When the global pandemic started, forcing the East Warren Community Market (EWCM) to change everything about its daily operations, the grocery store also started collecting donations for its community relief fund, which gives money-stocked grocery cards to families in need.
Since May, the EWCM has raised over $15,000 for the relief fund, as donations poured in from EWCM customers.
“We have worked with and donated to many families that we were able to connect with through our local schools by starting in-store cards loaded with money so that they could freely and discreetly shop here for groceries,” said EWCM manager Alycia Biondo. “We also were able to donate to MRVEats which provides meals from local restaurants to families in need.”
Biondo encourages anyone who knows of a family in need to email the EWCM so the store can arrange to get them the food and resources they need.
In addition to raising money for those in need, the store has also successfully maintained a pandemic-friendly operation. “The EWCM has managed to maneuver itself successfully with the help and guidance of our board of directors, the hard work, sacrifice and contributions of our awesome employees and the undying support of our members and customers,” said Biondo. “We are so grateful and humbled by this experience and are prepared to keep on moving forward as your local co-op with whatever comes next!”
While transitioning to a safe and effective pandemic-conscious business model was difficult at first, Biondo and co-workers were able to figure out the best way to run the store over time.
From mid-March through mid-July, the store operated solely with email and curbside pick-up. After that, employees revamped the interior of the EWCM, adding a protective Plexiglass shield at the register so the market could open for indoor shopping. Additionally, the store started a card-capacity system that allows a maximum of five people in the store at a time. Each person must grab a laminated number card off the little wooden hook by the front door before entering. If there are no cards left, they must wait their turn outside.
“We are still using those procedures and processes today and have successfully kept all of our employees and customers healthy and our business thriving,” said Biondo.
The EWCM kitchen is also firing away, making daily fresh food and prepared dinners. Biondo encourages customers to check out the store’s offerings in Instagram @eastwarrencommunity or on the store’s website at www.eastwarrencommunity.com.
As for future plans, Biondo expects the store to expand its open hours. “We are anticipating going back to our normal hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily beginning on May 1.”