Essential workers at grocery stores and convenience stores continue to go out every day and work despite the pandemic so the public can get food and gas.

Melanie Daigle owns Fresh off the Farm, a grocery store in Rockport. She said the new check-out process has been “a huge adjustment for us.”

All orders are made by email or phone.

Daigle said it is “quite a process” to take an $800 order over the phone, pick out the items, ring them up and then deliver them. She said this is more mentally and physically taxing than just having people shop in the store.

The employees have absolutely stepped up to the challenge.

“My team is amazing,” she said. “I have people working days off, coming in early, staying late and learning new things.”

Taneele Jones works at Maritime Farms on the Thomaston town line. Jones said working during the pandemic has been “definitely strange.”

She said business has not slowed down, which can prove challenging.

“It’s very hard to keep track (of the number of customers) because we have to do our job… at the same time,” Jones said.

Amanda Williams works at Hannaford supermarket in Camden as an Assisstant Center Store Manager Trainee.

Williams said one of the biggest challenges has been trying to make the shelves look nice while being out of so many products.

“There's almost no way to make the shelves look presentable,” she said.

Daigle said her manager, assistant manager and herself have been working crazy hours.

“I worked 135 hours a week for four weeks; then I had to take a nap,” Daigle said.

Some of her employees have been putting in 60 and 70 hours a week. Daigle said she has made it clear the workers should only be doing what they are able to.

Jones said she has some additional duties because of the new health rules.

“We have to serve pizza slices,” Jones said, where before it was a self-serve process.

While some other stores with larger limits have a dedicated employee at the door counting customers, Maritime does not. Sometimes customers do not see the sign on the door about the customer limit, too.

Jones said if she sees there are more than five customers in the store, she makes sure no one else enters, and helps her coworkers “get those extra people out as fast as I can.”

Williams said her coworkers have been “super pleasant” during this whole process, and that they all make the best out of their days together. “As time goes on and the situation gets worse, people start to get more on edge,” she said.

Her coworkers are maintaining social distancing while being at work, and some have started wearing masks too. Williams said that makes her sad, “because those are the smiles I look forward to every day.”

Williams said, “The Hannaford family is strong and we’ll make it through this, I just hate seeing us all so stressed… I can’t wait for normal again.”

Daigle said the response from customers has been a mixed bag. “Fear and anxiety bring out the best and worst in people,” she said. For the most part, though, Daigle said customers have been supportive and grateful.

Daigle said some customers have brought in balloons, candy, and baked goods for the employees, and have been leaving “phenomenal tips.”

Jones said her customers have been kind. They have thanked her, and laughed with her about the plexiglass stands on the register. Jones said, “That makes me laugh because I also find it funny.”

Williams said she has been thanked by customers, but they are also maintaining social distance. She said this makes her feel unsure if she is helping people.

She also said seeing so many customers wearing masks and gloves is “like being inside a bad horror film.”

Daigle said she is not afraid of getting sick. “I am more afraid of us not being able to provide the community what they need.”

Jones said she is both scared and not scared of getting sick. She said she is not sure what is true amidst all the information about COVID-19.

Jones said she is scared of her son getting sick, who is three years old. She also said she is afraid of being sick and spreading the illness to someone else who might be elderly or immuno-compromised.

Williams said she is also afraid of being sick and spreading the illness without knowing it.

“The Camden area has a lot of the older generation,” she said, “which makes being around them scary because I'm so young and healthy I wouldn't know if I was sick.”