The employees at Petersburg Hardware in Petersburg, Indiana, have taken their roles as essential workers and community servants seriously.
They have accommodated major changes to how their store serves customers and they have pulled together as a team to take care of their neighbors with pride during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The employees all see that we’re here to serve our community,” says Robin Smith, vice president of Petersburg Hardware. “They’ve all come together because they realize they need to be here to keep our community running.”
Coming together has involved extra work to implement and follow new cleaning and social distancing procedures. They have also started taking orders via phone, Facebook messenger and at the cash register, doing the legwork of being personal shoppers.
In March, the store began closing two hours early every day to allow time for deep cleaning and stocking the shelves without customers in the building. One employee has sewn 500 cloth masks so the staff and other people in the area can stay safe.
Employees used a laundry room sink and garden hose to set up an outside hand-washing station for customers to use before walking in the store. In March, employees posted signs asking shoppers to wash their hands before entering.
In April, store owners Dennis and Sherry Bishop chose to make hand washing mandatory for all customers and began limiting the number of shoppers inside to 10 at a time to make social distancing easier and help employees feel more comfortable.
They assigned an employee to stand at the front door to enforce the hand-washing rule and limit the number of customers coming in.
For several weeks, the staff split into two teams that alternated shifts without overlapping at the store so one team would be available to keep the store open if someone from the other team became ill. If one person from a team had gotten sick, the rest of the team would have needed to quarantine at home, Smith says.
The employees no longer work on small separate teams, though, because the schedule was exhausting them, Smith says. So few residents in their county contracted the virus that going back to a more typical work schedule seemed like the best way to take care of the staff.
“You could just see it on their faces,” she says. “They’re energetic, but that level of energy had decreased.”