PLEASANT HILL (KPIX 5) — An East Bay grocery store owner who tried to calm the fears behind panic buying has become a local celebrity after doing virtual store tours of what’s in stock via Facebook live stream.
Jason Olson owns the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Pleasant Hill, which, just like many other stores during the coronavirus pandemic, has seen its share of panic buying.
Olson said he got the idea to conduct virtual tours on Facebook live stream to show what his store had in stock after several people called in asking what he had.
“We were getting a lot of phone calls. ‘Well, do you have flour, do you have toilet paper?’ And I thought, well, I’m just going to do a quick Facebook live,” Olson recalled.
He said after doing his first live stream, people called him saying they’ll just for him to go live again to see what’s in store. “And I’m like, okay, maybe I’ll keep doing this,” he said.
Now, with Olson’s beloved 70s classic rock playing in the background, Olson’s store has become somewhat of a reality TV show. He has been posting live interactive updates of inventory at least twice a day for curious shoppers.
He tours the aisles and even takes viewers backstage as he explains how the grocery business works. He often gives his employees a gentle needling while people are watching, too.
“He tries to bring the light in things and makes sure that everybody knows how it’s going. Calm everybody down, make sure they are not freaking out,” said Mike Peden, a manager at Olson’s store.
“Well, he’s making everybody a star, the people who bring the bread in, the people who bring the tortillas in. It’s fun. It’s become kind of like a game, I guess. And it takes the edge off of everything else that’s happening,” said Ingrid, a store customer.
The whole idea of Olson’s streams are to calm people’s fear, and it seems to be working because after two weeks of a shelter-in-place order for the Bay Area, most of the shelves in Olson’s store are no longer empty.
“It was very busy about 10 to 12 days ago and now things are back to normal,” Olson said.
He says he will continue the updates, though because he says they seem to bring people closer together. He also says some of his online tours have gotten over 5,000 views.