By Derek Wilson
In more than 30 years in business, Mollie Stone’s Markets has worked hard to get customers into the stores. But when hospital workers couldn’t get to the local store for meals and groceries, owner Mike Stone brought the store to them.
“If there’s any time in our lifetime that we need to step up and do the things we are capable of to help our community, now is the time,” Stone said. “I can’t see any time where the need is greater to support the [MarinHealth] hospital and support the community.”
Mike and Sharon Stone have been generous supporters of MarinHealth hospital for more than a decade, both personally and through Mollie Stone’s corporate sponsorships of MarinHealth’s annual charity golf tournaments and black-tie fundraising galas. Mike Stone also co-chaired the Capital Campaign for the new hospital, personally stepping forward with a seven-figure gift to the building and helped to raise millions of dollars from the community.
While hospital and clinic workers have been working sometimes 12-16 hour shifts during the effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Stone stepped up to make sure they had the support they needed. Mollie Stone’s Markets, with stores in Greenbrae and Sausalito among its 10 Bay Area locations, donated boxed lunches to health care workers for two shifts, there days a week for three weeks. Mollie Stone’s also set up a store on the MarinHealth hospital campus to make it even easier for employees to grab a snack before, during, or after a shift.
Mike Stone isn’t a doctor, but in a move to support medical workers in the fight against COVID-19, he changed the meaning of medical coverage by donating two surge tents to MarinHealth for triage and testing of patients, valued at a total of $180,000.
While there have been lines to get into some Mollie Stone’s stores, health care workers and first responders can get to the front of the line so that they can hurry back to their crucial work, according to Stone. Inside all the stores, Mollie Stone’s is taking donations for local health care workers at the hospitals closest to each store in the various Bay Area communities.
“We want to take care of the people who take of the community,” Stone said.
Even before the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Marin County, Mike Stone could see the trouble that was coming.
“I didn’t really know the severity of it until we started to see what was happening and we all got notifications of what was happening in China and Italy,” said Stone, who was hearing news from suppliers of international grocery goods. “The grocers associations started canceling food shows and events where we might display our goods. When the news hit the public, the people came to the grocery store and there was more of a panic. The pandemic affected our stores as it did all stores. The main concern was protecting our employees and our customers.”
The grocery store experience has changed significantly since the pandemic — with protective guards between checkers and customers, physical distance protocols, and limits on purchases on certain items.
“It was pretty wild. I have been in business for more than 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Stone, who started in the grocery industry in Southern California in 1969. The first Mollie Stone’s Market — named for Mike’s mother — opened in Redwood City in 1986. The second store opened in Sausalito in 1988.
Stone continued, “Everyone was fearful, and for good reason. The stay-at-home order came about and no one knew what it meant or how long it would last. It caused this hoarding and panic buying. … Even the supply chain kinda broke up. It’s still not back to normal. We’re finding new vendors to source what we need.”
The prices of beef and pork have increased since several major processing plants have been shut down — in whole or part — by cases of COVID-19. However, shoppers are just glad to see other items are back on the shelves. The run on toilet paper seems to have decreased along with some of the initial panic. Baking ingredients were swept off shelves while people turned to baking breads as a way to spend time while sheltering at home.
Like everyone else, Stone is eager for the world to recover from the pandemic so that he can enjoy the parks, restaurants by the bay and just the freedom to return to a so-called normal life.