Sink or scram: Jim’s requires hand washing

With a bit of engineering, Jim’s Package Store is making sure its customers, employees are safe.

The 55 gallon homemade mobile sink available for purchase and the hand washing sink out front of Jim’s Package Store. — Rich Saltzberg

Jim’s package store co-owner Mark Wallace is making sure his staff and customers are safe and clean with a cleverly designed sink right outside his store’s doors.

Wallace repurposed an old sink he salvaged from the hospital after one of its renovations.

He Installed the sink in March, and said it’s been a success.

Speaking to The Times by phone while up in Maine, Wallace said the sink was an easy way for him to make sure his employees and those who come into his store are being safe. He said he installed the sink after reading the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that the safest way to keep COVID-19 off your hands is to wash it off.

Compliance hasn’t been much of an issue. Wallace said he’s gotten lots of positive comments about having a clean outdoor place for customers to wash their hands.

“The best way to get 100 percent compliance is to have someone stand there, be polite, and tell them how to do the whole thing … It’s kind of like — his name is Mark Wallace — that’s why I’m up on an Island in Maine because I’m tired of it,” Wallace joked.

At first he said he had to remind people who were walking into the store they should wash their hands, but he said the nice thing about owning a liquor store is that you get a lot of regulars who after a while are rote with their hand-washing. 

An employee is also outside to make sure people wash their hands and to monitor store capacity, especially during the weekends, when a flood of people pour into the downtown Oak Bluffs streets.

Since he installed the sink in March, Wallace said he’s had about 10 people walk away after being told they have to wash their hands before entering the store.

“They say, ‘Do I have to wash my hands?’ and I say yeah, and they look at me and I go, ‘You don’t have to, you only have to if you’re coming in,’” Wallace said.

Along with the outdoor sink, Wallace came up with another way to help people stay clean during the pandemic.

Wallace, who has a lot of restaurant equipment, got several requests from friends asking for sinks during the Island’s construction ban. While sitting at his warehouse one day, Wallace was staring at a set of 55-gallon drums he had set aside. Ever the idea man, Wallace then went home and created a portable hand sink for construction sites.

Wallace’s son Sam is now selling the sinks, dubbed the “5-55 safety site solution,” at Jim’s for around $300, but can be more or less depending on the type.

“The people that respect the safety measures of COVID love it,” Wallace said. “The people that think it’s a joke have things to say, but I can handle that. I don’t let people in unless they wash their hands.”