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Markets stock up for the big feast

November 23, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - Thanksgiving is just a few days away, but Tri-State area grocers say it takes months of planning to get food ordered and on the shelves in time for the busiest holiday food shopping season of the year.

"We start ordering inventory the first week in October," said Smithsburg Food Lion store manager Phil McAllister.

McAllister said his store's inventory increases by at least 50 percent and his staff will work some overtime between now and the end of the Christmas season to create a "seamless shopping experience for customers."

The store's freezer is filled with frozen turkeys and stockrooms are packed with canned goods.

The 1,200 Food Lion stores in 11 states will sell "4,000 to 5,000 tons of frozen turkeys and breasts and around 1,100 tons of fresh turkeys and breasts," during the Thanksgiving holiday, said Food Lion spokesman Jeff Lowrance.

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In keeping with its 84-year tradition, Gordon's Grocery Inc. in Hagerstown offers a variety of specialty food items for the holidays.

Store manager John Gordon said pulling everything together doesn't happen overnight. With products coming in from all over the country, Gordon said he started contacting vendors more than a month ago.

"We'll have Najla's Gone Chunky cookies and My Grandma's Coffee Cake of New England, which have both been on Oprah's holiday list," John said.

He said the coffee cakes are baked and then shipped to his store the next day and last for about 12 days without being frozen.

At Earl's Market in nearby State Line, Pa., store owner Joe Lesko has been starting his day at 5 a.m. to make sure he's able to meet what he said is a growing demand for fresh turkeys.

"We started taking fresh turkey orders the second week in October," he said. "The earlier I can turn the orders in, the better chance we have of getting what our customers want," Lesko said.

He and his wife, Alicia Lesko, have developed a customer phone list to make sure no turkey order goes undelivered.

At Barnhart's Supermarket in Inwood, W.Va., hams arrived six weeks ago, said owner Roger Barnhart.

"We've been busy baking hams, slicing hams and deboning hams," Barnhart said.

He said customers already have started placing Christmas orders and oysters will go on sale Friday.

Barnhart, who has 44 years in the food industry, said he now sells the most and the largest turkeys for Thanksgiving, which he said he believes has replaced Christmas as the biggest eating holiday.

"People are having larger family sit-down dinners at Thanksgiving," he said.

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