By Emily Bialkowski
Quillin’s grocery store in Caledonia lost all its coolers and freezers late last Tuesday night after a freon line broke and a valve failed to shut off the affected compressor.
By Friday a few coolers were working with hopes of the entire store back in full operation sometime soon.
Store Manager Lori Thillen was in good spirits about the expensive hiccup. “Everybody has been so nice about it. We’ve been trying to help as many people as possible to get what they need,” she said. “It’s a struggle, but we’re making it.”
More than $4,000 worth of meat and dairy had to be thrown, and Thillen expects that number to climb after they re-evaluate the condition of other food products temporarily stored in Sno Pac refrigeration semis outside.
The store has several lines running beneath it that carry freon to the cooler cases, such as the deli case, meat case, dairy case, etc. One of those lines broke, most likely the deli line. That sent a signal to one of three compressors, which should have flipped a valve preventing the catastrophe, but the valve failed and like dominos shut down the system. “It didn’t do what it was supposed to,” Thillen said.
Furthermore, with all the heavy rain and snow melt, the broken line filled with water, which had to continuously be sucked out.
To address the problem Thillen said all the employees stayed late to empty the cases and lend a hand. “We have great employees. They have been really good,” she said.
Always thinking of the community, and possessing a large amount of meat for a weekend benefit, Thillen called Sno Pac and asked if they could borrow a refrigerated truck so the meat could be saved for the fundraiser.
Sno Pac offered a truck and then a semi.
“They’ve been awesome. Thank God for Sno Pac,” Thillen said, adding that customers have been very understanding as well.
The Quillin’s team set up a grab-and-go station to offer staples like ground beef, pork chops, cheese and other basic foods.
Upon walking in and seeing the emptiness, customers could be seen just staring at the odd sight. But employees were quick to ask, “What do you need,” and could often track down an item.
As repairs are made Quillin’s is being cautious about bringing coolers back on line. They are not refilling a case until it holds its temperature overnight.
Thillen expressed great appreciation toward everyone who helped and made the best out of a unusual situation.
“Everybody has been very, very good about pitching in. Customers have been awesome through this hole thing. You just have to step up and let it go,” she said.