How a small South Lake Tahoe market is coping with COVID-19

Kayla Anderson
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Grassroots is located at the Y in South Lake Tahoe.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Grass Roots Natural Foods on Dunlap Drive in South Lake Tahoe had a large number of people about a month ago come in and empty the shelves, but now the market is restocked and things are starting to calm down as more people shelter in place at their primary residences.

“We seem to be doing pretty good, I like how the community is looking out for each other,” said Grass Roots Grocery Manager Peggy Cooley. “I’ve noticed that people are now giving each other space and respect.”

She noted that the first couple of weeks were kind of rough as South Lake Tahoe saw a surge of visitation, but it has since evened out.

“We didn’t know what to expect, and we got this big rush,” she said. “If we knew we’d run out of toilet paper so fast then we would’ve ordered a lot more in the beginning.”

The market also experienced a major shortage of baking yeast as people began making their own bread at home and Cooley says that it was just recently that they finally succeeded in getting hand sanitizer in again.

Grass Roots orders groceries twice a week, but in the time of COVID-19 they are tending to receive less than what they order.

“We’ll maybe place a $12,000 order for flour but only get $8,000 of it,” she said. “It took us two weeks to get toilet paper and we thought we’d be able to manage with what we had in our last shipment, but it flew off the shelves.”

Paper towels are gone, too, as people are vigorously cleaning their homes more often.

“We couldn’t get it from our usual sources, so we started stocking ingredients that allow people to make their own,” Cooley says about how Grass Roots has gotten creative about offering ingredients for sanitizer such as aloe vera, clove oil, grapefruit seed extract, and Pranarom Good Samaritan Purify & Protect essential oils.

The multipurpose essential oils, aloe, and other germ-killing ingredients that Grass Roots carries can be combined and double as hand lotion, offering customers an alternative way to get some protection in case there’s another shortage of actual hand sanitizer.

“Some people have said that their hands smell like Grey Goose,” she laughs, referring to people who are using vodka to kill germs.

However, even though grocery stores are one of most frequented places right now with a mixed crowd of personalities, Cooley has seen some silver linings through the pandemic.

“My boss has been helpful and generous in compensating those of us who want to work,” she said. “And if people aren’t comfortable working, they don’t have to come in. Some of us who are here wear masks, and some don’t, but we’re a tight knit group and all take care of each other.

“I feel like we’re in a much more comfortable place now than we were a couple of weeks ago,” she added. “I’ve seen a lot of kindness lately, like people who’ve gotten extra money from the government and giving it away to those in need.”

Cooley is also hoping that the recent Earth Day coupled with the shelter in place rule will help people recognize the impact they have on the environment.

However, throughout Cooley’s tenure of working at Grass Roots, she hasn’t seen anything like COVID-19.

“We’ve seen some strange things come and go over the years, but this is a whole new ball game. Last year the snow was poor, so it was quiet and slow this time of the year, but then in the previous year we had a ton of snow and people came in and stocked up.”

When asked if Grass Roots adopted any new procedures that they will continue after things stabilize, Cooley says that they might continue to allow elderly people to call in and place their grocery list orders to be able to pick up in curbside delivery, especially for some of their regulars.

“(Going to the grocery store) is kind of a social outlet but some customers are more reticent to leave their homes whereas there are other people who are more comfortable with their health and likely to come in more often,” Cooley said.

Grass Roots Natural Foods located on 2030 Dunlap Drive is open 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily. To see what kinds of items it stocks, visit

Kayla Anderson is a reporter for the Tribune and can be reached at

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