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Heroes of the Pandemic: ‘Be the calm in the storm’

Miller’s Country Store is a Farmville-based establishment at 2737 W. 3rd St. that people in the community count on for its services as a specialty grocery store and deli. It has carried on through the COVID-19 pandemic as an essential business.

Assistant Manager Amy Miller described the approach she and the store’s staff have taken to the highly unusual situation imposed upon the store by the novel coronavirus.

“We’re just trying to stay calm and help out people how we can,” she said. “But yeah, it’s definitely a different world than a few weeks ago.”

The daughter of store operators Albert and Anna Miller, Amy Miller has been the store’s assistant manager since 2012.

“I have worked here probably 20 years,” she said. “In August it’ll be 20 years. I was pretty young when we started, but we would work after school and stuff like that.”

One of her key responsibilities as assistant manager is doing ordering for the store from suppliers, which is what allows Miller’s Country Store to keep its shelves stocked.

“I sell the barns outside,” she said. “I do all the bookwork, and then I help out in the (store) deli and (at the) register, wherever they need me in here.”

She noted she works in the deli quite a bit over lunchtime.

On the list of different responsibilities for Miller’s Country Store Assistant Manager Amy Miller is working in the deli when help is needed there. She works there quite a bit over lunchtime, helping feed customers during the pandemic. (Photo by Titus Mohler)

“I help out, but I don’t do much of the baking unless there’s no one else to do that,” she said.

In some ways, the pandemic has made her and the store staff quite a bit busier than normal.

“Keeping the store cleaned has become almost a full-time (job),” she said. “We just try to wipe stuff down a lot more.”

Everyone has been doing their part to try to keep the shelves stocked, she said.

“They were super empty, and keeping those stocked — the girls have been doing very well with that,” she said.

Miller noted ordering has changed as a result of the pandemic.

“Our bulk items, the sales have increased quite a bit,” she said. “People are buying 50 pounds of rice and flour and baking products. Our sales have really gone up in that area.”

Another thing that has kept her busy is simply trying to keep up with the new regulations being put in place by the state to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As for her feelings in connection to the pandemic, Miller indicated things are kind of up and down but she and the staff are aiming for stability.

“We’re just trying to help out the community how we can and be here for people and try to be the calm in the storm,” she said.

She noted that Miller’s Country Store being classified as an essential business amid the pandemic has changed her perspective on her job, underscoring the importance, to her, of providing a valuable service without interruption.

“From the financial perspective, we’re very blessed to still be open and have a job and help the community in that way,” she said. “ But it’s also like, for us we have to be more careful, as in health-wise, that we stay healthy so we can still be open for the public.”

Many Miller’s Country Store customers have been taking precautions as they shop, she observed in early April.

“The past week, I’d say probably 60% of our customers would wear masks, maybe even 75% when they come in,” she said.

She noted customers have expressed significant gratitude to her and the store staff for what they do.

“Almost every day, we have customers that ask, ‘So, are y’all staying open?’” she said. “They’re concerned that we would have to shut down, so yes, they’re very thankful that we are here.”