KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are heroes rescuing others from these tough times.
A South Kansas City grocery store is turning into a place of refuge, hiring laid-off employees from neighboring businesses. The Sunfresh Market on Holmes Road is a supermarket sanctuary, offering a paycheck to people in dire need.
When neighboring restaurants in the Red Bridge Shopping Center began to layoff employees, Sunfresh started hiring them.
Most of those eateries have cut back to curbside pickup only, and with no need for a wait staff or extra kitchen help, they were forced to downsize their employee headcount.
Sunfresh store director, Kathy Scott, said she’s grateful she’s able to hire them as temporary employees.
“I said, ‘We’ll put cash in everybody’s pockets,’” she recalled.
Scott said she’s paying them $12 per hour, which is well above minimum wage. Scott asked that each of these temp employees wear their staff shirts, advertising the employer that promises to hire them back once the coronavirus concern passes.
“Just making sure everyone is coming home with a paycheck. They may be the only person in their household that’s working right now so they’re able to pay their bills,” Scott said Monday.
Scott said these recent hires, like all employees here, wear gloves and follow social distancing guidelines.
She said they’re told they don’t have to be here if they’re uncomfortable, but these adopted employees said they’re grateful for the chance to work.
“In my wildest dreams, I could not have foreseen any of this happening,” said Liza Terry, who usually works at the nearby Blue Moose Restaurant. “To have this opportunity to keep the bills paid and to give my family some hope, it’s been really great.”
Customers from their regular jobs are spotting them at the store, and the familiar logos on their shirts serve as encouragement that tough times will eventually fade.
“When she said she was going to hire some people from the local shopping center to stay alive here, she broke my heart,” said Ishmael Martinez, who usually works for Caleb’s Breakfast and Lunch. “That’s one of the best things I’ve heard from Kathy, and now, she proved it.”
“I have so many customers who are happy. They know it’s keeping the Red Bridge Shopping Center alive,” Scott added.
That Sunfresh store is owned by Ball Foods, which operates a series of metro supermarkets. Store managers estimate they’ve hired as many as 15 displaced employees, all of whom can soon return to their native employers.