C-Store Employees Keep America Humming

Delivery, drive-thrus help keep consumers fed and safe.

March 26, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—While many businesses have closed temporarily, others remain open to help keep America running. One of the many local businesses and their employees working to meet consumer needs is Foxtrot Market, which was featured on Chicago’s NBC5 News

The Market, which has locations in Chicago and Dallas, is providing customers a wide selection products in addition to its current offerings of coffee, groceries and grab-and-go foods. And many people want those products delivered, according to Mike Lavitola, CEO of Foxtrot. “Deliveries have certainly picked up,” he said. “It’s been really busy.”

During the pandemic, Foxtrot Market is giving customers the choice of contactless delivery. Delivery drivers prefer leaving packages at a front door, a Foxtrot employee said, because everyone is trying to maintain that recommended six-foot distance.

Not all c-store heroes live in large cities. Karma Convenience Stores in the Minot, North Dakota, area have waived customer fees for grocery delivery during the pandemic, reports the Minot Daily News. Delivery is available Monday through Friday, and customers must call by 11 a.m. to receive same-day delivery.

“We carry all of our customer’s needs: groceries, formula, frozen, fresh meat cut daily with a butcher on staff, as well as fresh deli and bakery daily. We accept all payment types: debt, credit, checks, cash and EBT,” said Amanda Johnson of Karma Stores in an email. The stores employ about 20 people.

In New York, the Barn drive-through convenience store at Seaford has been swamped with customers. Manager Matthew DiMarco and employee Lamont Leach, both wearing gloves for safety, have served hundreds of customers who have driven to the red building's windows to buy groceries quickly and at a social distance, reports Newsday.

"Before all of this, we probably saw about 100 cars drive through here a day," DiMarco said. "But now, we can easily see that many in just a morning." 

The most requested items are eggs, milk, bread, paper towels and, of course, toilet paper, said Leach. Shoppers also ask for hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, but those items have long been out of stock. 

Ravi Patel, a manager at the Williston Park Dairy in Williston Park, New York, describes business as “busier and a bit crazy. Many customers drive up wearing gloves, others with masks on,” he said, adding that everyone is taking precautions and trying to keep as much of a distance as possible.

Debbie Gershow Lindell, a mother of two whose kids are home from college, said she’s a frequent shopper at Dairy Stop, a drive-thru shop in Plainview, New York. “[I order] through my cracked window, slide the money out and then have them put my purchases in the backseat along with the change. It's quick and wonderful. The owners are always smiling and always wearing gloves,” she said. 

Arti Puri and Sam Khatter, spouses and owners of Dairy Stop, said fears of the exposure to coronavirus at a crowded supermarket have boosted drive-thru sales. “I’m calling my vendors several times a day to try to restock products, many times unsuccessfully,” said Puri, who is concerned about the virus, as well. “I'm constantly changing my gloves. I can tell people are scared. If coronavirus is the reason my business is increasing, I don’t want it.” 

Meanwhile, RaceTrac is making it easier for customers to get the merchandise they need without social contact. The stores are using the “night pay box” pass-through windows, which were originally installed at some locations to handle late-night transactions.

Currently, the night pay box is available at all hours for customers who want to make a purchase yet wish to avoid entering the store. Guests simply approach the window and ask the RaceTrac team member to collect their merchandise for them. Then they pay. Another option is to call ahead and place an order, which is paid for and picked up at the pay box.

And on Facebook, Weidner’s Corner in Baltimore, Ohio, reports it has closed its doors but invites customers to use the store’s drive-thru. Customers simply phone in a take-out order and pick up their food at the drive-thru. “Thank you to all who have been supporting us through this,” the post added. “We must stand united and remember God gave us two hand[s]—one to help ourselves and one to help others.”

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.