Business is brisk at Ray’s Market in Biddeford, the store general manager says, and some other neighborhood markets are doing well too, but not all of them.  Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — At noon on a recent weekday, Ray’s Market on West Street was a busy place, as shoppers drove up, bought what they needed and then motored away.

Ray’s is a neighborhood market, where people can buy everything from fresh meat, to ‘beyond meat’ options, as well as crackers, potatoes, soap, paper products and more. Ray’s, like many small markets that exist in a number of Maine communities, fills a need.

“It’s been nonstop,” said general manager Elaine Cantara.

On a recent visit, one of the coolers was being scrubbed from top to bottom, cashiers were busy and there was a bustle of activity.

Cantara said the store has a wide range of customers, many who have been shopping there for years, but they’re seeing some new faces since the cornonavirus arrived in Maine, and people are on the search for specific grocery items.

If older customers don’t want to come in during this period, if they are worried about being in busy places and concerned about COVID-19, she said they can call in an order and employees will make it up for them so it is ready when they arrive.

The coronavirus has brought out customers in droves to large supermarkets. In many cases it is doing the same to the smaller ones. While some small grocers are doing a brisk business, others have noted that business has slowed.

“No one is going outside,” said Anowaryl Chowdhury, owner of Friendly Market on Washington Avenue in Old Orchard Beach. Business at the store, which offers grocery items, sandwiches, beer, and wine, is “very slow,” he said

Beachway Market, a landmark on Beach Street in Saco, bills itself on social media as a classic Mom and Pop store, offering groceries, prepared food, coffee beer and more.

“The variety (of merchandise) helps,” said manager Sandi Whittier. She said the store has an array of customers, some of whom want to avoid the bigger retailers.

The sign says it all at West Street Market in Biddeford. Owners say the closure is temporary and designed to keep employees and customers safe as the coronavirus makes its way across Maine.  Tammy Wells Photo

Some local stores have decided to stay on the sidelines and have closed down, for the time being.

West Street Market, a convenience store and deli, sells prepared food like burgers and fries, pizza, and grocery items. The owners modified their business hours and offered take out when dining-in was banned starting March 17. But that changed about a week later.

“Closed for now,” the sign outside says. On their website, the owners posted a message:

“In this time of crisis, we have made the tough decision to temporarily close for the health and safety of our family members, employees and our neighbors,” the message reads. “We will all get through this trying time together. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

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