, including Town & Country Supermarket in Pinconning.

“We’re trying to make a safe and clean environment,” promises owner John Aspinall.

And potentially soon enough, its owner tells ABC 12, an employee keeping tabs on the number of shoppers coming and going at any one time.

“We have 40 people that work here, so we’re trying to do everything we can to keep them healthy, also the community here,” says Aspinall. “We want to do our part to make sure we’re moving away from this.”

It comes as grocery stores too get updated orders from the governor’s office: announcing Thursday larger stores will be limited to four shoppers per one thousand square feet of space and cutting the smaller stores to 25 percent of their normal capacities, including staff.

“The order also imposes more stringent limitations on stores to reduce foot traffic and to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives,” announced Governor Whitmer during a Wednesday briefing. “Your whole family shouldn’t be running errands with you. The fewer the people, the better.”

The new restrictions enchance protections already in place, including social distancing guidance and cuts to operating hours.

“We have to follow any guidelines that are pushed out there for us,” says Aspinall. “Just whatever it takes, we’ll make sure we’re doing our part.”

The union representing the majority of Michigan’s thousands of grocery store workers released a statement showing its support for the updated guidance:
“Wavering from these important public health protections threatens to make a bad economic situation worse. We need to stand by the governor, stay the course and stand up for workers and businesses across the state.”

In Pinconning, Aspinall showed ABC 12 the Plexiglas shields he recently installed at every checkout and later explained barricades for crowd control may follow shortly.

“We’re all just kind of learning by the moment,” relates Aspinall. “It seems like every moment is something new that we’re trying to take on so patience from everybody… get past this sooner than later.”

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