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Is the panic buying done? Grocery stores seeing slight return toward normalcy

Shoppers enter and exit a busy Aldi in DeKalb Friday moments before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a "shelter-in-place" order for the state beginning Saturday night. Despite the large crowds at grocery stores Friday afternoon Pritzker did say all essential businesses and services, including grocery stores, would remain open.
Shoppers enter and exit a busy Aldi in DeKalb Friday moments before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a "shelter-in-place" order for the state beginning Saturday night. Despite the large crowds at grocery stores Friday afternoon Pritzker did say all essential businesses and services, including grocery stores, would remain open.

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Last week was like five straight days of a Christmas rush for Art's Food Market in Sandwich, said store manager Andrew Lynch.

But now that the initial rush of the stay-at-home order issued by governor JB Pritzker has settled down, so too have the shopping habits of the customers, Lynch said. Managers and owners of grocery stores across northern Illinois echoed his sentiments as well.

"We didn't have a bunch of stuff then," Lynch said. "But we just got a load in and are filling back up. It's nowhere near what it was Friday. You could not get toilet paper, eggs, milk, bread, that sort of thing. As of right now, so far so good. We're even getting an extra load here soon to try and make up what we did lose."

While it was tough to keep the shelves stocked for a while, Lynch said, the shelves did return back to normal slowly but surely.

"With bread, they came and wiped us out fast," Lynch said. "But our bread guys are good so we'd get a little every day but they'd disappear quick. Milk was the same deal. With toilet paper, it was a rougher case cause that had to come from the warehouse and they were out. But it's starting to roll through too."

At Inboden's Meat Market in DeKalb, general manager Dusty Inboden said while they never ran out of staples – the store doesn't carry much in the way of paper goods like toilet paper – it was hard to keep things like boneless skinless chicken breast and ground chuck cut and ready up front.

People were buying panicked, Dusty Inboden said, but not acting panicked.

"We definitely saw people buying lots of things, but everyone has been courteous," Inboden said. "We have not seen people exhibit panic or seem distraught. But they have been buying distraught. Maybe it's different at other stores. Instead of buying one or two pounds of ground chuck people are buying 15 or 30 pounds of ground chuck at a time. We've had a lot of phone calls, not so much now but last week asking if we had meat. And we had meat all week. We were able to maintain our supplies thankfully."

Inboden said things had calmed down by about 3 p.m. on Saturday, hours before the stay-at-home order took effect.

"I would say a week ago Friday, on the 13th, things really started to get busy," Inboden said. "Then the 14th was a madhouse and we're closed on Sunday. The 15th was really busy but it calmed down for a couple days then picked back up the 19th and 20th."

Karen Corsolini, co-owner of Handy Foods in Ottawa, said now that the supply chain is beginning to adjust, things are calming down a little.

"We continually restock and have received several extra trucks the last two weeks," Corsolini said. "We are continually, continually restocking. Like the rest of the industry, we're short on eggs and paper products like toilet paper. But we're doing well on milk and ground beef."

For larger chains, demand is still high. said Christina Gayman, director of public relations for Hy-Vee.

"I think you're still seeing a high demand for those more wanted items like sanitizer, soaps, disinfecting wipes, toilet paper, water, all those things. Gayman said. "Most of our stores are receiving daily shipments of these items. There's not a shortage but there is a demand for these products."

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