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Weakley-Watson Rethinks Community Service in Light of COVID-19

Weakley-Watson Hardware now has plastic sneeze guards in front of the cash registers.

Like many other retail operations, Weakley-Watson Hardware in Brownwood, Texas, is doing business differently in response to COVID-19.

Owner Weston Jacobs is taking active steps not only to protect people from the virus, but also to take care of the larger community. 

For example, he has prioritized providing products to the local hospital, specifically working to find the supplies it needs. 

“We’re really trying to get outside of our normal box to get things in a more efficient manner,” Jacobs says.

Taking care of the community has also involved preventing product hoarding by limiting customers to buying two cans of disinfectant spray per day and asking them not to buy more than 5 pounds of ground beef from a local rancher who sells through the store. 

The staff has posted signs asking customers to stick with the requested buying limits, but they aren’t aggressively checking to make sure people don’t come back later the same day to buy more. 

“We want people to take this seriously, but we don’t want to contribute to hysteria,” Jacobs says. “This is very surreal and a lot of people don’t know how to feel.”

And, just to support other businesses, Weakley-Watson is offering customers 10 percent discounts at the store if they bring in a receipt showing they made a purchase at a local restaurant within the prior 48 hours. 

Jacobs’ earliest reactions to the COVID-19 threat were to implement safety measures—protection that also serves the community. 

The business started closing on Sundays in March to allow employees more time to rest. Jacobs installed plastic barriers, also called sneeze guards, between cashier stations and customers. 

He also implemented a no-handshake rule for staff and asked employees to set alarms on their phones to remind them to clean the store and wash their hands every hour. However, they clean more often than that and use hand sanitizer if they come in contact with any surface a customer has touched. 

“If there’s any gap between customers, we’re spraying down surfaces,” he says. 

The staff has also stuck red tape strips 6 feet apart on the floor in front of the checkout line to help customers follow social distancing recommendations. 

“We have become more of a self-service type store, pointing people where to go and running a lighter staff,” Jacobs says. 

About Kate Klein

Kate is profiles editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on news and industry events and writes about retailers' unique contributions to the independent home improvement sector. She graduated from Cedarville University in her home state of Ohio, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English and minored in creative writing. She loves being an aunt, teaching writing to kids, running, reading, farm living and, as Walt Whitman says, traveling the open road, “healthy, free, the world before me.”

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