The morning chill was still upon Glen Park on the morning of March 24, when the line started forming outside of Canyon Market. By 6:50 a.m. shoppers over age 65 began queueing up outside, in the second week of the market’s 7–8 a.m. senior citizen shopping hour.
Wearing a French beret, a puffy coat and boots to ward off the chill, co-owner Janet Tarlov played host to seniors who’d social-distanced themselves by six feet while waiting in line.
At exactly 7 a.m. she opened the doors.
An older woman asked Tarlov if she’d be checking identification.
“It’s the honor system,” Tarlov answered. “I trust everyone.”
Later that afternoon, on the telephone, she clarified: “If a pregnant young woman walked in,” she said, “I wouldn’t stop her.”
Over the course of the hour people entered the front door and exited the side (Wilder street) door. To decrease unnecessary crowding, only one member per household was allowed in.
Tarlov stood at the Diamond Street entrance, greeting shoppers and using a towel and a bucket of heavy-duty food-grade sanitizer to clean the handles of shopping baskets before handing them to customers.
The store keeps a large sign by the entrance telling incoming customers what has sold out. Sometimes it has included bread, eggs, milk and flour, but what’s available changes daily.
Canyon Market is also learning new habits. “We no longer serve hot soup,” Tarlov said. “Now we list the soups of the day and customers must go to the deli to request them.”
Saving the environment has taken a back seat to protecting the health of shoppers and staff. No longer are reusable bags from home allowed; groceries are packed at checkout by staff, using paper bags supplied by the store.
Shoppers are directed to stand clear until it’s time to pay up. Canyon is also strongly encouraging cashless payment so as to limit the contact involved in exchanging money.
Grateful shoppers can give staff a boost by rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar or by adding any amount they wish. A sign at the store entrance explains the options.
By the time this reporter and his wife left the store, it was 7:28 a.m. and there were at least 25 people circling the aisles or waiting to check out. Everyone shopping during the early morning hour got a senior discount, even though it was a Tuesday, because the discount has been extended to the senior hour every day.
Tarlov said her employees have stepped up to keep the store running.
“No one asked our staff to be an essential service, but they are and they are amazing,” she said. “The challenge is to balance this service while helping make our staff and the public as safe as possible during this health crisis.”
“Our staff is putting themselves out there,” she said. “The Glen Park community spirit is evident and it’s heartening that most everyone is respectfully working together, especially since there is no reason to believe matters will change soon.”