Upper Valley general store gets creative to fill employee shortage

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:06 PM EST
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NORWICH, Vt. (WCAX) - The labor shortage across the region has been widely reported. Both large corporations and mom and pops are feeling the pinch. At Dan and Whits, they are getting creative to fill the void.

As the cashiers ring out customers at the general store, a sign hanging in the window reads, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” But another sign, right next to it, is evidence the business does not have everything it needs.

“I just have a two-hour shift now and I am going to have a two-hour shift on Friday,” said store employee Ellen Hobson.

Hobson is a full-time mom. A job that became even more demanding during the pandemic when the kids were learning from home. But now that the kids are back in school, she has some free time and she is giving back to her community.

“We shop here all the time and obviously really don’t want the store to close and since I had the time, I figured I would just do this before looking for a regular job again,” she said.

Recently, after hearing about the business’s struggle to find help, a friend of the owner pitched him an idea.

“So she said, what I am going to do, I’m going to come in and work one shift a week and I am going to donate my salary to a nonprofit. So, taking that, I said what a great idea. Threw it out on the listserv to see if other people were interested and that sort of snowballed. Right now, we have probably about 15 to 20 people,” said store owner Dan Fraser.

Along with checkout, they help to stock the shelves, cut the meat and even clean up the aisles. The business is able to pay well above minimum wage because the jobs don’t come with the benefits of a full-time position. What employees do with the money is totally up to them.

“It might not be their dream job but it is certainly keeping everything running,” said Kate Barlow.

Barlow is a regular here. Her kids go to school with Hobson’s.

“It’s also a hub for seeing people you haven’t seen for a while, so it would be a real loss because you never know who you are going to run into here,” Barlow said.

Dan and Whits currently is looking for full-time employees but the owner says the current business model could be in place for the near future.

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