I Get a lot of Questions About Social Distancing. Here Are the Changes We’ve Made.

A Letter from the Co-op General Manager

Dear Members,

The last several months have been a whirlwind. Like everyone else, I never could have imagined how much life was going to change in such a short period of time.

But through all the chaos and anxiety, it’s been an amazing experience to see Co-op employees quickly and heroically adapt to changing conditions.

It’s been a month now of rapid change, to say the least, and we’ve put many social-distancing policies in place to protect the safety of our employees and shoppers. With my first month behind me as Interim General Manager, it is time to pause, draw breath, and reflect on what has happened at the Co-op over the past few weeks, particularly with regards to social distancing.


First and foremost, we quickly pulled together a crisis communication process as soon as the outbreak in the United States began. This is the process:  I meet with my leadership team every morning. We discuss our latest responses to the virus and our plans for the future. Immediately after the meeting, I write a candid and transparent email to all employees to share the details. Our teams then share all the salient updates with members and shoppers, posting information to our website, social-media channels, and in stores.

Our very first message to employees was this: 

I pledge to you that we will go above and beyond to take care of you and your families.

That pledge has never wavered. I repeat it to employees often. And on a pragmatic level, it has also served as a North Star of sorts to guide us in all of our decision-making moving forward. 

Social Distancing

With a new crisis communication system in place, we got busy working on our social-distancing efforts. We get many questions from shoppers about this, so I have listed some of the things we have implemented over the past few weeks to keep our shoppers and employees safe, and up to date:

  • We have launched curbside pickup, beginning this week in our Hanover store. The program will expand to other locations as we build capacity. Our customers will see more information about this on our website and social media channels as it moves forward. 
  • We have adjusted store hours to give Co-op employees more time to safely stock the shelves.
  • We have implemented, and then extended, the shopping times for older and at-risk shoppers to allow for greater social distancing.
  • We dedicated a specific time to shop for our first responders and those who look after our at-risk community members.
  • We have appointed a Social Distancing Liaison to work directly with all the stores and the leadership team. The goal is to discuss and implement best practices, observe what is and is not working, and make continual improvements.
  • Membership and Outreach teams have created a Code of Conduct for shoppers and posted it to the website and in stores. 
  • Merchandising, Operations, Marketing, and Facilities teams have added more signage and video messaging to our locations, encouraging social distancing at our entrance, at the checkout aisles, and all around the stores.
  • Marketing teams have created clearer signage at the registers to help encourage social distancing protocols.
  • Front End teams have removed wooden dowel dividers at registers to encourage only one customer order at a time on the belt. Cashiers have turned off belts to create more space between customers.
  • Front End teams have implemented strategies at the registers to maintain distance between cashiers and customers—e.g., turning away from customers to help bag groceries.
  • IT teams have turned off the required signature on the credit card machine. (Those using debit still have to enter in pin numbers.)
  • Front End teams have implemented a policy to have cashiers work at every other register whenever possible to encourage more space between registers.
  • Facilities teams have installed Plexiglas barriers at registers and all Member Service desks.
  • Operations teams have removed mobile displays from our grocery aisles to create more room for customers to navigate the stores.
  • Finally, our teams continue to monitor the situation, listen to our community and adjust and improve our efforts based on informed decisions.

Co-op Employees and Masks

NEW! Updated April 10

In response to member and employee requests, beginning Wednesday, April 15, all Co-op employees will be required to wear a mask. This applies to employees at all Co-op locations, including those working in administrative offices. This policy follows recommendations from the CDC and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

General guidelines are:

  1. The mask must remain in the employee’s possession while at work.
  2. The mask should not be placed on any Co-op surface if removed.
  3. If the mask is placed on a Co-op surface, that surface must be thoroughly cleaned.
  4. Masks are never to be disposed of at work.
  5. Carry it in, carry it out.

We have a detailed SOP around the use of masks, which has been shared with all employees.

Wrapping Up

This is a lot of information, I know. And it evolves all the time. This is a fluid and rapidly changing situation, so I encourage all shoppers to visit our website, coopfoodstore.coop, frequently for updates. Look for the COVID-19 tab at the top of the site for all the latest.

My thanks to all of our members and shoppers for your support during this. I especially appreciate the support and admiration you’ve shown Co-op employees. They’re there for you, and their safety and yours is always our top priority. 

Onward and upward,


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Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone, CFA, spent the better part of four decades in the investment management business here and abroad. He held positions ranging from analyst through Deputy Chairman and Group CEO, at organizations such as Citigroup (US) and The HSBC Group (London and Hong Kong). He joined the Co-op in 2016 as the CFO and in 2018 became Strategic Advisor to the General Manager. Paul was appointed by the Co-op Board as interim General Manager in March 2020 and General Manager in September 2020. To contact, email PGuidone@coopfoodstore.com.

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