Michelle and Gary Burton stand inside of G&M Grocery. CHARLES ROMANS | THE DAIY INDEPENDENT

GREENUP G&M Grocery on Route 7 in Greenup County is much like nearly every small business in the country that is feeling the pressure caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The small store sells fuel, groceries and convenience items, as well as operating a dairy bar. It is the last, owner Gary Burton said, that is suffering the most. The dairy bar has done a brisk business until recently with menu items ranging from hot dogs to pizza, and offered a dine-in area where customers could enjoy their meals in a clean and friendly atmosphere, and top the meal off with soft-serve ice cream if they chose.

The Burtons were forced to close their dining area due to state restrictions implemented to aid in reducing the spread of the coronavirus, and this has resulted in a reduction in take-out orders as well.

“I think people are just afraid to eat out,” Gary Burton said. “That’s where we’ve suffered the most. Groceries on the other hand has picked up a bit. But everything else has slowed down. All the pizzas, subs and burger orders have gone down.”

Burton said that he believes many people have decided to cook at home. “We’ve sold more flour, beans, and stuff like that since we’ve opened. We can’t keep flour and meal, and sugar like we used to.”  

But the crunch, Burton said, is that the business’s real profit is made through the dairy bar.

“We make some money off groceries, but it doesn’t compare to what we make at the dairy bar,” he said.

The dynamics of a small, rural store are challenging at best. G&M Grocery sells fresh sliced meats and cheeses, for instance, but not at the volume that would allow them to offer a selection comparable to larger grocery stores. The initial investment is higher as well because volume buying allows for greater discounts. Store profit on fuel sales only equate to a couple of cents per gallon, and again volume is an important factor. For most small stores, the only true benefit to selling fuel is that customers also buy other products from the store; and the coronavirus concerns have caused people to hesitate entering any business.

G&M Grocery employs three people as well whose paychecks are typically covered by dairy bar sales. “That’s what hurts us as a small business,” Burton said. “There is less money now from dairy bar sales, and we are just carrying them (employees) over. That’s a little tough because we aren’t making that on the groceries, even though we are selling more. But we are going to keep everyone working as long as we can.”

The Burtons said that the best way to help them — and any small business in the area — is to shop local.

“Any time people shop local, the local businesses can stock more and give better prices,” Gary Burton said.

“We could compete with the bigger stores as a grocery store, but not as a convenience store,” Burton said about the changing business model he has by default been forced to adopt. “That’s where we were last week, but this week we are a grocery store.”

Burton said that he is now increasing his grocery orders from the several suppliers he uses and is trying to expand the selection as well.

“We are carrying more and different things than before,” Burton said. “And I can keep things on the shelf. If I am out of something today, I can usually have it by tomorrow. And the dairy bar is still running, just for take-out orders only.”

G&M Grocery is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the grills and pizza ovens are open as well.

“We have always prided ourselves on the cleanliness of our store,” Burton said. “And I want people to know that we disinfect and wipe down everything and mop all day long, we don’t just clean up before we close at night. I want everyone to be comfortable ordering food, or anything we have. And if you aren’t comfortable coming inside, we’ll bring it out to you.”

The Burtons said you can even call in your order at (606) 473-5027 and they will have your order waiting for you when you arrive.

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