POMEROY — The requirement of a food license for one local business has been the topic of discussion this week around Pomeroy and on social media.
Ohio Valley Publishing spoke with both the Meigs County Health Department (MCHD) and Amy Blake, owner of Tuckerman’s and Tuckerman’s Too, regarding the matter.
Communication between the MCHD and Blake began in August regarding the need to apply for a food license and upgrades which would be needed to the building in order to obtain that license.
“The recent discussion about the MCHD requiring Tuckerman’s Too to become licensed per State law provides us an opportunity to educate the public about what we are required to do to prevent, promote and protect public health in Meigs County. One of the 10 Essential Services of Public Health is to enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety,” stated the MCHD in a statement on social media earlier this week.
“Our two Registered Sanitarians (RS) are charged with enforcing the requirements of State law. They have went above and beyond to work with Tuckerman’s management since Aug. 2018 on getting them licensed. They have advocated for Tuckermans with the Ohio Dept. of Health and the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture to identify alternatives to licensure. Our RSs have consulted with the Village of Pomeroy regarding building approval,” added the statement.
Currently there are several Level 1 businesses in the county, with only one Level 2 business, Swisher and Loshe/Jittery Joe’s.
Types of food licenses involved in this matter include:
Risk Level 1 — These businesses pose potential risk to the public in terms of sanitation, food labeling, sources of food, storage practices, or expiration dates. Level 1 is the least risky of all food licenses. They are inspected once per year and cost $178. Examples of Level 1 activities include selling only prepackaged goods, although, coffee and self-service fountain drinks are permitted.
Risk Level 2 — Level 2 businesses pose a higher risk to the public than risk level 1 because of hand contact or employee health concerns but minimal possibility of pathogenic growth exists. These facilities are also inspected only once per year. The cost of a level 2 license is $203. Examples of Level 2 activities include handling non-potentially hazardous foods, holding foods for sale at the same temperature in which they were received and heating individually packaged, commercially processed, potentially hazardous foods for immediate service.
As merchandise in the business was in early September, it would have required a Level 2 license as there was food items which were not pre-packaged, and therefore were handled by store employees.
This mainly pertained to the “bulk candy case”, with the popcorn also an issues as it is prepared and handled.
In order to be exempt from the license requirement, a store may have 200 square feet, or less, of pre-packaged, non-potentially hazardous items.
A formal letter was sent from the MCHD to Blake in mid-September stating the required corrections to be up to code. The letter stated that the matter is to be re-evaluated on Oct. 1.
According to emails provided by the MCHD, communication had been taking place regarding the requirements, with Larry Fisher Executive Director of ACENet also involved in some of the meetings and communication working to help the business.
The requirements include, a hand sink in or near the restroom; the three compartment sink must be moved from under the stairs (hand sink may go there); utility sink for mop water must be added; areas with missing title or plaster must be repaired; areas subject to moisture must also have non-porous surfaces for walls and floors and have coving added; one person per shift needs to be Level 1 certified in food safety.
“It’s not that we don’t want to comply,” said Blake. She explained that she is currently in an older building, which previously housed a retail business, that is to be a temporary location for her. Blake does not own the building, but is working with the building owner, who is currently not local, to see what can be done.
“The community is trying to help facilitate what needs to be done,” said Blake, expressing her gratitude to the merchants and others in the community for their help and support.
Leading up to that Oct. 1 review, Blake has taken steps to be in compliance, beginning with a liquidation of the bulk candy.
Blake posted to social media on Wednesday evening that a liquidation sale would begin when the store opened at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Arriving at work on Thursday, she said many merchants there waiting, along with a steady flow of shoppers until the candy was gone by 2 p.m.
Blake said her concern is that without the candy business will not be the same, but that Tuckerman’s is much more than just the candy.
Health Department Administrator Courtney Midkiff stated that the health department is “pro-business and is not trying to put anybody out of business.”
“Our staff have been working with the Ohio Department Department of Agriculture and the village to see what options are available,” added Midkiff.
In addition to liquidating the candy, Blake has arranged her displays and shelves. She stated that the store is now under the 200 square feet requirement.
Blake hopes that when the review takes place there can be a solution that is feasible for all parties to allow for things to move forward.
“I just want to say how much I appreciate the support from my friends, customers and community, truly from the bottom of my heart. When I started ‘Tuckerman’s’ I knew I wanted it to be a place where ‘community’ would reside and flourish, it has far exceeded mine and the ladies that believed in my dream ever expected. I wouldn’t change a thing about the past year and a half, I have been truly blessed by each and every one of you that have supported, shopped and believed in what we are doing,” said Blake in a statement on the business’ Facebook page Friday night.
“With that being said, it’s time to let everyone calm down and truly find a solution, not attack the Health Department who is a vital part of our community. I feel confident there will be a resolution next week …. either way it’s been the most amazing ride! It has forever changed my life and the life of others and that’s truly all I ever hoped for,” concluded Blake.
Midkiff, Environmental Health Director Steve Swatzel and Registered Sanitarian Dawn Keller stated that they welcome calls from anyone who has questions or concerns about food licenses or this specific situation. You may reach the health department at 740-992-6626.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.