When the going gets tough, the tough get groceries


This is a business story that comes from our personal experience. We all have learned new habits quickly with “shelter in place,” and one of the first ones was how to get groceries and keep distance. After figuring out a couple of grocery stores, we discovered that our nearby roadside produce market could have an order ready in just an hour. They have done a great job changing their business quickly, communicating, and serving their customers. Their business is booming because of it.


If you want to see a business that adapted quickly and is thriving in this pandemic, take a drive over to Port City Produce on Market Street in Wilmington.

Full disclosure, Port City Produce is not a customer of WordwrightWeb. I don’t know anyone there. But my wife and I are definitely customers of theirs.

What have they done to reposition for current realities?

They made it apparent on the top of their website and Facebook pages that they are open and offering “curbside pickup.” That’s a great phrase because we know instantly what they’re talking about, even though there is no curb.

Port City Produce website screenshot

This is the top of the Port City Produce website (portcityproduce.com).

Port City Produce website



Graphic on the PC Produce Facebook page directs visitors to their online order form.

They created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step form using Google forms. And they have kept their lead times to 1 hour. This is impressive, and a selling point for us considering that Food Lion and Harris Teeter have seen 3- to 7-day lead times for pre-ordering and pickup in the parking lot.

One down side is that payment is also curbside, not online. My guess is that the desire to get things in place quickly means not using a fancy online shopping cart (which also might have been expensive and too hard to update with their rapidly changing inventory). It might also have affected lead times. It was a good business decision. When time is of the essence, don’t overthink. Do what you can now.

Besides the obvious parking lot full of cars when I went, here’s one more bit of evidence that PC Produce is thriving: A Facebook post days ago that they’re hiring.

And here’s a detailed look at what the big players are doing

I mentioned Harris Teeter and Food Lion earlier. We still get the bulk of our groceries this way, with plenty of fill-in from Port City Produce (I just can’t bring myself to calling them PCP).

When we began sheltering in place a few weeks ago, my wife ordered groceries online from Harris Teeter for pickup at the store. When the magic time arrived days later, I went to the Mayfaire location that she had selected, drove up to the call box and pressed the button. After confirming my identity, two young ladies came out, opened the hatch of my Prius and put the bags and boxes in. I had a $5 tip in an envelope. I got their attention and left the envelope on top of the call box. The pickup couldn’t have been smoother.

(Important side notes: A decent tip means a lot! I have worked for tips and a couple of dollars more than standard goes a long way. Judging from these ladies’ surprise when I waved the envelope, and from other grocery shoppers since then, they aren’t getting a lot of tips. Also, my friend Mark Cooper Smith in Georgia tips $10, I later learned. I thought $5 was good, but I’m tipping $10 now).

I placed the next order, using Food Lion’s website. I wanted to compare the experiences, and those are our two grocery stores. Also really good, and Food Lion is closer.

After staying in the Food Lion groove for a couple more orders, all of which required a 5-day wait for a pickup slot, I went back to Harris Teeter. Although HT lead times are less by a day or two, and they give a nice senior discount for which I now qualify, I had to go back to the Food Lion website. Their shopping cart, especially the search feature, is just way better than the one on the Harris Teeter site. This crisis could end up gaining market share for Food Lion.

Tell me what tricks you’ve learned for getting groceries and just daily life in general. Email me at mbyrd@wordwrightweb.com. I’ll use your tip and your name in an upcoming newsletter, if you don’t mind.

 — Michael Byrd

Kermit the frog meme

Homemade mask meme

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

― Marie Curie, physicist

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

— Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during WWII

“I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, ‘Hey, the sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said, ‘Yes, but not in a row.’ “

— Steven Wright

Updated: 10/25/2023


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