Grocery, suppliers keep up with demand

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Mor For Less Meat Manager Leroy Spears restocks meat at the store in Huntingburg on Saturday. "I've been cutting meat for 36 years, and I've never seen anything like it," Spears said. He decided to come into work even though it was his day off. "It's been a struggle to keep up," he said. "But we all have a part to do, and I have good help."


HUNTINGBURG — All grocery stores are working hard to keep basic necessities on the shelves for people to purchase. But by mid-day a lot of those shelves are empty.

But at Mor For Less in Huntingburg, the shelves tend to stay stocked, the freezers full and the lines of shoppers long.

“Things have been really good,” store co-owner Andrew King said. “It’s rather amazing.”

The store, which has been been around since 1972, has been able to have more constant supply because it purchases most of its inventory from local suppliers. The store gets 90% of its supplies within an 8-mile radius, King said.

“We got in three trucks today,” King said Monday. “We got meat, bread, milk, eggs. We’re getting deliveries on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s really been amazing.”

King explained that the store is getting some kind of delivery each day.

“We’re getting egg deliveries on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. “Holland Dairy (Prairie Farms) is 7 miles away, maybe. And they’ve been here every single day except Sunday. Our main warehouse is out of Dale, (Winkler Wholesale Grocers). We get meat from there, dairy. They supply the majority of our store.”

Mor For Less employee Rex Gibson restocks canned pasta sauce at the store in Huntingburg on Saturday. Customers have been stocking up on food and other products, such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper, as they self-quarantine because of COVID-19 at a rate co-owner of More For Less, Wayne King, has never experienced before. "Our suppliers are really working with us, though," he said. "We feel very fortunate."

The store has been working with Winkler for the last seven or eight years. Before that, Winkler had its own store in the city, Holiday Foods. But when it closed, Winkler and Mor For Less worked out a deal for Winkler to become its supplier.

“It’s really turned into something that’s really saved us in this situation,” King said. “People are in every day and saying how in the world are you guys staying in stock. It’s really been something.”

Winkler Wholesale Grocers is working around the clock to keep up with the demand of the stores it services.

“It’s become very challenging to keep up,” company President Josh Winkler said. “We’re shipping at max capacity. Our shipping crews have been working 12- to 14-hour nights. We’re just doing our best to keep up.”

Winkler serves 450 independent stores in five states: Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio. Along with Mor For Less, Winkler supplies foods to other stores in the area, such as Holiday Foods, Spud’s in Ireland and Stone Ridge Station in Lincoln City.

They stock 16,000 items of all kinds of groceries, some of which are meats, frozen foods, deli and dairy.

“We’re still shipping 80% of what they’re ordering at this time. And it’s getting better as more items keep rolling in and the panic buying slows down some,” Winkler said. “The supply chain is not used to this panic buying, when people are buying three months worth of supplies.

Mor For Less employee Melissa Wampler restocks produce at the store in Huntingburg on Saturday.

“We just need shoppers to be reasonable, and buy like they normally do. The supply chain will catch up just fine.”

The company has added staff and all are working overtime to keep up with the demand. And the truck drivers are being cautious as they deliver goods, Winkler said.

“Our truck drivers are going all over the Midwest here, delivering groceries and coming in contact with different people,” he said. “Those drivers are heroes. We’re doing what we can to keep them safe from infection.”

Prairie Farms, which is based in Edwardsville, Illinois, and runs the operations in Holland, issued a statement when asked about keeping up with demands for the companies it supplies its dairy products.
“Prairie Farms would like to assure customers that we are committed to continue providing essential milk and dairy products during the COVID-19 crisis,” company spokesman Darin Copeland said in the statement. “We are working closely with our grocery and retail partners to keep shelves stocked as demand for dairy products has increased.”

Mor For Less is an independent, locally-owned store, whereas other popular grocers in the county are part of a bigger company. So they have to get their shipments from the company’s warehouses, which tend to be out of state.

“We’re one store, so we can do what we want,” King said.

For instance, the company works with four meat vendors. So they have other places in Indiana from which to purchase meat, as well as a place in Atlanta.

“Being an independent store allows us some options to keep finding inventory,” King said. “We can call these other places to keep getting products. So in addition to buying local, we are able to react and still find some stuff.”

Just like other grocers nowadays, Mor For Less stays full with customers.

“Like Friday, we had over 100 people in line waiting. We only have three registers,” he said. “You can’t get from one end of the store to the other because the lanes are so backed up.”

The store has hired six, full-time workers in the last week. “They’re college students who have worked here before and are now home,” King said. “Our regular full-timers have been working overtime. Everyone has been great.”

The store has also been placing limits on how much people can buy of different products. “We’re limiting stuff like crazy, so that everybody can get some,” King said.

Having a constantly packed store has been tiring, King admits. “And it’s a little stressful. We’re supposed to have social distancing,” he said. “And our store is a little small.

“But people are getting what they need.”

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