Jeff Payne doesn’t want to see Canada end up like Italy.
Therefore the Armstrong Regional Co-Op general manager has made a tough, yet community conscious decision to close the convenience stores. The Vernon, Armstrong and Salmon store fronts will be closed, but the gas stations remain open and there will be one person on site at all times.
“Thinking about who we are and the fact we are a community based organization we just didn’t want to be giving our community any pandemic diseases,” said Payne, of the closure that came into effect Tuesday, March 24. “It was a matter of, ‘hey, we better get ahead of this thing.’”
It was not an easy decision, considering 60-70 per cent of Co-Op’s profit margin comes from inside the store.
“But I have to protect my customers, I have to protect my staff,” said Payne, noting that the store is also where all the face-to-face interaction takes place.
Meanwhile, the Co-Op has boosted sanitizing by cleaning pumps in an effort to help stop the spread.
“We’re doing it about 20-30 times a day. You can’t get it all, but we’re doing what we can.”
It’s a drastic change considering pumps were cleaned once a day prior to the pandemic, and about 10 years ago Payne said they might get cleaned once a month, with soap and water and not the disinfectant that is being used today.
Although customers can’t get goodies in the store, they are being treated to fuel prices below $1.
Gas prices in Vernon dropped below a loonie this week and continued to slide down to 92.9.
The reason, according to Payne: “Demand dropped, supply increased, it’s a standard model.”
And although he wishes he could predict gas prices (then he’d be retired), Payne guesses they may continue to drop even further.
“My gut feeling is there is some room for downward movement but I don’t know for sure.”
It’s the first time in at least the last 10 years that he remembers gas being below a dollar. Although he does remember a time when it was even cheaper.
“When I started here in 2002 it was 67 cents at the pumps.”