With this pandemic going on for nearly a year-and-a-half, we’ve all adjusted our way of life and adapted to keep our households running smoothly, or at least attempted to keep things running smoothly.

Take our local stores and restaurants that stayed open throughout this whole time. They could have closed up shop and sent all their employees home in their effort to keep everyone safe from the virus. A few places did, but most did not. It has been stressful on everyone. As part owner of the Sears Hometown Store, I hear the challenges of serving anxious and nervous customers. As editor of the Times, I hear from our readers on a daily basis via the Hot lines. I can feel the stress and anxiety as well as the hope and optimism that we will all emerge out of this pandemic kinder and wiser.

Shopping has always been fun for me. While I do shop online just a little bit, I only do that when I cannot run to the neighborhood store and find what I need. I know how important it is to keep our locally owned businesses thriving. I know many people shopped online at the local grocery stores and pharmacies during the pandemic to stay socially distant or to not have to drag their kids to the store. I understand that, however, I chose to always do my own shopping in person. It was a welcome treat to run into a friendly employee who was obviously grateful for by business.

I am grateful to one female clerk at Walgreens on Silver Lake Road in Fenton. I don’t know her name. It didn’t matter what day it was. She would welcome me, and every other shopper into her store with a smile and ask if there was anything she could do. If I browsed the cosmetic aisle, she’d make sure I knew the specials and would hand me coupons so that I’d save money.

For groceries, because of where I live, I either go to either VG’s in Fenton or Alpine Marketplace in Linden. I’d often stop at Target to pick up an item or 20 too. I always felt safe and welcomed at these stores as there was always an employee sanitizing shopping carts and welcoming me with a smile. Sometimes the smile was covered with a mask, but I could tell by their eyes that they were smiling. I appreciate that.

I love to check out our little shops that are owned by local residents. Throughout the pandemic, they were constantly changing what they did to accommodate state mandates while dealing with low inventory on some items, late deliveries because drivers were sick, employees who had to quarantine and customers who were frustrated when they couldn’t find what they wanted to buy. I have grown to appreciate all of these shop owners even more now and will continue to shop in person. When I visit these businesses, I hear local chatter, get story ideas when I least expect it and find out what really concerns the people in the tri-county area.

To all the shop owners, store clerks, restaurant hosts and servers, you are appreciated.

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