No ‘busloads of people’ in Adelong

Sam Bhardwaj at Adelong Foodworks keeps his stash of toilet paper hidden under the counter for locals. He trusts his shoppers to be honest about how much they need, giving him flexibility to sell more to bigger families.

Wherever you go in the Snowy Valleys, people have heard rumours about busloads of grocery bandits coming from the big cities to raid our tiny towns; but the bus sighting has always come from a friend’s sister’s neighbor or some similar extended relationship. The Times has yet to receive any firsthand reports of bus sightings, other than an unfortunate group of elderly people who came to town last week as part of a post-bushfire tour to support the region. The bus driver reported comments verging on harassment wherever he travelled, as suspicion spread quickly.

One report suggested a busload had stopped in Adelong to raid the Foodworks owned by Sam Bhardwaj.

“They are not coming. No,” said Sam without hesitation on Tuesday.

“We didn’t see any bus or anything like that. Adelong is a small town. We know each other. If someone came from outside, we [would] know, if someone come with a busload, it’s big, big news for us.”

Instead of a ravenous busload, all Sam had to report was the kindness and self-restraint he’s seen from the roughly 700 Adelong shoppers who are coping well with shortages of toilet paper and flour. 

“Everyone is saying I need only the two [rolls of toilet paper], because I’m alone. No one is saying I need a 5kg or I need a 10kg [of rice or flour]. I don’t have to say anything to my customers.”

Sam said he hasn’t had to set limits on his customers, because they’ve been setting limits on themselves. This has worked particularly well for the locally-owned shop, giving them the ability to be flexible with larger families.

“[People have said] ‘no, no give me just one [roll of toilet paper], one is enough for me. Don’t give me two.’

“My staff has been working here a long, long time, they know these families, they know how big they are. They know if one roll or two rolls enough. [The staff] say ‘I need to give four rolls,’ and I say that’s okay.

“It’s hard times. We have to look after each other.”

During a recent delivery, Sam said his order of flour and rice didn’t arrive on the truck, so he’s looking at contracting with a different company, possibly turning to the suppliers who usually deliver to cafes and restaurants, since those businesses have largely been closed by government order.

Adelong’s three pubs and one café have all closed, with only the café continuing to offer takeaway meals.

People aren’t stressed, according to Sam. 

“They all are cooperating. They all are happy,” said Sam. “At least, within [the past] week, we didn’t see anyone who is upset. They are looking after each other, that’s a good thing.”

Like other regional supermarkets in Batlow and Talbingo, the Adelong Foodworks relies on Tumut butchers for meat. Sam said he waited for an hour on Tuesday for the butcher to have any meat he could cut up for the Foodworks. Sam said the butchers are struggling with demand unlike anything they’ve ever seen. 

Sanitiser has also been problematic at the Foodworks, but Sam said they’ve been able to make sanitiser out of other products, to ensure the shop stays clean and staff are washing their hands every 20 minutes. The homemade sanitiser doesn’t dry as well or as quickly as the commercial stuff, but Sam said “that’s all we can do” and he continues to insist the store is cleaned “religiously.”

In the meantime, the staff and shoppers are taking care of each other and Sam and his wife are still deciding how they’ll work at the store and take care of their two young children (one in daycare and one at school).

“[The virus is] spreading everywhere and the news is not good. It’s spreading all over the world.

“There’s no good news coming from anywhere, except the town is taking care of each other. That’s the good news.”