Gary Couch, owner of longtime business Al Couch’s Market in St. Clair Twp., said the family-owned grocery store is keeping up with demand by asking its 14 employees to work a few extra hours per shift. It also is relying on relatives who “kick it up a notch” and come in from out of state to help when there’s an emergency.
“The ones who are employed in different sectors of life, we’re always in contact, so … once the family sees what’s going on, they just seem to migrate back here to help,” Couch said. “When my family gets involved, that throws another 10 people into it, (easily).”
The store, which has roots that stretch back to Hamilton in 1936, opened its St. Clair Twp. location in 1949. Couch, 68, has been working there since he was assigned to sort pop bottles when he was 11 years old.
Smaller stores such as his can react more quickly when customers drain a supply of a specific product and typically have a strong grasp of what their customers are seeking, he said.
“We don’t have to do it in such large numbers, we can do it in a way that actually defines what our customers wants,” he said.
Smaller stores also can be more nimble and have employees multitask, switching from working the cash register to stocking shelves or unloading trucks.
“They’re constantly moving from position to position,” he said. “We’re not as focused on just one area. We’re constantly moving where we need the help.”
He said the store has been there for the local community when calamity strikes, including floods and hurricanes, but “every time we’ve been through some kind of crisis like this, we have a tremendous amount of customers who are loyal to us and we seem to draw people from the outside.
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