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story.lead_photo.caption John Jones, of the Schulte's Meat Department, brings a cart of turkeys to the cooler as it gets picked through. The store was busy late last week with shoppers stocking up for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Shopping for your Thanksgiving meal during a pandemic is no different in many respects from years past, but those in the grocery business say there may be one difference.

John Schulte, owner of Schulte's Fresh Foods on Southwest Boulevard, said he's told customers who normally wait to shop on the Wednesday before the holiday that they could be out of luck on some items.

"Normally, this holiday is the busiest for us, and we think this whole week will actually be better than last year based on the trends we're seeing," Schulte said. "People have been eating at home more over the last few months, and that's going to continue. We're looking for our business to be up 5-10 percent over last year."

Cindy Pursley was one customer who got her turkey prior to the last minute rush. On Friday, Pursley was picking up the remaining fixings for the holiday meal.

"Right now, it seems like they've got plenty of what I was looking for, so I wasn't concerned about not finding what I needed," she said.

Knowing what they have been through during the pandemic when ordering their products, Schulte said they stayed with the same amount of turkeys and hams they ordered last year instead of a 10 percent increase from the previous year, as they have done in the past.

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"Even though they may have smaller get togethers for Thanksgiving, that hasn't stopped the people from coming and shopping so they can still have a nice meal," Schulte said. "I preach every year to people to come here a few days before and not on Wednesday — but even more this year. We're having a hard time getting certain things now, and people that come Wednesday expecting to find those hot ticket items may not find them. Frankly, when we're out, we're out."

Janet Smith decided to come out Friday to select a ham and said she was glad she didn't wait to do so.

"I was worried they may not have as much of a selection and that's why I came out in the morning," Smith said. "I try to shop ahead for some things due to the pandemic, but still, there are times they're already gone because someone beat me to them."

Cindy Curtis said while her family was going to have a smaller gathering for the holiday this year, she was still buying a large turkey so they could enjoy the meat for several days.

"Because of the pandemic, I look to shop at times when it's not as busy," Curtis said.

Schulte said they still aren't getting a lot of products like they normally would due to strains on supplies because of the pandemic.

"We're never out of toilet paper, but we can't fill the full line, and that's the same with a lot of other paper and cleansing products. And I don't see that changing in the near future," Schulte said.

Although they have been fortunate in many ways, Schulte said the pandemic has still brought many challenges.

"We have been able to stay open and it's looking like this will be our best year ever, but I hate it that we got it this way," Schulte said. "I have friends in the restaurant business who have struggled mightily. We have had many of our employees have to go through COVID quarantine, and we've had to adjust our store hours. But, we've been able to keep open, and I want to thank our customers.

"We're also going to be closed on Thanksgiving this year to give everybody here a break," Schulte added. "Money is not everything, and I'm beginning to realize that now."

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