Groceries, generators in high-demand in storm recovery

T-R photo by Anna Shearer — Hyvee, Menards, Theisens, Legends, and Thompson True Value are some of the handful of stores open to the public. Marshalltown residents are flocking to these businesses to get food and other resources.

The whirring of generators reverberated throughout Marshalltown’s Main Street Wednesday afternoon as business owners and patrons alike were still trying to bounce back from the damage caused by Monday’s derecho, which has impacted businesses and homes throughout town.

Much of the city is still without power due to downed power lines and tree damage, including Main Street restaurants and groceries. Some of these grocery stores are closed for the time being until power is restored and inventory – specifically perishable food items – is replenished, such as Zamora Fresh Market.

Abarrotes La Salud, the Mexican restaurant and market on North First Street, was open Tuesday and Wednesday, fully thanks to their generators.

“It’s been really hard because there’s some things that are not working, like our AC,” said Gabriela Vargas, who works at the store. “There were some items we had to throw away, like some of the food on the hot table but [our damage] was not comparable to a couple of years ago.”

The business has register service for credit and debit cards in one part of the store but only accepts cash or check in the right side of the store due to the limits of generator power. It hasn’t stopped service. Vargas said it was very busy upon opening Tuesday.

La Salud has been able to keep its refrigerated and frozen food, the hot food table and the groceries on the right side of the market without much in the way of disruption aside from the lack of air conditioning. Helping the community is something Vargas said was a blessing, as she wanted to project positivity.

“We were really busy,” Vargas said. “We sold a lot of charcoal [Tuesday] because people were grilling left and right. I think it’s worth it because we were able to help out and be open, and help people get their needs met within our means. As they come in we try to encourage them and wear a smile every time, so they know they feel supported.”

Vargas added that she has not been given any indication of when they can expect power will return to the facility.

Abarrotes La Salud has not been the only company to be thankful for generators, as the Menard’s on Iowa Avenue West was able to stay open thanks to the building’s backup generator kicking in once power went out, continuing to stay open through the storm and in the immediate aftermath. There was “a little bit” of damage to the building caused by wind but it was nothing substantial enough to shut the store down.

Since then, General Manager Shaphan Smith said the store has been busy non-stop as members of the community have been coping as best they can without power. He said it’s been a boost to provide a service to the community after a second damaging storm in two years.

“Being able to stay open for the community and getting them what they need has been really important to us,” Smith said. “We’ve been through it before, so I think maybe we’re a little better equipped than some other Menard’s [locations].”

Menard’s is requiring that customers use cash or check only for purchases through the next few days. With the Marshalltown locations of Wal-Mart, Aldi and Fareway temporarily closed as of Wednesday due to a lack of power, Menard’s has an added importance to its customers, much like Hy-Vee and Theisen’s.

The supply of generators has run out for the short term at the location, although Smith said the corporate office of Menard’s has assured him they’ll be restocked as soon as possible.

The generators are primarily run using propane tanks and the store stocked with ready-to-buy propane tanks has been hard to find due to demand outpacing inventory.

However, Smith said it hopefully won’t be too long of a wait for members of the community to have more propane available along with high-demand emergency gear like tarps and batteries.

“We’re working really hard to get supplied with the emergency supply chain,” Smith said. “We should have some stuff here in the next day or two.”


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