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Stores designate early morning hours for seniors

A sign posted outside Tops Friendly Markets in AuSable Forks is seen Friday. (Provided photo — Katherine McDonald)

AUSABLE FORKS — Inside the Tops Friendly Market early Friday morning for “senior hour,” most shelves were bare, and customers and employees wore gloves and masks. Tape lined the floors before the cash register, indicating customers to stand behind it while waiting in line.

Customers were hyper-aware of the people surrounding them.

“How many people are in the store?” one man asked while getting out of his car outside the store. He was wearing a face mask and gloves, and continued in contentedly once he was told there were only a few shoppers inside.

Some stores have implemented a morning “senior hour,” designated for older shoppers and others who are vulnerable to COVID-19. Locally these include Price Chopper, Dollar General and Tops Friendly Markets. Each store has different days of the week, and different hours.

Tops Friendly Markets

Tops will open its doors between 6 and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for seniors 60 and over.

For some Tops locations, this affects their normal hours, such as the branch in AuSable Forks. Originally opening at 7 a.m., it is now open an hour earlier during these days, while still closing at its normal time of 9 p.m. At other stores such as the Saranac Lake branch, it doesn’t affect hours at all.

This time of the morning “tends to be the slower time anyways,” said Saranac Lake Store Manager Shawn Hayes.

Tops currently has no measures to ensure that these hours are not taken advantage of by those who don’t need it. The stores hope “that the public wants to do the right thing,” Hayes said. They are trusting their young and healthy customers to respect the time they have set in place for those who are most vulnerable. AuSable Forks Store Manager Mike Brown called it the store’s “honor system.”

For the first week of the senior hour, the store in Saranac Lake was steady. They did “anticipate a bigger turnout,” Hayes said; however, the stores and customers were given such a short notice of its beginning that they hope for a bigger turnout as the weeks go on.

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Price Chopper

Price Chopper stores have decided to open their doors every day from 6 to 7 a.m. for seniors and other compromised shoppers. Additionally, they will be closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night to give staff ample time to clean and stock shelves.

Vice President of Public Relations and Consumer Services Mona Golub said Price Chopper is also “relying on (the) integrity and good character” of their customers and “asking the general population to respect this time.

“We are trying to address the needs of our community,” she said. It has been “very well received.”

Dollar General

Dollar General has dedicated its first hour of operations every day to its senior customers. This first hour depends on the store’s original hours. Additionally, each store will be closing an hour earlier to allow for employees to clean and restock.

The Dollar General stores in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake will have a senior hour every day from 8 to 9 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m.

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