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Angelo Pugliano and his family regularly can between 300 and 400 jars of fresh-grown tomatoes every season.
This year, they had to settle for less. When they went to buy new lids, none could be found, after the coronavirus pandemic tossed a wrench into the country’s manufacturing and retail works.
“They were nonexistent,” said Pugliano, of Sewickley. “We tried Pat Catan’s, JoAnn Fabric, Tractor Supply, you name it. The best we could do was find some brand-new jars with lids.”
Not long ago, a customer at 380 Discount Warehouse in Murrysville could typically expect delivery of an out-of-stock item in about a week.
Now, owner Jim Beacom III said that wait regularly becomes 4-6 weeks. For furniture, the wait can be up to eight weeks.
“When you close the country down, you kink the supply chain,” Beacom said.
That has extended to unexpected areas across the retail spectrum, including canning supplies, which seem to be scarce nearly everywhere potential buyers turn.
“It’s very hard keeping them in stock right now,” said Ray Meloy, inventory specialist at Agway in Ligonier. “We’ve had at least a 30% rise in demand for canning stuff. A lot more people were putting gardens in this year. We can’t get anything, and our suppliers don’t have it.”
Meloy typically orders canning supplies from the Ball brand, owned by Newell Foods.
Newell officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
“Anything to do with lids or jars, you just can’t get,” Meloy said.
Giant Eagle stores also order their canning inventory from Newell. Giant Eagle Spokesman Dick Roberts said the grocery chain anticipated the increased demand, but simply wasn’t able to get the product.
“The production facility where these items are sourced was shut down during covid, and had to modify its production schedule,” Roberts said. “So consumers are seeing less product than they normally would.”
Kendall Lapp, manager at Lapps Family Market in Latrobe, said he has spoken with a lot of first-time canners in the past few months.
“We’ve seen a higher demand for them,” Lapp said. “We haven’t been able to keep anything in stock. We were hoping that we could get some in each week to keep a supply on hand, but we’re not close to that right now.”
Brilhart Ace Hardware in Scottdale typically orders a full pallet of canning supplies each June. They are still waiting on that order, according to manager Audra Shenk.
“We started selling our supplies plus whatever we could get from the Ace warehouse,” Shenk said. “We started telling people we’re hoping that they’ll be in, but those (delivery) dates have been pushed back a couple times.”
In Leechburg, Jaclyn Kostelansky, shift manager at Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market, said they’ve gotten a lot of requests.
“We usually just always have it on stock, and we’ve been trying to get it in, but we can’t,” Kostelansky said.
And the shortage is not just limited to local retailers. Fillmore Containers out of Lancaster, which bills itself as the “#1 Rated Packaging Supplier on the Web,” has a voicemail giving canning customers the bad news.
“Our manufacturers are very behind due to the increased demand and cannot give us solid estimated arrival times,” the voicemail states. “Currently, we have no two-piece canning lids, only some wide-mouth rings. We do not know when we’ll have two-piece canning lids back in stock.”
One place where canning supplies seem to still be plentiful is Amazon.com. Amazon officials declined to comment on how they have been able to keep canning items in stock.
Shenk said her store has had the same scarcity issue with sauce makers and pressure canners.
“We were able to get our hands on at least a few of those, but all of the other things that go along with canning are running short as well,” she said.
Roberts said Giant Eagle officials are working with other suppliers to try and get canning inventory into their stores.
Beacom said the pandemic shutdown has had a ripple effect on the entire supply chain.
“Factories are opening back up now, but they’re opening at 50%,” he said. “And they’re so backlogged they can’t get caught up.”
For Pugliano, that meant calling around to some older Italian friends and family who always have emergency canning supplies on hand.
“They gave us some with the understanding that I’d replace them in the future,” Pugliano said. “We just had to settle for less.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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