James Darby showed up at the Smith’s Food & Drug store on North Rancho Drive in central Las Vegas very early Wednesday — before the sun was up — to make sure he could pick up needed groceries and supplies.
The 69-year-old said he was at another grocery store chain Tuesday and found toilet paper, hand sanitizer and paper towels sold out, with meat supplies half gone from the shelves. Concerned, he decided to take advantage of Smith’s opening its stores only to Las Vegas Valley senior citizens from 7 to 8 a.m., three days a week, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think this is good that they set this up for senior citizens, so they don’t get trampled or looked over because people are just hoarding,” Darby said. “They are getting more than what they need.”
By 6:15 a.m., the line outside was roughly 20 people deep. By 7 a.m. there were reports of very long lines at Smith’s stores throughout the valley. Las Vegas police were asked to provide extra patrols given the heavy turnout.
“Stocking the shelves. Getting ready for our seniors,” said Heather Bailey, a Smith’s employee, as she greeted people in front of the store on Rancho.
“They are the ones that usually get left out,” Bailey said. “We really want to make sure they get what they need first. They are the ones who are most vulnerable in the public, and we want to make sure they are in and out with a fresh, sanitized store and home before the madness starts.”
In a statement announcing the new accommodations, Smith’s said seniors are more susceptible to coronavirus and added that each store will have employees on hand to help those who need it. Smith’s, whose parent company is Kroger, also is considering opening pharmacies earlier for seniors.
“We request that customers respect these hours for the health of our community,” corporate affairs manager Aubriana Martindale said in a statement.
Smith’s also is waiving fees for curbside pickup through April 18 for those whose verified age is 60 or older and will consider extending that period.
For all other customers, store hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, until further notice.
Dollar General stores, of which there are more than a dozen in the valley, also are dedicating the first hour of each day to senior shoppers. The store changes come amid hoarding of certain supplies at stores throughout Southern Nevada and across the nation.
Another citizen in line at Smith’s on Wednesday morning, Rickie Grant of Las Vegas, was asked what his experience has been recently shopping at other Las Vegas Valley stores given huge crowds and hoarding of supplies. He said he was at a local pharmacy to pick up some Theraflu on Tuesday and waited an extensive period of time just to check out.
“There were 10 people ahead of me, then I turned around and there were 30 people behind me,” he said. “I’m the only one who had a mask on.”
Grant praised Smith’s early hours, saying, “it gives me a little head start.”