Backstage At A Supermarket Before Thanksgiving: Choreographed Chaos

Print More

(Host intro) Here are two words that may cause your blood pressure go up just a bit this week: Grocery stores.

Statistics indicate most Americans will shop for food more than twice this week.  

The crowded parking lots and long checkout lines may be daunting. But it is impressive that grocers usually have what we need.  

VPR’s Nina Keck went behind the scenes in Rutland to see how one of the busiest grocery stores in the state gets ready for the holiday blitz.

(Keck)It’s show time this week at Rutland’s Price Chopper, and winding my way past the deli and through a pair of swinging doors at the rear of the store, I feel a bit like I’m going backstage.   

I go up a flight of stairs to a crowded staff lounge where general manager Kevin Moore is huddled with his department heads.

(Soundof going up stairs; sound of entering meeting.

(Keck)"Hi there. So this is what it looks like behind the deli."

(Keck)Most weeks, this meeting takes 60 to 90 minutes. But just before Thanksgiving, it’ll run three to four hours. The managers lean over advertising inserts that highlight what’s on sale for the week. 

While they’ve been planning and ordering for months, each department is now down to the nitty gritty, making sure they know exactly where those 5,000 cans of pumpkin and cranberry sauce will go, not to mention all those extra turkey basters and Cool Whip.

(Moore) "Shawn, how much bulk nuts did you get in for the Thanksgiving holiday?"

(Stevens)"For the bulk nuts we got in probably 2000 pounds and I’ve already started ordering again."

(Keck) That’s produce manager Shawn Stevens.

(Stevens)"For my yams, I’ll probably go through eight pallets and each pallet is about 2,000pounds. For hard squashes, probably about 100 cases of butternut, 100 cases of acorn."

(Keck)While Super Bowl Sunday and Christmas come close, Thanksgiving is still the biggest food holiday of the year, and store officials say it’s the single biggest week for the produce and bakery departments. 

Bakery manager Chris Lamontagne started ordering dinner rolls in September.  But the pies are baked on site.

(Lamontagne)"We’ll go through roughly 3,000 pies, and we cook them 90 at a time. We keep 15racks, 90 pies constant. We’ll set up 90 and we’ll bake ‘em and then we’ll setup another 90.    Wednesday morning we’ll start and we’ll just go nonstop all the way to Thanksgiving and we’ll just go."

(Keck) The bakery isn’t the only part of the store that’s busy early.

Trucks and other deliveries start arriving at the loading docks at 6 a.m., and each item has to be unloaded and checked in.

(Radaker)"You all set to go? Let me get you in the system.  Invoice number. … I’m Dave Radaker and I’m the back up receiver at the Rutland Price Chopper store. Everything that comes in the back door has to be scanned in and printed out. So everything from bread chips,eggs, beer, soda, wine – a variety of other things that don’t come through the regular Price Chopper truck. At this time of year it’s crazy , especially  when you have no room to put everything."

(Keck)Forklifts dart back and forth between cargo bays, stacks of eggs, cases of wine and harried-looking coworkers.  There’s one semi-trailer that hasn’t moved in a week, however.  It’s entirely full of frozen turkeys. Ben Lasky pulls the bay door open and walks in.

(Lasky) "Yeah, you’ve got your refrigerated trucks that runs 24-7 to keep the turkeys frozen. And as you can see, it’s full. We’ve got all these boxes of good ole Price Chopper turkeys."

(Keck)By Friday, the truck will be empty and the store will have sold close to 30,000turkeys, not to mention all the fixings.   

Dave Radaker rolls his eyes as wine merchants begin unloading an especially large order.  

(Radaker)"The hardest part is just trying to get everybody checked in as quick as you can. And to get on to your next task. Because once one truck leaves, another one comes up to the door. And just keep everybody flowing.   Everybody’s in a rush. They want to come here, and they have to go to Wal-Mart and Hannaford and other places.  It’s just never ending."   

(Keck)  Because after Thanksgiving, he says, the onslaught begins all over again for Christmas.    

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

Comments are closed.