Panic buying of toilet paper is not the only commodity casualty of the Covid-19 crisis.


"There are no chest freezers or upright freezers to be found," said Dana Stone, owner of Tidewater Appliance, echoing the sentiments of a number of appliance store owners in the area.


She said Tidewater hasn’t had freezers in stock for about three weeks.


"Everybody is calling because people are afraid of a food shortage," she said. "We get probably 10 to 12 calls every day, people looking for freezers. People call and they are exasperated."


She said the reasons go beyond fear of a shortage of freezable foods such as meats.


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"Some people are buying because they want to stock up on food, but some people have a freezer full of food that just died and they don’t want to lose all their food," she said. "But, we have nothing. We just tell them to keep checking back. We’ve actually had a couple trickle in here and there. But every brand that we carry, we have freezers on order. They are telling us the soonest we will get any is June. Some are showing July and August."


Stone has a friend who called her when their freezer quit working. Realizing there was no quick fix, she said her friend began giving away frozen food to family, friends and neighbors so it wouldn’t go to waste.


Stone said there are multiple reasons for the shortage, including demand.


"Everybody is trying to find freezers, but they can’t find any because production of many of them comes from China and many of the parts come from overseas," Stone said. "So, when the rest of the world has problems, so do appliances. Also, here in the United States, some of the factories have shut down for a week or two or they have scattered their shifts trying to keep people apart. So, production here has in some cases either stopped or slowed down."


She is seeing the most demand for small chest-size freezers.


Keith Chappell, who has owned and operated the Sear’s Hometown Store in New Bern Mall for 15 years, answered the Sun Journal telephone inquiry about freezers by laughing.


He knew the story. Starting about six weeks ago, his last two shipments went out the door almost as quickly as they were unloaded.


"I am not going to exaggerate; I probably get 25 calls a day for freezers. The phone rings continually for freezers," he said. "We are still able to order, but I have nothing in hand."


He said the boom hit in the last couple of weeks amid stay home orders and food shortage talk.


If you are serious about getting a freezer, he advises customers not to wait.


If you order today, it should be in by late June. Wait a day or two and it might be July.


"The demand is just so phenomenal right now," he said. "Plus, everybody’s got to understand that all these factories are on skeleton shifts because of the virus. And some of them aren’t running any crews."


Plus, he said production and delivery differs among brands.


"We are in a little better position with Whirlpool, which is made here (U.S.)," he said.


Jason Peoples, whose family has owned Highland TV & Appliance on West Vernon Avenue in Kinston since the 1970s, hasn’t had freezers in stock for six weeks when the run began.


"We had a bunch, but they all went out pretty quickly," he said. "I had orders right then and none of those have come in. I don’t know what will happen. They are pretty backed up."


He said orders look to be filled at the earliest by June to late August.


"That is the date they are giving us, but you never know if that is accurate," he said. "The bigger the fish you are, the more likely you are you’ll get freezers."


He’s quit counting the phone calls after a Thursday through Saturday two weeks ago when he got about call calls a day.


"And that’s a little store like us," he said. "It does seemed to have calmed a little recently to about five to 10 calls a day."


Normally, he averages two or three freezer phone requests weekly.


Because the panic buying at his store began before any stories surfaced about potential food shortages, he has a theory about the demand.


"I think a lot of people felt like to be responsible you ought to have a freezer and they put it off and put it off," he offered. "All of a sudden, ‘maybe I ought to.’"


He also noted that dirt bike and ATV sales were up, which he thinks is due to stay at home orders at homes with children and outdoor space.


Badcock Home Furniture & more, with stores in New Bern, Kinston and Jacksonville is also able to order freezers, according to District Manager Charlie Rich. He said he cannot give a precise delivery date. He added that the stores have remained busy selling essential items, ranging from laptops to washers and dryers.


Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or charlie.hall@newbernsj.com. Follow him on Facebook at Charlie Hall.