COVID prompts Brandon grocers to aid Minnesota store

By: 
Per Peterson Tracy (Minn.) Area Headlight Herald editor
Per Peterson, Tracy Area Headlight Herald
Sunshine Foods workers, from left, Eli Roemen, and Tony and Craig Bosch traveled to Tracy from South Dakota on Aug. 17 to help stock shelves and freezers at Tracy Food Pride in Bruce Schelhaas’ absence. 
 
Tracy Food Pride owner Bruce Schelhaas has tested positive for COVID-19 and is being quarantined in his home.
 
Schelhaas’ daughter, Mandi Haase, of Brandon, confirmed the news Aug. 17 and said her father is “hanging in there.” He was exposed to COVID-19 during a recent trip to Rapid City to catch his grandson’s baseball tournament. The soon-to-be-68-year-old Schelhaas has not been in the store since he was exposed. He does have underlying health conditions — he is a diabetic, and also has kidney and liver issues to deal with.
 
“He’s certainly not out of the woods — we’re waiting and seeing,” Haase said. “When they were traveling back from Rapid City he was not feeling the greatest, so they stopped in Sioux falls to be screened and we got the test back last Tuesday (Aug. 11).”
 
The family has been in close contact with the South Dakota Department of Health; South Dakota practices contact tracing, and Haase said it’s vital that people know the facts about COVID and to get tested if they have any symptoms.
 
“Everybody thinks this can’t happen to them,” she said. “It’s been a real experience for our family. COVID is everywhere, and everyone needs to make decisions that are best for themselves and others.”
 
Food Pride store manager Lori Alf said Aug. 17 was anything but a typical day at the store. With Schelhaas gone, all the employees have had to step up even more than usual.
 
“It has been pretty chaotic,” said Alf. “It’s been hectic, but we’re getting better at handling it. Everybody is really stepping up — there’s not an employee here that is not stepping up, which makes a world of difference. But this really threw us for a loop.”
 
Schelhaas’ absence from the store Monday morning wasn’t the only noticeable difference. A crew from Sunshine Foods from Madison and Brandon were busy stocking the shelves and freezers as a way to help out Schelhaas during a difficult time.
 
“We’re all friends with Bruce,” said Tony Bosch of Sunshine Foods in Brandon. “We know the labor situation — we have the same thing. Bruce is such a great guy, and we just wanted to come and help him. He has been a great friend of ours for 25, 30 years.”
 
Bosch said Schelhaas didn’t know his crew would be coming to Tracy to help out.
 
“He would do the same for us,” said Tony’s son, Craig.
 
Haase said the recent experience with her father has reaffirmed to them the importance of wearing a mask wherever you go.
 
Food Pride was the first Tracy business outside of the hospital that implemented a mask mandate. It started as a recommendation, but the store didn’t waste much time after that in adding the mandate.
 
“(The employees) all wear masks, we wipe every cart off, all the door handles — any place people rub their hands on,” said Alf. “We’re wiping down all the handles on the freezers and in the dairy section.”
 
Haase said her father’s main concern during the pandemic has always been the health of his employees and that of his customers in the area.
 
“The communities of Tracy and Balaton (Minn.) and his employees and patrons are his world,” she said. 
 
Haase added that the support the family has received through this tough time of worry — and quarantine — has meant the world to them.
 
“We are very humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received from customers and employees,” she said. “The calls and messages of support have meant the world to our family.”

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