As shelves empty, grocery vendors ask customers in Austin not to panic

Customers in Austin wait for H-E-B to open March 13. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Customers in Austin wait for H-E-B to open March 13. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Customers in Austin wait for H-E-B to open March 13. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

On the evening of March 12, Meredith Ann Douglas sent her husband to her local Dripping Springs H-E-B to pick up some nonperishable food items.

Douglas told Community Impact Newspaper that after seeing posts on a neighborhood Facebook group warning that shelves of food and household cleaning staples were beginning to dwindle, she wanted to be sure she and her family had plenty of food in the case that the coronavirus outbreak kept them at home for an extended period of time—especially since Douglas’ pregnancy has her appetite up.

She said her husband found empty shelves when he arrived.

“Please consider pregnant women when you go and wipe out the shelves,” Douglas wrote to her group. “I have a baby to sustain.”

Low stocks of nonperishable foods, sanitation supplies and toilet paper at local grocery stores are being paired with long lines at retailers such as Walmart and Costco throughout the Austin area over the past two days.

In a March 13 announcement, H-E-B said all stores are currently open as usual, and they will be restocking shelves as they run low.

“H-E-B has been preparing for coronavirus for several months and we are in a strong position to keep replenishing our shelves,” H-E-B said a news release. “Customers should not panic; we have the ability to restock shelves and encourage our customers to remain calm. H-E-B partners are ready to help Texas slow the spread.”

H-E-B also said they will be placing purchase limits on certain products to "make sure all customers have access to products they need."

"We encourage customers to check back with us if they cannot find what they need, as we’ll continue to restock our products," the company's website states.

Some smaller markets and convenience stores have felt the strain of panic-buying as well. A representative from Market at Jester, a small store in the Northwest Hills area of Austin, said the store had been sold out of toilet paper and cleaning supplies for at least two days, and he had seen panic-buying of canned food as well. There was not an estimate for when Market at Jester would be restocked.

Other small markets, however, have yet to see rushes on supplies. A representative from Quickie Pickie market on East Cesar Chavez Street in Central East Austin, which shares retail space with local barbecue joint La Barbecue, said many items are still in stock.

Editor's note: This is an evolving story. If you own a business that has been affected by the coronavirus and would like to tell your story, please email [email protected].
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


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