For today’s Q&A with a local business, we hear from Margaret Wenzel, who owns New Canaan Healthfare with her husband, Jim. The Morse Court provider of organic foods—including wheat-free and gluten-free—as well as vitamins, pure cosmetics and more, is offering outside pickup and delivery in addition to its safe in-store shopping.
Here’s our exchange.
New Canaanite: New Canaan Healthfare is a business in the field of health and wellness. What has it been like for you to experience the onset of the COVID-19 virus?
Margaret Wenzel: Overwhelming. There were so many unknowns and so much fear, but we knew we were crucial to our customers. Jim and I spent our days on the phone, helping customers search for immune-supportive supplements and nutritious foods that they could pick up curbside. At the same time, I was finishing my final two classes of a Ph.D. program in Public Health—very relevant work during this pandemic.
How has the virus, and related restrictions, affected business at New Canaan Healthfare?
Eating is a necessity—not just a want but a need. Jim and I worked closely to supply our customers with those staple items that would contribute to our community’s safety and well-being through COVID-19. Since we offered contact-free shopping and curbside pick-up, we provided a safe shopping experience for the community—during considerable uncertainty.
What has the community response been like?
The response was stunning. Jim and I pivoted the store earlier than necessary and devised an interface-free personal shopping experience. Customers placed orders via three phones, emails, and texts- and we then set their purchase outside for curbside pick-up in front of the store.
Tell me about the precautions you are taking to limit transmission. We are a small store, so we only allow in one to two customers at a time—while requiring a mask and fresh gloves or sanitizer which we provide upon entrance. Jim and I continuously sanitize, spritz, mop, glove-up, mask-up, and wipe-down (while running an air purification system that removes 99.97 % of particles greater than 0.3 microns) and then start the process all over again. For immunocompromised individuals, we have one person at a time for utmost comfort and safety while shopping, and we are still offering curbside pick-up for those who prefer.
You are right in the heart of downtown. What is your observation of New Canaanites’ compliance with guidelines on wearing masks and social distancing?
Everyone that comes into our store dons a mask. We see everyone who enters stopping at the sanitizing station that we have set up at the entrance for sanitizer or the application of fresh gloves that we are providing. We take note of the passersby, and compliance with social distancing and masks is excellent.
What is your message for customers?
We would like to thank the New Canaan community from the bottom of our hearts for the unprecedented level of loyalty and support. The COVID-19 experience enabled even stronger bonds as our actions proved our commitment to customers, and our customers reciprocated. One customer, recognizing that we were so stretched, offered to do our weekly produce shopping-—how sweet is that.