Essential Workers: Hardware storesApril 29, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Kathy Knies was so concerned she wouldn’t be able to go to the hardware store when she learned about the COVID-19 outbreak forcing many closures, and it was a big relief to the landlord when she found out they were essential.
“I have a big responsibility,” Kathy, 64, said. “There’s a lot people [who] depend on me to take care of even the smallest needs — the drip in the faucet, or whatever."
The Jasper woman feels bad that workers have to be on the front lines at this time, but she’s very grateful for the places like the hardware stores and lumber companies. She tries to do her own carpentry and lays her own floors. She sometimes does plumbing, and she relies on Meny’s True Value for many of her projects.
The store being open provides a convenience to her.
Kevin Denu owns a turkey farm in Dubois, and was at the Meny’s Dubois location earlier this month to get medicine for his turkeys. He finds himself going to the hardware several times a week.
“We’re very fortunate that they’re open,” Denu said. “[We] get a lot of our parts there for our farm. If they weren’t open, we’d have to search them online and wait for them to be delivered, and that would just take longer for us.”
Shawn Kalb also owns a turkey farm in Dubois, and she sees Meny’s as family. She knew, though, that there was no way they could shut down during the pandemic given the value they add to agriculture. She gets medicine for her turkeys from the store, just like Denu does.
“It’s just so close,” Kalb said. “It’s a blessing.”
Michelle Meny and her husband, Gary, own the Meny’s stores in Jasper, Ferdinand and Dubois. Hardware stores are considered essential businesses as people deal with COVID-19, and Meny’s can still serve the people of Dubois County, even with a few challenges.
“I can’t imagine if we would’ve had to have closed all three stores, what an impact that would’ve made for us, for our employees and our business six months down the road when you come back open,” Michelle said. “I’m fortunate to be able to be open so people don’t forget about us.”
Michelle believes her stores are essential because of the goods they sell. Meny’s has items such as hand sanitizers and disinfectants. She said their supplies are limited, but more stuff comes in each week. She cited recent storms in the area as another reason. Customers who had plumbing issues could fix water leaks, or buy extension cords to get their generators going if they were out of power.
“It’s that time of the year for storms, so it was nice that we were here to help everyone out,” she said.
She added that the stores ran out of toilet paper quickly, and had to put limits on purchasing items. People who purchased Lysol were limited to two cans per household. Families could only buy one box of dust masks per day in an effort to curb stockpiling.
The number of customers in the store at a given time is also restricted. The Jasper store is limited to 10 at a time, Ferdinand eight and Dubois five. Everything is also taped off as a means of practicing social distancing. Michelle said customers can only walk so far into the building before they have to let employees know what they want, and the employees will do the shopping for them. The locations are consistently being sanitized.
Michelle said a couple of the stores have been busier than usual. That could be because many people are home now, or because of the time of the year. Michelle hasn’t noticed much change from normal everyday operations in the Dubois location because it’s a farming community.
Michelle does not see there being a change in how people do things for their summer renovation projects. Meny’s has been selling mulch and potting soils. Paint has been a hot item, and many people have come in to rent equipment.
“I think the more people that stay home, they’re just going to continue to do things around the house,” Michelle said.
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