I saw a commercial recently from a grocery store chain with locations in Sioux Falls talking about how their stores are open on Sundays. I didn’t know that a grocery store being open on Sundays had become a controversy. When I worked in grocery stores, Sundays were one of the busiest days.

However, whether or not a location is open on Sundays is not my main frustration about grocery shopping. The thing that I want back is 24-hour grocery stores.

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Where are the Twenty-four Grocery Stores?

Before our nation’s reaction to COVID upended so many parts of our lives, you could go on a supply run at any hour of the day. Sioux Falls had several grocery stores that were open all day, every day. 

When these stores were open I knew I never had to worry about not having nearly immediate access to almost anything. 

Need something for an upset stomach at bedtime? No worries, I’ll be right back. Need snacks for school or work tomorrow? I'll just run to the store after supper.

My house is a late-night house. We are routinely up and active until after midnight. My wife and I have often worked jobs that happened at night. We live life at night more often than not. 

Pre-pandemic we were living in a near-perfect world for that lifestyle. I could do almost all my household work; banking, bills, making appointments; online at any time of the day. Then we could go to the store at 11:30 PM and stock up. We had near immediate access to what we needed. 

As someone who grew up in small-town Nebraska in the 80s, I have a real need for access. When I was a kid the world shut down after noon on Saturdays until Monday morning. Bars would be open, but I remember not even really being able to get gas because everything was closed.

One of the main reasons I moved to, and continue to live in, bigger cities is because traditionally more things are open all the time. Gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, drive-thrus; I even remember when we had a 24-hour pharmacy in Sioux Falls.    

I loved the 24-hour stores, especially when traveling with my family. I knew that no matter what time it was I could stop at any of the Walmarts in the towns I drove through. I’d avoid gas station markups; shop a good selection; have a large, well-lit space to walk around in; and be in a place with other people. 

But then COVID rolled over us and they took my 24-hour grocery stores away!

Sure they say it’s to cut costs because of the pandemic. But all I see are how these corporations are making so much money.

As someone who spent many years working overnights in grocery and retail, I know what has to happen during those off-hours to make a store run.

That’s when deliveries come and need to be unloaded and moved to the floor. Especially the stuff in refrigerated displays. A store can only sell what it has stocked. Plus there's all the daily prep work in delis, bakeries, and other departments. 

As far as I have noticed, all that work is still going on during the overnight in the stores. The stores are still staffed, just like the Before Times.

The companies are still spending money at night, why are they acting like they don’t want mine? 

It’s the brick-and-mortar store’s main competitive advantage over online shopping: ‘immediate buy it and get it now’ service.

Sure I can order online all the milk and cough medicine I want at 1:00 AM. But even in a prime world, I’m not getting anything until well into the next day at the earliest. 

This is why we live in cities; for more access to more services, more of the time. 

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