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First Coast Supermarkets Give At-Risk, Older Shoppers Alone Time, Change Hours

Fresh produce was sparse Saturday morning, March 14, at the Deerwood Lakes Publix.
Contributed photo
Fresh produce was sparse Saturday morning, March 14, at the Deerwood Lakes Publix.

Supermarkets across the First Coast have plans in place to keep the food and supplies flowing, despite demand surges on some items, and many are giving older shoppers time alone in the store before doors open to the general public.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted on Wednesday about buying only what is necessary this week to avoid supply chain issues at local stores.

The biggest Jacksonville-based supermarket chain, Southeastern Grocers, which operates Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores, on Thursday morning announced:

  • A shopping hour dedicated to seniors and high-risk customers from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday, in all stores.
  • Pharmacies will open at 8 a.m. on weekdays to provide prescription refills, influenza and pneumonia vaccines and customer counseling.
  • The SEG Gives Foundation is donating $250,000 to Feeding America to help provide support to those facing food insecurity 
  • Local Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie stores to are committing to hiring people who have been affected by restricted working hours and layoffs.
  • Starting Friday, March 20, all stores will close will at 8 p.m, which is an hour earlier than usual.

Like Winn-Dixie and Harveys, many other grocers are cutting back hours to allow staff to restock and sanitize stores.

Locally owned Rowe’s IGA Supermarkets scaled its hours back to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The grocer is normally open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Rowe’s operates five Northeast Florida stores. Owner Rob Rowe told WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record, "The supply chain is severely stressed, to say the least."

Meanwhile, Sprouts Farmers Market is continuing its Jacksonville expansion while dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.  The Phoenix-based grocer said Thursday it will open its 12675 Beach Blvd. store on April 29, at 7 a.m. Sprouts is hiring 110 people for what will be its second Jacksonville location, after opening a store at The Markets at Town Center last year.

Related: Local, State And National Coronavirus Coverage

Locally owned Native Sun Natural Foods Market, which recently reopened its Jacksonville Beach location after shutting its stores last year, is also adjusting, opening an hour early on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for people in high risk populations, such as those over 60 years old or those who have compromised immune systems. The grocer is also rolling out a online ordering app on March 20.

Lakeland, FL-based Publix, which has stores across the First Coast, has reduced its store hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on Sundays, which remains on normal hours.

Credit Contributed photo
The paper products isle at the Deerwood Lakes Publix was empty Saturday morning, March 14, before restocking.

Whole Foods, which has one Jacksonville location on San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin, is allowing older shoppers to have the store to themselves for an hour before the store opens at 8 a.m.

And locally owned Grassroots Natural Market in Five Points is keeping its normal hours, while adding an hour for seniors and others at highest risk of severe illness, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sundays.

Many area grocers are making announcements on their websites about changes in hours, curbside service, online ordering or other developments. Here’s a list of the websites for many of the larger ones that operate on the First Coast:

Nielsen, a data analytics company, best known for providing TV and radio ratings, looked at what’s flying off the shelves, comparing the week ended March 7, to the same week a year earlier:

Health and safety products

  • Hand sanitizer: +470%
  • Aerosol disinfectants: +385.3%
  • Rubbing alcohol: +253.8%
  • Bath & shower wipes: +180%
  • Thermometers: +172.3%
  • Multipurpose cleaners: +148.2%
  • First aid kits: +111.9%
  • Hydrogen peroxide: +109.8%
  • Antiseptic: +80.7%
  • Bath & shower soap: +69.6%
  • Toilet paper: +60%
  • Cold & flu remedies: +55.5%
  • Facial tissue: +51.5%
  • Paper towels: +40.8%
  • Cough remedies: +37.1%
  • Antibiotics: +32.8%
  • Supplements: +35%
  • Vitamins: +32.3%
  • Pet medicine: +11.7%

Food, beverage and other products:

  • Oat milk: +347.3%
  • Fresh meat alternatives: +206.4%
  • Powdered milk products: +126.3%
  • Dried beans: +62.9%
  • Canned meat: +57.9%
  • Rice: +57.5%
  • Chickpeas/garbanzos: +47.3%
  • Water: +42%
  • Black beans: +41%
  • Tuna: +31.2%
  • Pretzels: +14.8%
  • Kombucha: +10.1%

Fruits and vegetables saw decreases:

  • Celery: -18.7%
  • Papayas: -6.5%
  • Apples: -3.2%

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.