By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Some supermarkets with locations in Gramercy and Kips Bay are designating some early morning hours for seniors to get their shopping done to help the at-risk population avoid crowds. Morton Williams, which has locations at 313 East 23rd Street and 278 Park Avenue South, and Whole Foods, which has a location on East 14th Street across from Union Square Park, have announced that they will be setting aside special hours for seniors. West Side Rag reported the changes for the stores last Wednesday.
Morton Williams will be allowing vulnerable populations, including seniors age 60 and over and those who are immunocompromised, to come to the stores between 7 and 8 a.m.
“We are asking our customers to please prioritize the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. for our senior citizens, immunocompromised and similarly disabled neighbors,” the company said on their website. “Those most vulnerable in our communities would greatly appreciate it.”
Whole Foods also announced last week that starting on Wednesday, March 18, all stores would be open for customers age 70 and over one hour before opening to the general public. Hours differ based on location, but the Union Square location will also be opening from 7 to 8 a.m. for their senior hours.
“We are setting aside this time to help these customers, who national health authorities have identified as among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, feel more comfortable shopping our stores and helping to ensure they are able to get the items they need in a less crowded environment,” the company said in a statement.
State Senator Brad Hoylman wrote a letter last Friday (see page 4) to the CEOs of various supermarket chains with locations throughout the city, including the CEO of Whole Foods, and although he said that he hasn’t received a specific corporate response from any of the companies, he was encouraged that these two stores have already instituted special hours for seniors.
“It’s a practice that more markets should follow for two reasons,” he said. “One, seniors are among the most vulnerable and they should be able to shop in an environment where there is appropriate social distancing. Secondly, it’s simply not fair that a senior has to go to a market that’s been picked through, where there aren’t the products they need. I hope that more will take this measure in the future.”
Hoylman said that his office also has more than 200 volunteers for seniors who can’t do their own shopping.
Holyman’s letter also requested that the stores implement purchase restrictions on items such as toilet paper, bottled water and hand soap because they have been the subject of hoarding. Stores have not responded to this request either but Hoylman said that Target has committed to implementing restrictions on some items.
“It’s really discouraging if you’re in line and the guy ahead of you has a case of Purell,” he said. “We’re just asking retailers to keep it fair for our seniors.”