NEW YORK — When the COVID-19 pandemic started, one local business was ahead of the curve taking early and aggressive steps to protect customers and staff that would be replicated and emulated by companies across the city and around the country. Foodtown was the first grocer in the New York area to provide masks to both employees and customers, install plexiglass at registers to allow for social, offer prioritized lanes for first responders, provide dedicated medical services for staff and more.
Noah Katz, Co-President of PSK Supermarkets—which owns and operates 13-stores under the Foodtown, Freshtown, and Pathmark banners—was on a trade association conference call in early March, which included grocery store operators in China who were already dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 in their communities.
“We were able to hear what was happening very early on with the challenges Chinese operators were facing to protect customers and staff while keeping stores opened and stocked with supplies” said Katz.
Katz and his team went to work acquiring facemasks, cleaning supplies and sanitizers, implementing social distancing, installing plexiglass barriers and reconfiguring store traffic to minimize impacts. Throughout their 13 stores in the New York metropolitan area, Katz and PSK were able to get a significant jump on measures that would eventually become mandatory practices for essential businesses across New York and the United States. Their ingenuity was highlighted in a recent CNBC documentary “Supermarket Shock: Crisis in America’s Food Industry.” https://www.cnbc.com/supermarket-shock/
PSK Foodtown workers at all levels were provided access to dedicated medical services including an on-call doctor available for immediate telemedicine consultations. Every employee was supplied with a comprehensive package of supplements and vitamins designed to strengthen immune systems and ward off infection. Foodtown of Bay Ridge store manager David Rosario said, “PSK moved very quickly to protect staff and customers and took innovative steps that a lot of other retailers were able to benefit and learn from.”
In April, PSK released a “Coronavirus Preparedness Action Plan” that highlighted best practices and the emergency action plan they had implemented internally making it available for free online for retailers and business owners across the country. The plan includes details on cleaning and sanitizing, dealing with customers, implementing social distancing, store reconfigurations and more. (PSK Action Plan: www.pskactionplan.com)
PSK Supermarkets is a 13-store chain operating stores under the Foodtown, Freshtown, and Pathmark banner. They are owned and operated by Dan and Noah Katz, based in Mount Vernon, New York. They have 1100 employees across Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Long Island, Westchester, Delaware, Duchess, and Putnam County. They are part of the Allegiance supermarket buying cooperative which consists of over 100 grocery stores.