The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the daily lives of millions of people across the country and local businesses are feeling the pressure.

Roger’s Foodland in St. Joseph has felt the strain as the demand for necessities continues to increase.

“It’s definitely busier around here,” Roger’s Foodland Rachel Bernard said. “Lots of people are stocking up on supplies. There’s a lot of uncertainty. We’re all taking this day by day.”

On March 19, the grocery store changed its hours from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. to 7 a.m.-7 p.m. to increase time for cleaning and restocking. Then the first hour of business is dedicated to vulnerable customers, such as seniors, those with disabilities and those with people with underlying health issues.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order went into effect Tuesday morning. The order directs Michigan residents to stay in their homes unless they are part of the critical infrastructure workforce, engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to their health and safety, like going to the hospital or grocery store.

The order is in effect until April 13.

“It’s hard,” Bernard said. “We’re all working more to make it work. Now that we have shorter hours it helps a bit.”

Keeping shelves stocked has been difficult, with some shipments not being able to meet orders due to the increased demand for certain products.

“There are a lot of things we couldn’t even get in from the warehouse,” Bernard said. “Especially toilet paper. It’s a high-demand product.”

The St. Joseph Harding’s location is also feeling the pressure to keep up with the demand.

“It’s costing a lot,” Harding’s supervisor Samara Smith said. “People will come in asking when the trucks will come in. They want to be here when the truck comes so they can have first dibs on the products. Customers will call all day asking if products like tissue and water are available.

“Some even ask if we can set items aside for them to pick up.”

The St. Joseph store has hired extra workers to keep up with the increase in business traffic and has changed its hours to 8 a.m.-8 p.m., with the first hour being reserved for vulnerable customers. Items such as toilet paper, water, eggs and cleaning products have been hard to keep stocked. The store has been out of hand sanitizer for some time.

“It’s been a drastic change here,” Smith said. “Some customers are taking the social distance rules very seriously. Others wear face masks and gloves. We even have some customers who will use a plastic bag to punch in their debit or credit card numbers.”

While grocery stores are flooded, business has not picked up for cleaning businesses.

On Monday morning, even before Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order was announced, The Cleaning Authority owner Dave Morrissett decided to suspend his business until April 13 out of concern for his 23 employees.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with having my workers work in homes during this time,” he said. “The only responsible thing was to have my people stay home. I was on the fence about it because we clean and sanitize homes, which is very important.”

The Cleaning Authority is based out of St. Joseph and extends its services to all of Berrien County. With the government now urging citizens to remain home and practice social distancing, business has been hard to come by.

“There hasn’t been much,” Morrissett said. “We had a few customers call wanting their homes deep-cleaned. But most customers don’t want people coming into their homes. People are taking this seriously and we are, too.”

Contact: mharden@thehp.com, 932-0371, @HPMaxwellHarden