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Central Coast Comeback: the future of grocery shopping

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MONTEREY, Calif. (KION) Russo's Wholesale has provided produce on the Monterey Peninsula for 70 years, but when the pandemic hit business came to a halt.

"All the restaurants closed down, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The only real customers I had were hospitals," said Russo.

James Russo's long-time customers were forced to cancel their orders. "We were sitting on a lot of produce here. We had to make a turn quick," said Russo.

For the first time ever, Russo is offering his fresh, local produce to the public. The orders are placed online, boxed up and brought right out to the customer's car.

"It's amazing because you come home with all these big boxes that they load right into your car," said customer, Beth Kurzava.

Kurzava has ordered online through Russo's Wholesale during the pandemic. It's a new way of grocery shopping for her and many other Californians.

According to the California Grocers Association, only 3-5% of customers were shopping online before the pandemic. Today, 10-15% percent have made the switch.

"We expect that trend to continue now that people have adapted to this new way of buying," said California Grocers Association CEO, Ron Fong.

Fong said by 2025 he expects 20-25% of customers will shop for groceries online.

The growing market has created new job opportunities. Fong said, right now, the majority of hiring is dedicated to California's online platforms. "Also, we're shifting some of our in-store personal from regular purchases, through check stands, over to the e-commerce department," said Fong.

In-person stores have stayed open for customers through the pandemic. To increase safety, plexiglass barriers were installed, masks became a requirements and social distancing is enforced. "Because we set those standards so early our customers are adapting and really embracing it," said Fong.

The California Grocers Association plans to implement those standards through the next year. Customers could see more changes at their local stores, but it's all in an effort to continue providing groceries for the Central Coast and beyond.

Central Coast Comeback / Coronavirus / Monterey County / News

Megan Meier

Megan Meier is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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