- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

The sniper stalking the Washington area has created brisk business for local delivery services, which are working overtime to bring groceries and dinner to residents too scared to leave home.

Peapod Inc., the home-delivery arm of the Giant Food Inc. supermarket chain, is booked solid until Saturday, spokeswoman Paula Wheeler said.

The company is bringing in more trucks and making its part-time drivers work extra hours to meet demand, she said.

"We're doing the best we can," Miss Wheeler said. Business usually picks up in the fall, but Peapod has seen a sharp increase in local orders since the shootings began Oct. 2, she said.

She declined to say how much business increased.

Small mom-and-pop grocery stores around the region report a similar increase in business.

The Brookville supermarket in Chevy Chase said that its home-delivery orders have jumped between 10 and 15 percent in the past two weeks.

"We don't ask them why they're ordering from us. We just let them know we appreciate their business," said Jacob, a store manager who declined to give his last name.

The sniper's first victim, 55-year-old James D. Martin, was shot Oct. 2 while crossing the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton. Many of the other shootings occurred outside stores, restaurants or gasoline stations.

The Pentagon has assigned surveillance planes to aid in the search for the assailant, but that has done little to comfort some jittery customers.

Catherine Chanfreau said that she went to a Giant Food store on Tuesday but left quickly because the sound of helicopters overhead and the sight of security guards inside the store spooked her.

Miss Chanfreau drove to her home in the suburbs and called Peapod, which was already booked.

"I have to wait two days for a delivery," she said.

Business at Takeout Taxi Inc., which picks up food at restaurants and delivers it to customers in Northwest and in Montgomery County, has increased 20 percent in the past two weeks.

The company's deliverymen aren't afraid driving on suburban streets, according to owner Richie Baran. "I think they're all comfortable doing this job. If anything, they're happy because the tips have been a little bit better recently. Our customers really appreciate this service," he said.

Mr. Baran and other merchants said that they do not want to profit from tragedy. "We're not happy people are being killed," he said.

Domino's Inc., the nation's top pizza-delivery service, said that it is not tracking whether business has increased in the Washington area since the shootings began, despite media reports that sales were up.

"We don't know where those reports came from. It's a tragic situation, and we just hope the police find this person soon," said spokeswoman Holly Ryan.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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