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How a Delaware Supermarket Owner Leads During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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About two weeks before our customers were lining the aisles from March 13th onwards, I tried walking into my kitchen pantry, but the door wouldn’t open. I asked my wife why the pantry was so full and why she was worried, her reply was two simple words: the virus.

At that time, COVID-19 was only reported in China, and many people in this country were not yet concerned about it.  But boy was she right on this one.

As the epidemic continues to spread across our country, I urge everyone to cultivate patience, stay calm and be respectful of our fellow Americans. Our world as we used to know it is rapidly changing.  Over the past few weeks all of us have been trying to get used to the “new normal,” whatever that might be.

When faced with a crisis of this magnitude, it is natural to panic and focus on the worse case scenarios.  However, grounding in this state of mind can be detrimental and prevent the processing and healing required to be solution oriented.  When people come together in the face of adversity, challenges and obstacles are overcome. I am not saying that it will always be easy, but by pulling together, and not letting fear overcome our emotions, at the end of the day everyone can be stronger.

Suddenly grocery stores have become more essential than ever, and families are finding themselves wondering if there will be enough to go around.  Television news reports showing long lines at stores and empty shelves have thrown people into hyper panic drive.

As soon as it became evident the COVID-19 crisis had escalated, I met with my leadership team at our Kenny Family Supermarkets to brainstorm a variety of strategies to ensure our customers would have enough of what they needed to purchase and our store associates would remain safe while on the job.  Key commodities orders were accelerated, and daily text messages sent companywide to keep everyone updated. Clear and direct communication is critical during crises management.

Leading in a time of crisis is something I learned a long time ago.  If I observe an associate making a knee jerk reaction, I immediately engage and respond.  I explain the value of taking time to pause and assess the broader picture from a clear perspective.  Next, it is integral to research what others have done previously in the same or a similar situation before making an emotional expedient decision that is likely shortsighted, counterproductive and wrong.  When space is created to be more deliberate, acting consciously with intention around decision making, it diffuses the emotional charge and allows for much better results.

Social distancing is something that people are not used to.  It means staying apart…at least six feet apart…from people with whom you spend time with outside of the home.  At our Kenny Family Supermarkets, social distancing is forcing our hard-working associates and management team to provide excellent customer service, with compassion and dedication while navigating the realities of this new normal.  Our warehouse and distribution teams are operating around the clock, making deliveries seven days per week, to get product to the stores. And our associates are working tirelessly to replenish shelves as quickly as possible.

As our country continues to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, let us all remember not to get lost in the fear and anxiety of “what ifs.”  When that happens, it can sometimes lead to panic buying and hoarding of resources.  This state of mind can pull us apart, at a time when we need to come together.  Cooperation, compassion and patience are needed now more than ever.  The health and economic challenges for small businesses and their employees are the most frightening in Delaware’s memory.

As our family business continues to serve 25% of Delaware’s population, I want to personally thank everyone for staying calm and orderly during this difficult time. I appreciate you choosing our family business for support in this unfortunate situation.  In this moment, stay healthy and stay safe.

Those seeking insightful Delaware-related content and thought leadership with an action-oriented perspective should visit Chris Kenny’s website at and follow him on social media at:

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