Senior shopping hour caters to most at risk

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Dwight Giddens of Schnellville grocery shops wearing a face mask and gloves during the senior shopping hour for those over age 60 and most at risk at Holiday Foods in Jasper on Tuesday. "The way it's going all over the world, people are dying," Giddens said. "They say to take all the precautions."


JASPER — It’s been hard for them.

John Keusch and his wife, Betty, have been staying close to their Jasper home. They’ve been avoiding crowds. And they’ve been distancing themselves from their grandkids.

Carole Feltner, who lives in the country between Jasper and St. Anthony, is also taking extra precautions. She is paying attention to directives, has stocked up on disinfectants and gloves, and is doing her part to stay healthy.

John and Feltner are both 70 years old. That means they’re both at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19, if they were to contract the spreading virus.

Tuesday morning, at Holiday Foods in Jasper, they both took part in a new event that caters to those who need it the most.

All Holiday Foods stores are offering bi-weekly, one-hour time slots intended exclusively for seniors — as well as others who are at risk — to complete their shopping in a safe environment. Those special hours are held from 7 to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will be offered for the foreseeable future.

A shopper enters Holiday Foods just after 7 a.m. during the senior shopping hour for those over age 60 and most at risk at Holiday Foods in Jasper on Tuesday.

“This is a big change, to come in this early, but I think it’s great that they’re setting a time aside for us old people,” Feltner, who normally sleeps in, said with a laugh as she navigated through the busier-than-usual aisles. “I think it’s good because I think we’re more susceptible, because they keep saying that.”

Dean Jacob, the director of operations at Holiday Foods, explained that his company got the idea from its customers.

“We have to do it,” Jacob said as the store hummed before the sun rose. “Because we love the local people. The seniors especially, because we cater to them. We carry out for them, if they need something, we’ll go out of our way to help them.”

He continued: “A lot of them don’t get around real good, and a lot of times, we’ll put an employee with them just to help them. Stick with them and help them. We try to help everybody, but especially the senior citizens [and] the people that need help.”

The special shopping hour experience, however, isn’t just for seniors. Those who are also at higher risk of coronavirus complications are also invited, and though company leadership wants to save the hour for those two groups, you wouldn’t get turned away even if you don’t fit into either of them.

“It’s tough because some of the older people bring helpers in,” Jacob explained. “Their kids and whatnot, we let them in. Some of the people are buying for their parents or neighbors or whatnot. And so we try to cater to the seniors, but if someone comes in, we’re gonna let them shop.”

Annette Mauntel of Jasper grocery shops while wearing gloves during the senior shopping hour for those over age 60 and most at risk at Holiday Foods in Jasper on Tuesday. “It’s so nice of them to think about the senior citizens,” Mauntel said.

Like Feltner, John also appreciated the gesture the company made.

“I think it’s great that they make a special hour for it,” he said from behind his cart. “This is some weird stuff we’re dealing with, and everybody’s taking some precautions. So, that’s good and it helps everybody out. I think [it] keeps everybody a little calmer.”

Even after the pandemic ceases, the store may continue to offer the special hours.

Normally, when Kim Sibrel walks in after dropping her husband and daughter off at work at Jasper Chair, she has the store to herself. She’ll head to the deli, grab a doughnut and peruse at her leisure.
This was not the case on Tuesday morning. Not a senior herself, when Sibrel walked back to her car with bags of groceries around the beginning of the special hour, the store was even busier than a 5 p.m. rush, with three cashiers working to quickly clear out the crowd.

Jacob hopped on one of the lanes to help get people through. He told a couple of the customers that if they needed anything, they could call him at home, and he would bring items out to them. He cares for their health, and he wants to see them when this is all over.

“We love all our customers, but there’s a special place for the older people,” Jacob said. “The people that need help. It just tears at your heart to see them struggle, and that’s why we want to take care of them.”

Walmart, Walgreens, Dollar General and Ruler Foods are other businesses currently offering an early-morning shopping experience for seniors and the at risk.

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