If you want to find a hidden hero of the coronavirus, you just have to look at one of the essential businesses.

Heroes are working the checkout stands at markets and gas stations. They are delivering pizzas, letters and packages. They are manning the hardware store so that homes can stay safe and repairs and projects can be completed.

They are the type of people working at Idaho Lumber.

“Being an essential business, our focus has been to stay open as long as we can,” said Todd Hunter, owner of Idaho Lumber. “But it hasn’t been easy.”

It certainly isn’t easy being an essential business during the coronavirus. There’s no such thing as “business as usual” when the nation is battling a pandemic.

“We’ve had to adapt. It’s been tough and tiring, but we know people need us, so we’re here in the trenches every day doing what we have to do to get by,” Todd said, while donning a mask and gloves as we chatted in the parking lot of his store in Hailey.

For the first few weeks of the stay-at-home order, when Blaine County was getting hammered by COVID-19, Idaho Lumber was following the mandate to a tee and not allowing customers in the store. Every day—come rain, shine or even snow squalls—staff members would be covered in masks, gloves and even protective eyewear, standing out front to help customers. As if the weather and having to wash glove-covered hands after every transaction weren’t challenging enough, trying to help customers find the right product in a store that carries over 37,000 items is far from easy.

“The real heroes here are my staff,” Todd said, noting that none of his 32 member staff have tested positive for the virus. “They’ve really stepped up to the challenge.”

Keeping morale up during these trying times and difficult work situations is another big challenge. To help, Todd has tried to create a work environment where his staff can feel safe and appreciated. This includes buying lunch for the entire staff each day. Something that Todd is doing despite business being down by about 50% of normal with construction having stopped for weeks.

Idaho Lumber hasn’t raised prices, either—something that would be easy and understandable to do right now—because it simply isn’t the right thing to do.

“People don’t need anyone trying to take advantage of this situation. Things are tough enough already,” said Todd, who, along with his wife and business partner, Angi, has stopped taking a salary so that they can keep paying their staff.

“We’re all making sacrifices in life right now,” Todd said. “I still consider us to be the lucky ones because we’re still working. We’re fortunate to be one of those essential businesses that’s staying open to help our community, but it’s been hard.”

Todd and his team may feel lucky, but it’s our community that’s really lucky. We’re lucky to have hidden heroes like the crew at Idaho Lumber to keep our essential businesses going.

By Mike McKenna

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