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For grocers and restaurants, the virus crisis is a different game

  • Soon after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the "shelter in place" order, long lines quickly formed at Sam's Club in Marion. 

    Soon after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the "shelter in place" order, long lines quickly formed at Sam's Club in Marion. 
    Kristin Moore photo

  • All checkout lanes were filled with customers at the Johnston City Food Shop on Friday as news of the "shelter in place" order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker filtered through the state.

    All checkout lanes were filled with customers at the Johnston City Food Shop on Friday as news of the "shelter in place" order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker filtered through the state.
    Holly Kee photo

  • The bread shelves at the Marion Kroger were mostly empty on Saturday afternoon.

    The bread shelves at the Marion Kroger were mostly empty on Saturday afternoon.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • Jonah Davis of Herrin keeps packaged water stocked during the COVID-19 crisis at Sams Club in Marion.

    Jonah Davis of Herrin keeps packaged water stocked during the COVID-19 crisis at Sams Club in Marion.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • Janeece Ball of Murphysboro and daughter Kimberlyn, stocked up on groceries at Sams Club in Marion before the "shelter in place" order was made.

    Janeece Ball of Murphysboro and daughter Kimberlyn, stocked up on groceries at Sams Club in Marion before the "shelter in place" order was made.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • Meat along with many other items have been limited to customers due to high demands during COVID-19.

    Meat along with many other items have been limited to customers due to high demands during COVID-19.
    Kristin Moore photo

  • Riley's BBQ in Marion is one of several restaurants in the region trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Riley's BBQ in Marion is one of several restaurants in the region trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.
    Kristin Moore photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
and KRISTIN MOORE
Contributing Photojournalist
Posted on 3/24/2020, 11:22 AM

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- While area grocers can barely keep the shelves stocked and have been forced to limit purchases, local restaurants are struggling to stay open under through the COVID-19 crisis.

On Friday, Johnston City Food Shop assistant manager Kevin Hill was forced to open all three checkout lanes in the small community grocery store, even manning one of them himself.

That rarely happens in the small community.

"It's crazy," he said. "We can barely keep up."

Many shelves at the Marion Kroger store were empty, especially those containing bread and toilet paper.

At Sam's Club in Marion, workers like Jonah Davis of Herrin kept busy restocking shelves.

"I think that some have panicked and maybe blown it out of proportion just a tab," said Davis, who added his belief "but it's better to be safe than sorry."

The virus crisis has definitely changed the way of life for some people, like Janeece Ball of Murphysboro.

"I am a shop every day for dinner kind of person," said Ball. "I stop in Kroger every morning for my coffee, and pick up dinner too. COVID-19 has changed that dramatically. I'm buying more frozen items. Actually, we only owned a small fridge and freezer. Since the virus, we have purchased a deep freeze to hold more food. I probably have more groceries now than I ever have had."

While grocery stores struggle to stay stocked and some are even advertising for temporary workers, for many area restaurants, it's a very different story.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't super nervous about what will happen to my business and other small businesses in our area in the next few weeks and months," wrote Abby Ancell of St. Nicholas Brewery in Du Quoin on her Facebook page.

Ancell's fears are real for several area restaurants that cater to more of a dine-in crowd rather than the now allowed curbside pick up.

At least one area restaurant, S & B Burgers in Carbondale, closed it doors the day after restaurants were ordered to cease dine-in service.

For others, like Riley's Smokehouse in Marion, the impact of the virus has slowed business dramatically.

"We thankfully have a lot of loyal customers that have been very supportive during this time," said owner Blake Riley. "However people aren't getting out as much, which will definitely put a hold on us. Some aren't working so they are budgeting and aren't able to spend the money on take out right now."

Riley is trying to keep his employees working, splitting available hours between them.

He also said that customers are being generous, tipping employees more than usual.

Community support is also something that Lindsay Sizemore has noticed.

Sizemore, who manages Teddy's Sports Bar and Grill in Herrin said the community has come together over the past week for the small, family-owned businesses.

"We are so thankful we are able to provide carryout services for food and packaged beer," she said, adding that those services allow an opportunity to provide working hours for the employees.

Sizemore said her parents are making use of the downtime to do some deep cleaning and minor remodeling. They have also offered for the employees to come in and help for extra cash.

"We know how rough this is for everyone and do not want to see anyone fall behind," she said.

For Riley, he says he will just take it day by day and hopes his customers know how thankful he is for their loyalty during this crisis.

"This too shall pass," he said, "and we will be able to comfortably enjoy our dining experience again."