Food sales set records at area outlets But rush leaves stocks, especially eggs, milk and bread, nearly depleted

Blizzard Of 1996

January 10, 1996|By Michael James and Robert Guy Matthews | Michael James and Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

As Marylanders streamed into area supermarkets, corner groceries and convenience marts for provisions, cash registers were ringing up record sales as some store shelves began running bare.

The Giant supermarket chain, which has stores through the mid-Atlantic, reported that Saturday was its biggest sales day in the chain's 60 years.

"The stores have just been mobbed," said Barry F. Scher, Giant's vice president for public affairs. Some stores have reported they are either running low or out of some staple items, such as milk, bread, eggs and bananas, Mr. Scher said.

But he said delivery trucks are expected to restock shelves tonight and tomorrow, bringing supplies from Giant's huge warehouses in Landover and Jessup.

"The problem has been getting supplies to stores, but we should be getting a lot of deliveries through tonight. We feel we're in fairly good shape," Mr. Scher said.

Dozens of trucks were lining up last night on Route 175 and U.S. 1 to get into the Maryland Food Warehouse in Jessup, state police said.

Large supermarket chains stock their own stores, while smaller stores use regional distributors.

Smaller grocery stores struggled to keep essentials on the shelves, with milk and bread in the shortest supply.

The neighborhood markets -- favored by many as closer alternatives to the larger grocery stores -- lost the fight by mid-afternoon yesterday when the supplies finally ran dry.

Mom-and-pop store owners taped hand-made signs over entrances alerting customers that milk, bread or eggs were sold out. And just how long until the supply trucks come to the rescue is as unpredictable as the weather.

"I haven't had milk since the day before yesterday," said Dennis Mezzanotte, owner of Denny's Food Market in Elkridge. "The supplier did not come today. Maybe tomorrow."

Dairy producers said their trucks couldn't get through.

Jim Smith, a supervisor at Green Spring Dairy Inc., which delivers to dozens of grocery stores in the area, said that much of the milk comes from farms in Pennsylvania.

The trucks are at least a day behind schedule, causing an order backlog.

"Our main priority is to deliver to hospitals and nursing homes," Mr. Smith said.

At Eddie's of Roland Park, deliveries have been running late and the store had to close Monday because employees couldn't make it to work.

But yesterday, the store was busy and many customers stood in line, often holding two or three loaves of bread and several gallons of milk.

"With all this panic buying, demand is much larger than supply," said store manager Richard Kleiderlein.

"You go through your supplies pretty quickly when it gets like that," Mr. Kleiderlein said. But the store got a large delivery yesterday and should be well-stocked today, he said.

Mohammad Sizar, owner of Sizar's Food Market in Columbia, said that bread and meat were sold out within hours of opening yesterday morning. He said he will close early because his supplies are so low.

"People come in and buy everything," Mr. Sizar said. "Bread, meat, chips and candies" have been the most popular.

Though supplies are low, the market owners say that they are not worried about their shelves' becoming empty. They said their suppliers have assured them that though trucks will be late, eventually they will come.

And, like the big chains, most market owners say that although the weather is proving to be a hassle, cash registers are ringing up some of their best single-day sales ever.

"Business is very, very good," said Terry Norris, owner of Boulevard Supermarket and Liquors in Jessup.

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