COVID-19 in Lee County

Destiny Carmack (left, kneeling) and Cline Carmack (right, standing) were busy Saturday afternoon replenishing the shelves of their Notasulga grocery. They reported strong sales on the day and have no plans to alter their staffing or hours in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bare shelves haven’t been much of a problem so far for Jimmy Wright or Cline Carmack, as their locally owned grocery stores are keeping up thus far with the supply chain and other disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” said Cline Carmack, who owns Carmack Super Market in Notasulga with his wife, Destiny. “We got two trucks in today (Tuesday) and another one last night (Monday). From what the customers have been telling me, we’re in better shape than most of the chain stores.”

Wright’s Market in Opelika is holding up so far, according to owner Jimmy Wright, but he was concerned earlier in the week about getting his resupplying situation smoothed out.

“Our struggle right now is product supply, but we hope to be able to start getting our arms around that with the deliveries due in tomorrow,” Wright said Tuesday.

He said his primary wholesaler, the Mitchell Grocery Corp. in Albertsville, has a strong track record with product vendors, so he isn’t worried about any serious disruptions or price gouging.

“The Mitchell family has always operated with the highest level of integrity by paying their bills on time and honoring their commitments,” Wright said. “This has allowed them to have great relationships with the large manufacturers and they are shipping as much product as possible to Mitchell as soon as possible.

“My relationship with them and my other vendors is based on those same principles.”

Wright added that he was looking at reaching out to food service and restaurant supply companies for help keeping his meat counter stocked. He said they’re a logical partner for him because their customers — restaurants — are closing their dining rooms and cutting hours, which creates a surplus for grocery stores like Wright’s.

Customers’ health also is very much on Wright’s mind. His staff is pressure-washing carts in the parking lot before they are brought back into the store for new customers to use.

Carmack sounded confident that his market would be able to ride out the coronavirus storm. He said he keeps a 16,000-square-foot warehouse packed with inventory should his supplies run low on certain items.

Carmack was able to keep toilet paper in stock until this Thursday, when his strategic reserve finally ran out. Nonetheless, he and his wife sound undeterred in the face of COVID-19 related supply headaches.

“We’re here every day at 6 a.m., and we stay open until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays,” Carmack said.

“We don’t need to change anything as long as we can keep getting (delivery) trucks in,” Destiny Carmack added.

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