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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 64  |  August 11, 2020

Nick Henrikson: Essential Worker

By Maggi Henrikson

Nick wears a white coat, but he’s not a doctor. Some people have called him the hardest working guy in Laguna. He dons the white coat when he’s working in the meat department at Ralph’s Market. That is what it’s like where Nick, my son, is on the front line of potential exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus as a grocery store clerk.

Our grocery store workers are essential employees in this time of sheltering in. I thought I would share what that’s like for Nick, as I’ve seen first hand from the small house we share in Woods Cove.

Nick Henrikson

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Nick Henrikson

He often reports to work in the wee hours – as early as 5 a.m. The store doesn’t open for customers until 7 a.m., but Nick and the crew are starting the day by cleaning and disinfecting the shelves, unloading pallets of goods, and re-stocking supplies. By the time the doors are set to open, there’s already a line of shoppers out front, waiting. Before noon, there are already empty shelves. The usual voids – toilet paper, hand sanitizer, chicken, and so on.

Nick Henrikson empty shelves

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A common occurrence these days – empty shelves at our grocery stores

For the most part, people are kind and considerate, but there are also hoarders and anxious, frustrated, and, yes, even angry shoppers who take it out on the market staff. I think more people have to realize how our grocery store employees are the relatively unsung heroes out there, working for marginally above minimum wage, while putting themselves in constant contact with the germs of strangers.

The president of Ralph’s parent company, Kroger, has notified employees working in these dangerous times that they will receive a bonus of $150 for part-time and $300 for full-time employees. They also promised any employee testing positive for COVID-19 will receive their full pay for up to two weeks while they isolate, per CDC instructions. 

Nick was told that Ralph’s workers would receive masks, but they remain in short supply throughout the country. The first week of industrial strength disinfecting, Nick came home with his hands burning red and raw at the knuckles (they since have nitrile gloves). Ralph’s staffers are instructed to continuously wash hands and use hand sanitizer. The clothes Nick wears at work he launders every day when he comes home. That’s all done to keep Ralph’s employees and customers safe (and his family at home!). Indeed, but it’s worth singing the praises of hard-working guys like Nick out there facing the public.

The next time you’re at the market, keeping six feet from others, take a second to think of what your hands have touched – the produce you’re buying, the money or credit card you’ll be paying with, the bags you bring with you. Nick, and the other clerks are exposed to that. 

Here’s to all the essential service workers like my boy, Nick.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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