A customer washes his hands before entering the Eagle Lake Country Market on Saturday March 28. The store continues to add more measures to keep its employees and customers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. /DARREN LUM Staffx

Eagle Lake Country Market working for a safer environment

By Darren Lum

The family-run Eagle Lake Country Market is ensuring they’re doing whatever it takes to provide enhanced safety for their 11 employees and shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The week before the March Break the store began to make changes. They used the deli meat sheets to cover debit machines changing them after every use.

Shortly after they enacted a new practice of telling customers to wash their hands at a new outdoor sink with running water and a hands-free soap dispenser and provided gloves which were to be worn before entering and discarded upon leaving.

Signage was added with recommendations for social distancing hand washing and a sandwich board alerts customers of the store’s new entry requirement. Cashiers who are protected by a shield of plexiglass are being told to change their gloves for every customer and if they leave their cash register they must change their gloves and sanitize their hands and put on new gloves before their new job.

Owner Nancy Elstone said these actions are important for the health of the community and are the right thing to do.

She said her efforts increased after she heard about school closures and the speeches by Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It was a matter of what I could do to protect my staff and my community. They mentioned that hand washing was one of the most important things to do so I thought ‘Well let’s set up a hand-wash sink and let’s get everyone that comes in here to clean their hands No. 1. And let’s provide gloves because let’s try to keep our staff as safe as we can. Let’s try to protect everyone here. Customers really appreciated that. They thought that was a great idea. And since then it just seems like it’s progressing” she said.

The store has installed clear barriers at the checkout separating customers and cashiers who also have ultraviolet devices they can use to kill bacteria and viruses.

None of the produce is handled before purchase. For example the apples are sold in fours and are already bagged so they can be taken to the cash and weighed.

Elstone continues to think of new ways to improve safety as the situation is constantly evolving.

“Three weeks ago who would have known we were going to have screens at our check-out? So it’s progressing every day. It’s a matter of trying to think ahead and take action” she said.

She’s ordered face shields for her staff and the floor decals reminding people about social distancing are expected this week.

A local sewing club is making masks for staff. The club used to meet at the church across the road from the store.

Melissa Bacon is a front-end manager and customer service manager who has worked at the store since 2012. Bacon admits to being a germaphobe and said it’s comforting to know concerns will get addressed.

“If we need anything and we don’t have it on hand or if we can’t get it [Elstone will] order it right away” she said. “She’s great. She’s very prompt with everything.”

Bacon said her boss has “definitely gone above and beyond.”

Every 30 to 45 minutes depending on customer traffic carts are sprayed down and washed baskets and handles are wiped down with a cleaning solution. Everything that is touched is being cleaned Bacon said.

“Some people in the beginning [before March Break] I found thought it was kind of a joke. I’m like ‘Nope get the heck out.’ I don’t have a problem with telling people to get out and wash their hands” she said.

Another safety measure is online ordering and soon-to-be added an after-hours private shopping option for large orders suitable for one or two weeks.

Elstone said the concept could apply to one person or a couple who would shop when the store is completely empty of other customers. Phone for more details.

“Anything is on the table to make people feel more comfortable and safe” she said.