Stay-at-home Vermonters are still venturing out to shop, observes Charlie Spriggs, who works at City Hardware in Burlington — and many of them have long “honey-do” lists.
Hardware stores in Vermont — as well as grocery stores and pharmacies — remain open, albeit often with reduced hours. Gov. Phil Scott has deemed these operations “critical,” and exempt from coronavirus shut-downs.
Demand for some do-it-yourself items seems directly tied to folks spending more time at home, Spriggs said Tuesday.
“People who come through here seem to be doing a lot of painting. And staining,” he added.
Rice Lumber in Shelburne sells no paint. But some employees, anticipating extended spells at home this spring, have stocked up elsewhere, said Taylor Carroll, who works sales.
A co-worker’s wife, who has worked from home for the past week and a half, “is painting like crazy,” Carroll said. “He said it’s keeping her sane.”
Staying open: the nuts and bolts
Another sign of the times at hardware stores across the state: For health reasons, DIY customers increasingly order their materials online and pick them up curbside.
For weeks, N95 face masks that effectively block the virus that causes COVID-19 have been unavailable to shoppers in Chittenden County, or anywhere else in Vermont.
But hardware stores have remained alert to other emergencies, said Bob Eakin, district manager for Curtis Lumber.
Pallets of roof shingles are shipping out of Curtis’ flagship store in Ballston Spa, New York by the “boom-load,” Eakin said, to shield newly built homes from rain damage before building sites close down.
Shoppers in Aisle 5 — keep your distance
Local employees at Lowe’s and Home Depot declined to comment for this story, citing corporate policies.
A spokesperson for Atlanta-based Home Depot said that its stores have doubled down to make sure they are well stocked with “harsh-weather items” like tarps, propane and batteries, as well as supplies essential for emergency plumbing and electrical repairs.
Some high-traffic stores are “aggressively reiterating physical distancing,” Home Depot’s Margaret Smith wrote in an email. Among the public-safety measures: distance markers at checkout areas and reminders via overhead store PA systems when shoppers converge closer than the length of two yardsticks.
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.
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