Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 9, 2014

Stores restock after blizzard

Many struggle to keep up with demand as deliveries are delayed

By Lauren Fitch
Tribune staff writer

— Bread and milk may still be in short supply in Kokomo, but stores are gradually restocking their groceries following Sunday’s blizzard.

Customers flocked to stores as early as Friday to stock up before the impending winter storm, which brought 10.5 inches of snow Sunday followed by bitterly cold temperatures Monday and Tuesday.

The icy roads delayed delivery trucks early this week and local grocers struggled to keep up with demand.

“Friday was crazy busy, Saturday and then even Sunday,” said Charisse Thill, manager of Kroger, 2821 S. Washington St.

On Monday, when the city of Kokomo and Howard County were under a travel warning that meant only emergency personnel should be on the roads, Kroger still saw 800 customers.

“That’s quite a few for being a blizzard and nobody supposed to be on the road,” Thill said.

Most people have bought just a few items at a time this week, stocking up on bread, eggs, milk, prepared dinners and soup, she added.

“About the only thing we’re out of right now is bread, and we’re expecting a delivery any minute,” Thill said Wednesday morning.

Marsh Supermarket, 1401 N. Washington St., had been out of milk for three days as of Wednesday.

“We had a few [delivery] guys in this morning; a chip guy and a bread guy,” said assistant manager Mike Nezo. “I’m hoping the milk guy comes soon.”

Nezo said the last time he can remember such a rush for groceries was the blizzard that hit Kokomo in 1978. Bread, milk and eggs have been customers’ top priority this week, he added.

“It started Friday night and just kept going,” Nezo said.

Kokomo’s Walmart was one of 14 in the region that closed Sunday night through Monday morning due to the weather. The store got busy Saturday as people prepared to get snowed in.

“The store was heavily shopped on Saturday, similar to what we saw leading up the holidays,” said David Reitnauer, regional general manager vice president, who oversees 135 stores in Indiana and Kentucky.

Bread, milk, eggs and produce went quickly on the grocery side, Reitnauer said. Ice melt sales through the second week of January exceeded what companies had forecast for the entire year, so Walmart is working on getting those products restocked.

Walmart delivery trucks were rerouted to accommodate the slippery roads. Trucks from areas that were not hit by the storm were directed to help out at regional distribution centers. More vehicles were deployed because drivers could not cover as much ground in their usual shifts.

“We had the challenge with the state of emergency and moving,” Reitnauer said. “We’re really proud of the associates, how they got to the store, weathered the storm and took care of our customers.”

Education reporter Lauren Fitch can be reached at 765-454-8587, Lauren.Fitch@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @LaurenBFitch.