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La Cañada businesses respond to ever-evolving coronavirus news, panic

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Due to novel coronavirus precautions, the Crescenta-CañadaFamily YMCA is closed, in La Canada Flintridge on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
(Raul Roa/La Cañada Valley Sun)

As La Cañada city officials roll out new closures and restrictions being adopted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, local businesses are responding to the coronavirus outbreak, announcing voluntarily closures, accommodating customers’ needs and providing special access for seniors.

Many grocery stores have reduced their hours of operation to allow employees to restock items being bought by customers in mass quantities, including paper products, hand sanitizer and cleaning products, in what residents described on social media as a buying frenzy.

Patrons formed long lines Tuesday morning outside the La Cañada Trader Joe’s, waiting for the store to open, while nearby Ralphs grocery store reportedly allowed customers into the building in limited groups.

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Dozens of shoppers lined up at the Ralphs supermarket before it opened in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday.
(Raul Roa/La Cañada Valley Sun)

Gelson’s announced it would reserve a window of operation, from 7 to 8 a.m. daily, to allow only customers who are 65 and older an opportunity to purchase needed items without having to compete with other shoppers, City Manager Mark Alexander said Tuesday.

Some employees at Sprouts Farmers Market on Foothill Boulevard wore masks as they stocked bare shelves and rang up customers. Bottles of disinfectant spray and paper towels placed at the store entrance and in the aisles encouraged patrons to disinfect surfaces as they shopped.

La Cañada resident Mary Kohn came to do some light shopping but discovered many items on her list were not in stock.

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Because of novel coronavirus precautions, Sprouts placed sanitizer and paper towels outside the store.
(Raul Roa/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“I need olive oil, eggs and meat, but oh, well, I guess we’ll just have strawberries and bread,” she said, pointing to a near-empty cart. “I took a run in Montrose this morning and went by Trader Joe’s — it’s crazy.”

Although restaurants may, for now, continue operating on a limited basis, owners and managers at La Cañada’s Dish restaurant Tuesday reported customer traffic has slowed considerably.

General Manager Darwin Lizarraga said a skeleton crew was filling occasional takeout orders but guessed the closure would be detrimental to business.

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Because of novel coronavirus precautions restricting restaurants from serving dine-in customers, a to-go order waits for pickup at an empty Dish restaurant, in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday.
(Raul Roa/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“The change, it was pretty dramatic,” Lizarraga said. “We have to have at least some income.”

Retail shops that do not sell food, fitness and adult beverages are also feeling the impact of the community’s self-quarantine efforts. Some are finding new ways to respond to customers’ changing needs.

Maureen Palacios, owner of Once Upon a Time family bookstore in Montrose, said foot traffic decreased considerably last week after local schools began to announce they’d close physical campuses and transition to distance learning.

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As Mike Lee of La Crescenta loads paper towels, toilet paper and water into his car, dozens still waited in line to enter the Ralphs supermarket in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday.
(Raul Roa/La Cañada Valley Sun)

To accommodate families who are holing up at home, the store is taking more orders online and delivering them directly to customers each day.

“Parents are looking to be able to keep their kids busy and occupied — that’s certainly something we can do in spades,” Palacios said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep our community reading.”

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