BY MATTHEW CHOI TAITANO
“We are essential,” said Michael Vaiau, employee at Wellness Water & Ice in Yigo.
As an essential business, Wellness Water & Ice has remained open throughout the COVID-19 months to continue to provide water to customers.
“We have three workers in the day and three in the evening,” said Vaiau. “Business has definitely got a lot busier since the government announced quarantine and social distancing.”
Regarding employees’ safety and sanitary practices, Vaiau said, “We always wear our masks and change our gloves. We also let people wait outside so that the store doesn’t get too crowded.”
At Wellness Water & Ice, a refill for a 5-gallon container is $1.50 and one gallon is 30¢. The business also offers free service from employees to retrieve containers from a customer’s car, then to refill and deliver them back.
However, Breezy Water & Ice in Mangilao has seen a downturn of sales, as well as a shortening of hours for employees. The store closed in March due to COVID-19, reopened on May 11 and has struggled with sales since. A refill for a 5-gallon container is $1.75.
However, not all businesses have seen a fluctuation in water sales amidst COVID-19. Michael Hernandez, vice president of marketing and store operations of South Pacific Petroleum Corp., told the Journal water sales remain consistent across 76/Circle K stores on the island. Yet, he said single-sale waters continue to sell more (within the top five beverages sold at stores) than cases of water, which are more “middle of the road” in sales.
Amidst COVID-19, Hernandez said, “The only real challenge we’re having is an increased focus on sanitation methods and keeping folks educated on safety precautions.”
Clean Water & Ice Express in the DNA building in Tamuning also saw relatively the same amount of sales throughout COVID-19, but opened earlier at 6 a.m. as opposed to its regular opening time of 7:30 a.m.
Thiru Vaviel, owner of Clean Water & Ice Express, said the most popular sales remain with alkaline water, which is $3 for five gallons and 75¢ for one gallon. In addition to alkaline water, the store sells purified water and Japanese Kangen Water — along with snacks, other beverages, and more. At the front of the store, there is a 24-hour vending machine for five-gallon refills.
Vaviel said he noticed more construction companies were coming in amidst COVID-19. Other than that, his clientele remains the same — which includes people all the way from Yigo, the elderly, and different kinds of people from across the island. “I know people are scared, but I want them to know that I’m here to help,” said Vaviel. mbj