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Hardware stores named ‘essential’ retailers

Rocky’s Ace Hardware on Free Street in Westfield will be open as an essential business during the coronavirus shutdown. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS PHOTO)

WESTFIELD – Hardware stores, including Rocky’s Ace Hardware – with seven locations in western Massachusetts – have been classified as “essential retailers” on both the state and federal levels during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The classification relates to products offered that clean, sanitize and disinfect homes and businesses, as well as products to preserve, protect and repair, according to Rose Wheeler, store manager, Rocky’s Ace Hardware at 2 Free St.

On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public as of March 24 at noon until April 7 at noon. These businesses are encouraged to continue operations remotely.

Baker added the state would “always allow” grocery stores, pharmacies and other “essential” operations to continue. While these businesses are designated as essential, they are urged to follow social distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the state Department of Public Health (DPH). Also, restaurants, bars, and other establishments that sell food and beverage products to the public are encouraged to continue to offer food for take-out and by delivery if they follow the social distancing protocols set forth by the DPH.

Some products at Rocky’s stores are only being sold in limited quantities due to shortages, including disinfecting products, face masks, toilet paper and bottled water, with availability varying by location, according to company officials.

Each store has precautions in place to ensure a safe environment for customers and associates, and are temporarily reducing their hours, with most locations closing at 6 p.m. on weekdays.

In the local store, Wheeler noted the most products currently in demand range from bleach, soap, and hand and spray sanitizers, to toilet paper, paper towels, rubbing alcohol and vinegar.

“We have a limit of two items per person of each product to make sure there is enough for all of our customers,” said Wheeler, adding she currently has two pallets of water available, however, she still has to limit two per person because of the high demand.

Current store hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Wheeler noted that her store traditionally receives truck shipments twice a week, but as products in demand become available she will be receiving extra drop shipments.

“We are working with outside vendors we don’t normally shop with for the products in demand,” she said.

While people are generally concentrating their efforts on purchasing cleaning products, Wheeler said she is also seeing an increase in items being purchased related to sink repairs.

“Normally we see those types of purchases closer to the holidays,” said Wheeler.

Even though it was snowing Monday morning, Wheeler said she is seeing an increase in people purchasing items related to barbecuing – from propane and charcoal to wood pellets for smokers.

“We have had pretty decent weather so there has been an earlier increase in purchasing grills and we are seeing a high demand for barbecue-related items,” she said.

Wheeler applauds her associates for going the extra mile for their customers – from a personal touch helping them to find needed items – to constantly restocking shelves and cleaning high traffic surfaces including door handles, rest rooms, pen pads, counters and carriages.

“My staff members are from the community and we are like a family here,” said Wheeler. “I am very blessed to have such a great staff. They really put in 110% all of the time and especially now in light of the epidemic. I appreciate everything they do and this is a testament to what they do for the community.”


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