Our Coronavirus Response
Our Emergency Response Team, formed in late February to address the COVID-19 crisis, continues to meet regularly to make decisions about how to best serve our communities while doing all we can to ensure the safety of all who walk through our doors. But we wouldn’t be able to do any of it without the folks who work on the front lines every day. They are the heart and soul of our company, and we are profoundly grateful for their extraordinary efforts.
On this page we share what we’re doing to minimize the spread of COVID-19, care for our people and other actions we’ve taken in response to the pandemic. We’ll continue to make changes and post updates as needed. You can also follow our markets on Facebook for developments. Thank you for your trust in us. We are all in this together, and together we’ll make it through.
Masks Mandatory: On behalf of the safety of our employees and customers, we will stand firm in our requirement that all people in our markets wear a mask. The only exception is for kids 2 and younger. We’ve made this decision based on the science of how COVID is spread and how masks minimize the spread, and we believe having everyone wear a mask is the best way we can protect our employees and communities. If you want to shop and do not have a mask, we are happy to provide you one. If you are unable or unwilling to wear a mask, we encourage you to try our new online ordering service. Read more below about our position on masks.
The vast majority of our customers wear a mask when shopping, especially since the Governor’s order in July, and we are profoundly grateful. But we have had a few customers continue to shop without a mask, causing our employees to worry about their safety and that of their families. So we revisited the exemption we’ve allowed for customers who have a medical reason for not wearing a mask. These were very difficult conversations. On the one hand, we want to do all we can to keep our employees and customers as safe as possible. On the other hand, there are some people who truly cannot wear a mask. How could we possibly make a decision that would exclude some of our customers from our markets? We turned it over and over again, trying to find a way through that ensures we do all we can to keep everyone safe while not excluding anyone. But we kept coming back to our belief that when someone isn’t wearing a mask, regardless of reason, they could potentially spread the virus without knowing. And so, in our commitment to keeping our markets as safe as possible, we’ve decided to require all shoppers wear a mask.
- Why? Public health experts agree that face coverings are an important tool in preventing COVID-19 and research is showing that widespread use is effective in minimizing community spread of the virus. The more people wear masks, the safer we all are.
- What if I don’t have a mask? If you don’t have a mask, we are happy to give you one. You may also use any cloth covering that can cover your nose and mouth with a couple layers of fabric, such as a bandana or scarf.
- Are there exceptions? Children 2 years of age or younger are not required to wear a mask.
- Do I still need to practice social distancing if not wearing a mask? Face coverings significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others but does not eliminate it entirely. So it’s still important to maintain a distance of six feet between yourself and others when in public, even when wearing a mask.
- How can I shop for groceries if I cannot or choose not to wear a mask? We now offer online ordering in our markets, where most of our items are available for delivery or pickup. Visit shop.townandcountrymarkets.com.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AND WAIT LISTS
Maintaining six feet between yourself and others can be hard to do in a grocery store. While we need to rely on our customers to maintain a safe distance as they shop, we’ve made some changes to make it easier to practice social distancing in our markets:
- Wait lists: Ballard Market and Central Market Shoreline will use a digital wait list system during our busiest hours to ensure we do not exceed 25% capacity, as per the governor’s order. Our other markets will monitor customer counts at the entrance. When arriving at Central Market Shoreline, go to www.central-market.com on your mobile or www.townandcountrymarkets.com when arriving at Ballard Market. Tap “Get in Line” and you’ll either see “No wait list needed. Come on in!” or “+Add Me.” Enter your name and phone number and voila – you’re in line. You’ll get a text when it’s your turn to shop. If you don’t have a phone, an employee at the door will put your name on the list, then hang out near the entry (maintaining six feet distance between yourself and others please) so you can hear when your name is called. If you’re using a phone, please wait in your car.
- Direction Aisle Markers: One-way markers have been added to help ease crowding and alleviate traffic jams in our aisles.
- Floor decals: We’ll have floor decals to remind our customers to keep a safe distance when waiting in lines. Currently, we have tape on the floor at the check stands serving this function.
- Plexiglass: We’ve installed plexiglass shields at our check stands in lieu of having six feet between our customers and checkers.
- No groups: We ask that our customers come to the market with as few people as possible to minimize crowding.
SENIOR & HIGH RISK HOURS
Senior Hours: We’ve set aside specific times for our most vulnerable customers – 60 and older, those with underlying medical issues, pregnant women, etc.
