Shoppers - and stores - get the jump on Sandy

An Acme store near Kings Highway in Haddonfield has nearly bare bread shelves. Grocery stores tried to stock up on many such goods but not on perishables.

High spirits reigned, if you will, at the Fresh Grocer in West Philadelphia on Monday when a customer, no doubt inspired by Hurricane Sandy, started singing in the rain - or at least in the supermarket.

"I've never seen that guy before," manager John Faust said, sounding a little harried as the exuberant tenor belted out something resembling a tune in the background.

"We're doing pretty good now," Faust said. "We're not running out of anything," and replenishments were expected throughout the day.

As usual, shoppers in the Philadelphia region made their supermarket runs over the weekend in advance of the storm, snapping up milk, bread, eggs, water, and batteries, said Steve Sylven, spokesman with Acme's parent company, Supervalu Inc., based in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Most of Acme's stores are open, he said Monday, but 12 stores near the Jersey Shore were closed.

To stock the other stores, "we're pretty well-versed in storm preparation," Sylven said. The supermarkets' warehouses send increased shipments of the staples, such as batteries and water - "water in particular is the big one."

Meanwhile, "we dial back on the perishables," he said. "That's the last thing you want to overstock in the event you have a mass power outage."

To cope with meats, dairy, and other perishables that could easily spoil, he said, the company deploys refrigerated trucks that can, if there is an outage, store products or take them to nearby supermarkets for refrigeration.

By early Monday afternoon, Sylven said, most of the trucks that had been bringing replenishments to the stores were returning to the warehouses.

"What it comes down to in a situation like this is safety" for the drivers, he said.

As the day progresses, he said, "it's not uncommon to see things like water and batteries start to dwindle. We won't run trucks again until we get through a big chunk of this storm."

That decision would be made later Monday, he said.


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