Grenadians experienced a historic winter storm last week that left much of Mississippi crippled as travel literally froze following unprecedented temperatures, freezing rain and snow that formed sheets of ice on roadways wreaking havoc on travel for days.
The ice and snow affected Grenada County in so many ways, but one of the most vital was feeding the multitudes of residents trapped at home.
Families began preparing for the wintry mix early, shopping Grocery Basket and Spain’s Supermarket as early as Wednesday, Feb. 10, to stock their cupboards. Both establishments worked feverishly to stay open and provide groceries for their customers.
For Grocery Basket, it was a tougher time as road conditions stopped deliveries from their Associated Wholesaler Grocery supplier in Southaven. The company informed store manager Sammy Brasher that last Wednesday’s and Friday’s regular deliveries would be canceled due to road conditions preventing its employees from working and processing orders. Last Saturday, however, they received a pair of deliveries to restock depleted shelves.
Brasher has managed Grocery Basket for 15 years and has been in the grocery business since 1973. He said that the spike in business and the volume of shoppers surpassed the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased business occurred in just seven hours instead of the regular 14-hour days.
“There were several days where we would have double the number of customers, sometimes even more than that,” Brasher said. “The pandemic was different because we could get deliveries every other day.”
Last Wednesday, the store experienced no in-store deliveries. They had no bread, milk or potato chips. Later Wednesday, the bread companies dropped off some bread to the store. Two days later, Prairie Farms delivered a load of milk to the store.
“I have never seen a store get wiped out like this,” Brasher said. “And I have been in this business a long time.”
Another big issue for Brasher last week were his employees. Grocery Basket employs 60 people and many of them were stranded by the weather. On average, the normal working crew would be less than 15 due to shortened hours. The store has operated at reduced hours through the entirety of the storm and its aftermath. They were scheduled to be open regular hours of 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. last Saturday.
“We worked on getting our employees off the roads before it got dark each night,” Brasher said. “Most of the employees working during this time were picked up by Randy McDaniel. We had some employees that drove in on their own. It’s been a tough time for all of us. You gain satisfaction from making sure people have what they need.”
As for Tim Golding’s longtime family business, Spain’s Supermarket, the Grenada grocer didn’t miss much of a beat during the storm. He was able to keep his store stocked for the most part. Nevertheless, there was a period of three hours that Spain’s had no bread and went without milk for a couple of hours.
The longtime grocer credited receiving supplies from various companies for keeping the shelves stocked.
“The big difference for us is that we have multiple suppliers,” Golding said. “If it is bad to the north, we will get it from the east or west. We have multiple sources, which makes it easier.”
Golding pulled meat from the south and from Alabama. Despite the conditions, a supplier from Jackson, Tenn., was also able to deliver.
“We have a good relationship with all of our drivers,” he said. “They have really gone out of their way to make sure we had supplies. We didn’t tell our employees that they had to come to work, but they were dedicated and came into work.”
Crowds also packed Spain’s prior to the arrival of the winter storm. During the storm and after the storm, the crowds were still consistent, according to Golding. The store shortened its store hours by 90 minutes for the first four days of last week. Last Friday, they went back normal hours of 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Golding employs 110 people and left it to his out-of-town employees to make the decision regarding driving to work.
“We had some drive in from out of town to work and some didn’t,” he said. “Late last week, we were picking up our employees that live in town by four-wheel drive. We got things back to normal last Saturday for the most part.”
Golding commended the drivers that went the extra mile to get the supplies to his store. He was also pleased with his employees that braved hazardous conditions to get to work.
“We have the same truckers that service us on a daily basis,” he concluded. “They are good drivers and took their time driving 20-30 miles per hour to get here. We had a lot of our employees that came in despite the conditions. It was a total team effort to keep us open.”