- Ballard Market: 9-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
- All other markets: 7-9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
We started implementing specific safety practices the first week of March and have continued to add to these practices as health department guidelines evolve and new information become available.
- Carts: All shopping carts, hand baskets, children’s carts and motorized shopping carts are wiped down with sanitizers after each use.
- Check stands: Our checkers sanitize all check stand surfaces throughout the day, and the credit/debit card keypads are sanitized between each customer. We’ve also minimized the need to sign for credit card purchases.
- Market wide: Our staff sanitizes high-touch surfaces in all areas of the markets throughout each day, including cooler doors and backroom areas.
- Hand sanitizers: Available for customer use at each entrance and all check stands.
- Mobile hand washing stations: Watch for them at entrances and/or near Produce.
- Gloves: We’ve provided disposable gloves in various areas in the market for customers to use as they shop.
- Voluntary Customer Contact Log: We have a customer contact log in each of our markets for those who would like to leave contact information with us in case of COVID-19 exposure. If we learn that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 during your visit on the day noted on the contact log, we will only share this information with public health officials. They will contact you to explain the risk, answer questions and provide resources. We will not use this information for any other purpose. If this list is not used within 30 days, we will destroy it. If you’d like to add your contact info to this log when you visit one of our markets, please ask a checker or manager.
- Personal protection equipment: Our employees are required to wear disposable face masks. The only exception is when an employee has a health condition that makes it unsafe for them to wear face coverings. Hundreds of fabric face masks were made for us by community members—thank you!—and we wore them for several weeks, but new rules came from the state recently requiring employees to use disposable masks.
- Samples and cooking demos: Suspended until further notice.
- Self-serve bars and cases: Suspended until further notice. We’re pre-packing many of the items from those bars so you can still enjoy salads, hot food and antipasti at home.
- Bulk foods: Scoop bins and bulk spices are no longer available, and we’ve prepacked many of these items. Ask an employee for what you need. We’ve suspended the use of containers and bags from home.
- Reusable bags: We’ve temporarily suspended the use of reusable bags and are bagging all groceries in unused paper or plastic bags only. We’ve temporarily brought plastic bags back where they’ve been banned and waived the 5-cent fee in those markets.
- Plastic utensils: We’ve swapped out unwrapped, compostable utensils with individually wrapped plastic utensils in our food service areas
- Testers: We’ve removed “testers” for makeup or other Health & Beauty products that are applied on or close to the face.
- Coffee cups: We’re no longer filling reusable coffee cups in our espresso shops on Bainbridge Island and Central Market Poulsbo.
- Catering: We are temporarily suspending orders for our Market Fresh Party Platters and wedding cakes.
CARING FOR OUR PEOPLE
The folks who work in our markets are doing extraordinary work. We are profoundly grateful for their commitment and resilience as they serve the essential needs of our communities and keep our markets safe for all. We are doing all we can as a small business to keep them safe and to recognize their extraordinary efforts during this time.
- Appreciation pay: All market staff has received appreciation pay for the first several months of the pandemic.
- State benefits: We also are pursuing state benefit programs specifically set up for workers in this crisis through Employment Security.
- Staying home: We remind our employees that if they feel ill, they need to stay home and MAY use their sick pay or vacation pay. And we’ve let them know that we fully support and respect any who choose to take a leave of absence during this time.
- Testing positive: With the guidance of local health authorities we have action plans prepared should any of our employees test positive for COVID-19. Any employee mandated by a medical professional or health agency to quarantine because they tested positive for COVID-19 or were in close proximity to someone who tested positive, will receive two weeks of full compensation.
Retailers throughout the country are experiencing shortages of some essential, high-demand items, including sanitizing wipes and gels, toilet tissue, water and some non-perishable foods.
- Limits: We are limiting quantities of some products to one or two per customer.
- Ads: We’re still running great deals on our Big Board Buys ad but have suspended the Biweekly Buys and Market Buys ads due to the uncertainty of product availability in all departments. But we still have many items on sale throughout the markets—just look for the red shelf signs.
- Filling needs: Sometimes we’re able to supplement shortages in some categories with items we don’t normally offer. We set the retails for these items the same way we do for all other products in our markets.
Due to increased demand these past few months, we’ve fast-tracked our online ordering project to get it up and running in all our markets. And now it is! You can find more details here.