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March 14 grand opening had to be postponed but grocery store is in good position to survive

PHOTO BY: BILL GALLAGHER - Shoppers at the Hillsdale Basics Market have been cooperating with coronavirus safety precautions. So far the store has rarely had to limit the number of shoppers inside.The people who run Basics Market, Hillsdale's new grocery store, had been hoping to host a grand opening with all the goodies on March 14. Instead, they had to hustle to handle a new reality.

Looking back on those hectic days, Fernando Divina, the president of Basics Markets, said, "Instead of holding a grand opening, we made some adjustments. After changes to our behavior (due to the stay at home order), we immediately addressed distancing, sanitation and the consciousness" of coronavirus.

The adjustments now common to grocery stores are obvious at 6344 SW Capitol Highway in Hillsdale. Arrows on the floor show shoppers which direction to go in each aisle. The clerks at the check out stands aren't just separated by a plastic screen, shoppers are kept on the other side of a screen that fronts the screen in front of the checker.

"We had to shift our priorities after that storm of initial adjustment," Divina Said. "It was really a challenge."

Then came the hoarding of items like toilet paper and pasta. "That was particularly overwhelming. But we had an enormous amount of energy and resources to plan for it," he said.

PHOTO BY; BILL GALLAGHER - Basics Market employees Dan MacLeod (l) and Eric Vaulte (r) making sure surfaces are sanitized at the Hillsdale store.People who live in and around Hillsdale - the customer base for Basics - have cooperated. Being new to the neighborhood might be a blessing because, Divina said, "only a couple of times have we had to limit the number of shoppers in the store at one time." The New Seasons store in Raleigh Hills, in contrast, often sees long lines of shoppers waiting as long as half an hour just to get inside.

Another benefit of the Basics Market model is that a large amount of what's for sale is purchased from suppliers owned by the Wild Rose Food Company, the same company that owns the four Portland-area Basics Markets. The newest market just opened at 11900 SW Canyon Road in Beaverton.

PHOT BY: RAY PITZ - Fernando Divina, president of Basics Markets, at the store in Tualatin.Divina explained that model in an interview with the SW Community Connection in January.

"In order for us to be profitable we have to have all of our sister operations (in the Wild Rose Food Company) fully functioning from the source to the production to the distribution and sale. Once we get that all fully realized it's going to put us in a position that I don't think anybody else is able to do right now," Divina said. In other words, no one in the local grocery business produces what is sold in the stores to the extent Basics Market does.

"WE KNOW WHERE OUR MEAT COMES FROM"

Coronavirus outbreaks in meat packing plants across the country are threatening the supply of meat and poultry in the major supermarkets. That's something Basics Market isn't worried about.

"One of our real virtues is having the products raised literally in our backyard

here. You know it's not coming from just anywhere. Our physical plants, for example, where we process our beef and chicken and those types of products, to where we get our cheese and milk and so on, they're all very small scale. So we can keep the social distancing and the measures that it takes to keep those people protected and safe," he said.

The website www.BasicsMarkets.com proclaims, "We know where our meat comes from."

No employees of the parent company based in Tualatin or at the four Basics stores have come down with coronavirus. Layoffs have been few and limited to the employees who teach classes at the Basics stores.

Asked if shoppers were less likely to take front line grocery store workers for granted these days, Divina said, "I honestly see a sense that our staff is naturally on the front lines and there's a real sense of urgency but a sense of fatigue. It also is, to some, it's really a tough situation day in and day out."

As for when that grand opening might be held in Hillsdale, Divina admits he doesn't know right now.

"The end of July or August? We don't really see a change until we know that there's some results in on this perceived second wave. If there is a second wave, naturally that's going to change the whole landscape. But as far as we're concerned, we're going to continue forward. We believe, at least based on our industry experts, that there's going to be sustained elements like the distancing, the masks and those types of issues that will be lingering," he said.


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