Citing plummeting sales, GreenStar Food and Coop announced on April 12 that its Dewitt Mall location on N. Cayuga Street would temporarily shut its doors the next day.
While pantry-stocking and restaurant closures have been a boon to grocery stores across the country, sales at the DeWitt location have fallen 40 percent from previous years’ numbers, according to a statement from General Manager Brandon Kane. Continued operation of the downtown Ithaca store would result in a loss of $5,000 to $10,000 weekly, rendering it financially unfeasible.
“Our DeWitt location relied heavily on purchases made by the employees and customers of neighboring businesses, prepared foods sales, which have decreased significantly due to the pandemic, and other downtown foot traffic related to Ithaca events and tourism,” General Manager Brandon Kane wrote in the statement released on the co-op’s website.
GreenStar is offering employees the option of voluntary layoff, allowing those who feel unsafe working in a public space to self-isolate at home and collect unemployment benefits. According to Holly Baker, director of marketing and owner services, approximately half of the DeWitt store employees and thirty GreenStar employees in total have chosen the option.
“A global pandemic is not something that businesses typically plan for when formulating their annual budgets, and it was never expected at this time in our development that our revenue streams would be so strained or that our sales would decrease to a level that necessitates this action,” Kane wrote.
Despite the loss of customers that came with the exodus of Ithaca college students, GreenStar’s Collegetown and West End locations remain open. The stores are employing enhanced sanitation practices and marking standing spaces six feet apart to encourage social distancing.
The first hour of operation at both open locations is reserved for customers at high risk from the virus. Customers who are self-isolating at home can order delivery from GreenStar through Instacart and Tompkins Home Delivery.
“We cannot predict a reopening date at this time. Our team is focused on an early May opening of our new store at 770 Cascadilla Street, after which we will reevaluate our financial status, staffing, and feasibility to reopen,” Baker wrote in an email to the Sun. “The opening and patronage of the new store is key to providing an immediate boost to our revenue stream.”