AUGUSTA — Sondra Dufresne went to the grocery store Monday evening, but didn’t actually go inside, traverse the aisles or fill up a cart.

But she still went home to Richmond with an SUV full of groceries she selected herself.

The working mom of three kids chose her groceries online beforehand, showed up at the Whitten Road Hannaford supermarket, paid for them and then had them loaded into her vehicle at a drive-thru in front of the store.

“They pick the same stuff I would. It’s great,” she said. “It made my life a lot easier, not going grocery shopping with my kids.”

The new Hannaford To Go service, previously only at Hannaford supermarkets in Kennebunk, North Windham, Westbrook, Biddeford and Yarmouth, started at the Whitten Road Hannaford in Augusta Nov. 12.

Matt Pazdziorko, assistant manager for customer service at that Hannaford, said the service is rapidly becoming popular, especially with young families.

“Young people with a bunch of kids love this. They say they love the convenience,” Pazdziorko said. “We opened on the 12th and are already getting some repeat customers.”

Count Dufresne among them, as Monday was the second time she used the service. She said it spares her from dragging her kids — 6, 8 and 13-years-old — shopping and saves time.

“It’s good for moms and working people who don’t have much time,” she said. “And I’m both of those.”

Priscilla Zarella, of Readfield, used the service for the first time Monday, driving up to the Hannaford To Go drive-thru and paying for her items, which were loaded into her vehicle, all while she never left the driver’s seat.

She came by after work, shortly after 4 p.m., and said the time she saved by not walking through the store picking out her groceries in person would allow her to be exercising by 5:30 p.m.

She said the service is good for busy people and should also be good for elderly people who may have a hard time getting around.

Eric Blom, a spokesman for Hannaford, said the service should be useful for working parents, people who don’t like to shop and people who may have mobility issues that make it hard for them to get around a store.

Customers must first set up an online account at

Then they can pick out their items online from a computer or mobile device from Hannaford’s site, choosing from the same items they’d be able to choose from at the store for the same prices.

The first trip is free and the maximum service charge after that is $5 per trip, though it is free if customers buy more than a specified value of groceries. Pazdziorko said customers in Augusta purchasing less than $125 worth of items are charged the $5 service fee, while the service is free for customers purchasing items totaling more than $125.

Zarella and Dufresne both said they thought the service was worth the $5.

Blom said Hannaford is the only supermarket offering such a service in Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont. The service first came to a Hannaford in Dover, New Hampshire, several years ago.

Officials of Shaw’s supermarkets, Hannaford’s major competitor in Maine, could not be reached for comment.

Blom said customers can use coupons and pay the same way they would in the store, including with credit cards.

After customers place their orders, Hannaford employees, armed with hand-held electronic devices containing their order, go through the store and pick out the items on the customer’s list. The employees then bag them up and have them waiting for the customers when they arrive at a scheduled time.

Customer vehicles can be loaded up at the drive-thru lane or, if things get busy, in one of six parking spaces reserved for Hannaford To Go customers near the front of the store. During two separate, one-hour-each time periods last week, no users of the service were observed parking in the reserved spaces, leaving them vacant.

Blom said adding new services and the parking they require while still providing customers the convenient parking they want and deserve can be a bit of a balancing act.

There are refrigerators, freezers and heating appliances in the Hannaford To Go area to keep customers’ items hot or cold until they are picked up. Blom said customers can make special requests, such as a steak with lots of marbling or a certain number of bananas.

“We’re always looking for new ways to help our customers, to make shopping easier for them. That’s the overarching reason,” Blom said of adding the new service in one of the two Hannafords in Augusta. “This is something that can speed the process for customers. Beyond that, customers are increasingly becoming more used to ordering things online.”

Blom said the Hannaford employees who work in Hannaford To Go are specifically assigned to that job. Some are new hires, and others are employees who transferred into those jobs.

He said the company is not concerned the new form of shopping will hurt sales by decreasing the number of “impulse buys” shoppers may make as they go through the store.

Mike Norton, a spokesman for Hannaford, said the chain has long-term plans “in the pipeline” to add the service, maybe next year, in Bangor and the Hannaford by the Maine Mall in South Portland. He said the service won’t necessarily be added at every store with those decisions to be based upon customer need and different markets.

Customers may pick up their groceries ordered through the service between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. with same-day pickup available on orders placed before 3 p.m. Customers generally need to allow for at least four hours between the time they order and the time they pick up their groceries.

Some items, such as greeting cards and prescription drugs, are not available through the service. Alcoholic items are available, as long as both the person paying for the items and the driver have identification indicating they are at least 21 years old.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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