Kosher butchers on Long Island are facing a new world of up-front cash payments to skittish wholesalers, drive-by customer pick-ups and security guards with temperature guns checking shoppers for any sign of fever.
And, in the spirit of the times, they are setting aside special hours for healthcare workers on the front lines of fighting the virus.
But for all the new-normal changes, the kosher meat supply lines during this unprecedented Passover season seem to be holding up, the butchers report.
Their work schedules, though, are showing signs of strain.
Andrew Feldman left his home at 5 o’clock Wednesday morning to work at the kosher butcher store he co-owns in Hicksville, L.I., because one of his employees told him yesterday that he would not be coming in today.
“He doesn’t have the coronavirus, but he sees us all wearing masks and gloves and his wife is worried and told him not to come in,” Feldman said by phone from his store, Woodbury Kosher Meats and Catering. “So I had to come in early because I’m a man down. This is a small operation.”
Unlike previous years, when customers would place large orders for their seder meals, Feldman said customers are ordering just enough for those in their household.
“We’re seeing a lot of families of two people,” he said. “As a result, we’re seeing more business than in the past because everyone is doing their own seder.”
There is no shortage of meat and chicken but Feldman said the wholesalers are demanding cash on delivery, something he has never experienced before.
“All of the wholesalers — grocers, beef, poultry — are afraid the stores will close and they will not get paid,” he explained. “I just had a wholesaler here who came from another store in Brooklyn that had no workers, they had called in sick. Without workers, they had to close the store. Trader Joe’s across the street [from his shop] is closed because two workers got sick and the store was closed for two days [and sanitized]. At Chick-fil-A [in Hicksville] a worker got sick and they had to close the store and wait for it to be sanitized. And another kosher butcher closed because he couldn’t get workers.
“We have six workers and everyone is healthy. Generally customers call in their orders and pay by credit card. They then drive up and wait in their cars while we bring out their order and put it in their trunk. That way we have no contact with the customer.”
Nevertheless, Feldman said when he returns home at night he goes right to his basement and sleeps there to avoid contact with his wife and children to ensure they don’t get sick should he contract the disease.
In addition to wearing masks and gloves, Feldman said, “every hour someone sanitizes the store, spraying the counter and doors.”
Masks and gloves are also the order of the day for the staff at Gourmet Glatt Emporium in Cedarhurst, L.I., according to Ash Cohn, the store manager.
In addition, the store is opening later than normal (hours vary by day) “to allow the meat and produce departments to restock the shelves so they are full,” he said. “And we sanitize the store and shopping carts daily. We also have gloves at customer service and Purell dispensers and Clorox wipes to wipe down cart handles.”
Cohn said the store allows volunteers from synagogues and community groups who are shopping for others to shop before the store opens in the early morning and after it closes at night. In addition, some nights the store is open exclusively for those in the medical field.
“We also have been doing free deliveries exclusively for the elderly and those who have compromising health issues,” he said. “We don’t have shopping hours for the elderly because we want them to stay home.”
When the store is open for the general public, only 50 shoppers are permitted at a time and they are asked to practice social distancing. As they enter, a security guard at the front door takes their temperature with a thermal temperature gun.
“The lines move quickly,” Cohn said. “Our customers are taking this seriously and shopping as quickly as possible.”
Both Cohn and Jonathan Greenfield, an owner of ShopRite supermarkets in Plainview and Commack, L.I., said there is no shortage of beef and chicken and other kosher-for-Passover products.