Features

Grocery worker talks about staying on the job

Jenavie Hernandez shares tips for shoppers.
Bread shelves.
Bread shelves.
Jenavie holds a social distancing flyer posted around the store. She wears a mask she brought from home, along with a lanyard with hand sanitizer.
Jenavie holds a social distancing flyer posted around the store. She wears a mask she brought from home, along with a lanyard with hand sanitizer.
A nearly empty meat fridge.
A nearly empty meat fridge.
Jenavie stands behind newly installed plexiglass that acts as a spit guard.
Jenavie stands behind newly installed plexiglass that acts as a spit guard.
Paper shipment waiting to be stocked.
Paper shipment waiting to be stocked.
Jenavie balancing the books while wearing gloves.
Jenavie balancing the books while wearing gloves.

In February, Jenavie Hernandez commemorated her 18th year working at the Lucky market in Hollister. Today, in the middle of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, she’s still on the job as an essential worker.

As second supervisor in charge, Hernandez’s typical 40-hour work week increased to 54 hours when the county issued its order to shelter in place on March 17. The following week, she was automatically scheduled for 48 hours over six days, plus any overtime needed to fill the increased demand for supplies. Her regular duties include customer service, inventory control and bookkeeping.

Hernandez, 37, lives with her husband Jorge Flores, 49, their eight-year-old son Elijah, her 33-year-old brother Randall Hernandez Jr., and her 64-year-old father Randall Hernandez Sr.

“We all have families too, you know, and we don’t want to bring this virus home,” Hernandez said.

COVID-19 has been on the world’s radar since December when the first cases began appearing in Wuhan, China. But it wasn’t until mid-March when schools closed that Hernandez and others saw the virus’s impact on the local community.

“People started panicking the day the schools closed and into the following week and the next,” she said. “I’ve never in my 18 years seen anything like that!”

People were buying abnormal amounts of supplies, Hernandez said. At one point the store was so overcrowded that all the shopping carts or hand baskets were in use.

“We were running out of things like the world was ending,” she said. “It was a scary sight to see, really sad. What was even more sad is when you see an elderly person, they live alone and can’t get the things they need because they aren’t there.”

In tears, Hernandez recalled the second day after the school closures. She said she broke down at the checkout stand because she couldn’t help thinking of her son.

“I still get emotional about that because the kids don’t understand,” she said.

Elijah is an only child and second grader at the local charter school Hollister Prep. With the help of her husband and family, Hernandez juggles her job, household and the homeschooling of her son under shelter-in-place.

As the demand for cleaning products has grown across the nation, Hernandez said that even her store has run out of wipes for shoppers to disinfect carts before using them, and has started urging shoppers to come to the store prepared.

Hernandez offered some shopping tips:

  • Do not bring reusable bags from home, as employees are not allowed to bag groceries in them. Paper and plastic bags are available.
  • Senior shopping hours (age 60 and over) are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 a.m. If those times are inconvenient, seniors may ask whether a particular product is being held in the back specifically for their age group.
  • Try to shop one person per family to help with social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Paper products are limited to two per person/household.
  • Buy only what you need.
  • Maintain six feet of social distance from other shoppers and employees.

Despite the difficulty of dealing with the pandemic, Hernandez has been pleasantly surprised and grateful for the generosity of customers who regularly shop at the store. Amid increased hours and the endless stocking of shelves, Lucky employees have received lunches from members of the community.

“We’ve had people bring us Subway, Domino’s, Mountain Mike’s, Straw Hat, Togos, Starbucks, La Catrina,” she said. “We have been very blessed.”

Hernandez said most customers have been nice and shown their gratitude and appreciation, but there have been some who are critical both in-person and on social media.

“It’s a catch-22, because we are trying to do the best we can and not everybody is going to approve of what we are doing,” she said.

 

 

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Patty Lopez Day

Patty Lopez Day,  graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2005 with a B.A. in English and Chicana/o Studies, and holds an A.A. in English from Evergreen and San Jose City College.  A writer and journalist she's covered  local news, politics,  education, immigration, sports and travel for print media having articles published in several Bay Area newspapers and magazines.  Born and raised in Santa Clara County she has called Hollister home since 2018.