Chris Franklin, general manager of Leevers Locavore, a neighborhood grocery store at 2630 West 38th Avenue, says he wanted to do more to ensure the safety of both customers and employees during the current coronavirus crisis. So he looked at ways to keep the store even cleaner than the full sanitizing being done at the beginning and end of the day and the constant wipe-downs of door handles, carts, counters and other surfaces happening all day.
"We're going to close from 2 to 3 p.m. each day," Franklin states. "It's going to cost us some money and will inconvenience some people, but it will help us stay as clean as possible."
So the grocery store's new hours are from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 to 9 p.m., with the first hour of each day reserved for customers over age sixty or with compromised immune systems. During the one-hour closure, employees and a third-party cleaning company are conducting sanitation walks and a deep cleaning. This way, there's a complete sanitary reset every few hours instead of just once a day.
As a shift in the sustainability mindset, Leevers is also asking that shoppers leave their reusable grocery bags at home for now (or to wash and sanitize them thoroughly), since those can potentially carry coronavirus into the store. While paper bags aren't ideal in the best of times, they're a good option for maintaining a clean environment over the next several weeks.
Leevers Locavore is more than a grocery store; it's also home to four food and drink counters: Culture Meat & Cheese, Basil Doc's Pizza, One Two Three Sushi and a coffee and snack bar. Franklin points out that while all public seating has been temporarily removed from the store, he's been working with the food vendors to bring attention to their takeout menus. "We're willing to cut back on some of our stuff to give more options to the vendors," he explains. For example, Culture, owned by restaurateur Justin Brunson, is now serving fried chicken from the menu of his other eatery, Old Major.
Brunson also operates River Bear American Meats, which runs the butcher counter and meat department at Leevers. "River Bear has probably the best and most well-stocked butcher counter in town," Franklin notes, pointing that Brunson is able to keep a wide variety of chicken, pork, beef and other products on shelves by working with small producers outside the normal distribution channels.
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That practice has also kept Leevers from having serious shortages on products that are flying off the shelves elsewhere. "We're having some sporadic shortages, but we've reached out to restaurant suppliers, since they have surplus, as well as other local connections," the GM says. "It's kind of an 'I know a guy' situation."
So things like eggs, potatoes and even toilet paper are coming through non-standard channels. Franklin explains that he was able to get a pallet of toilet paper from a paper supplier who normally works with office-supply stores, though they were individually wrapped rolls, not packages. The cost was higher than usual, but Franklin says they didn't pass that cost on to customers.
Grocery shopping has become more difficult as Denver residents stock up on the necessities and social distancing make wandering store aisles feel like a questionable thing to do. Franklin hopes shoppers remain considerate and don't stampede to the grocery store to grab up any single product. "Public safety is what's most important right now," Franklin adds, "and not feeding into paranoia. We're just grateful to have jobs, and customers have been extremely patient and kind."
Leevers Locavore is a specialty grocery store focusing on local, natural and organic products, so don't expect to find major brand names or typical supermarket variety. Visit the store's Facebook page for the latest updates.