IGA named five retailers to its 2020 class of Hometown Proud Retailers, one of which will be selected as the IGA USA International Retailer of the Year during the Awards of Excellence Brunch in March.
“The five IGA USA Hometown Proud Retailers are the ultimate example of why independent entrepreneurialism is so important in this country,” IGA CEO John Ross said. “Each of these winning retailers is far more than just a grocer. They are enterprising community leaders working with local farmers and makers to promote the fresh, local offerings unique to their area; mentors helping to develop skills and create careers for the people of their communities; and philanthropists giving back and supporting the economic development of the communities they serve.”
Here are the five Hometown Proud Retailers.
Robert Rybick, Geissler's Supermarket, Somers, Conn.
When A.F. Geissler opened the first of Geissler’s supermarkets in 1923, he was one of the first in the industry to offer home delivery. Nearly a century later, the technology for home delivery has changed, but A.F. Geissler’s trailblazing spirit lives on in the stores now operated by Robert Rybick, who represents the fourth generation. In the past year, Geissler’s Supermarket has expanded its reputation as a hometown proud grocer to a leader in online offerings, "Local Equals Fresh" farm-to-store sourcing and global flavors and culture.
In 2019, the company optimized its website for mobile, expanded digital marketing and social media efforts, and it launched a catering website to provide more custom offerings to a larger client base, including corporate clients. Thanks to those upgrades, Geissler’s saw a 50% increase in website traffic. Future plans include revamping the Geissler’s e-commerce website and adding loyalty and CRM (customer relationship management) functions to the existing infrastructure to better connect with customers. Marketing efforts will include using social media to educate customers about local partnerships, from family-made fresh mozzarella to an automated lettuce facility, and even charcuterie made a few miles away.
To add to the local commitment, Geissler’s has partnered with local chef Jay Lewis, who frequently holds demonstrations in front of the store with his home-built smoker as well as digital educational programs on global flavors and culture and local and global sustainability.
Ron Martin, Grant’s IGA, Bluewell, W.Va.
Grant’s IGA Supermarkets, currently spanning 16 retail locations, is deeply invested in communities throughout southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia. To save several communities from becoming food deserts after national chains exited the area, Grant’s stepped in to purchase and renovate those stores to provide a full-service grocery store—often, the only one in these small towns.
The leadership team is especially qualified to aid these communities, with Ron Martin helping grow the area through economic efforts as the mayor of Bluefield, W.Va., and overseeing the day-to-day operations of Grant’s IGA; Ronnie Cruey leading renovation efforts in the new locations and then leading the full-service and meat departments once the locations open; and Randle Grant, who learned the business from his parents, founders W.R. and Cora Grant, and brings years of experience and knowledge to the group.
Chang So, Hollister Super IGA No. 2, Hollister, Calif.
Owner Chang So has designed his Hollister, Calif., store for his primary demographic of Hispanic customers. The store features a mural outside titled, “El sueno de la humanidad” (the dream of humanity), and colorful in-store decor, including pinatas.
Hollister Super IGA is stocked with local community favorites, including fresh seafood and a variety of fresh tortillas, and a large produce department. So even found a way to reduce marketing costs while benefiting both customers and the store’s bottom line by running the flyer every other week, lengthening the sale period so shoppers can return multiple times for specials.
So values team participation, encouraging employees to share ideas for best practice. That encouragement led to an employee suggestion to open the store entrance for easier customer access. The team moved a few checkout stands and produce tables, which resulted in a 3% increase in produce sales and multiple compliments from customers.
Judy Gabriele, Nemenz IGA, Struthers, Ohio
When Gustav Nemenz started selling his handmade sausage from home during the Great Depression, he was a true entrepreneur and artisan, partnering with local farmers and slaughtering and butchering the livestock himself. The entrepreneurial spirit lived on in his son, Henry, who tested stores and side projects while maintaining his family’s supermarket. His daughter, Judy, and her husband, Don, now operate the store, continuing a tradition of offering local foods and products whenever possible.
Just as Gustav’s handmade sausage founded the business in 1930, Nemenz IGA is known for their departments in which handmade foods shine. The bakery decorates 100 special order cakes on Saturdays and 800 loaves of fresh-baked bread daily. The deli and prepared foods department are famous for the Friday fish special, hot chicken, fresh and ready-to-bake pizzas and handmade Saxon sausage (Gustav’s recipe).
Tyler Myers, North Albany IGA, Albany, Ore.
When Tyler Myers opened the North Albany IGA store in North Albany, Ore., he had ambitious goals. The store is the only independently owned grocer in Albany. The location—across the Willamette River from chain stores such as Walmart, Costco, Safeway, Grocery Outlet and more—was in a food desert where previous stores had failed or closed over the years. While the community needed a quality grocer on that side of town, how could an independent compete with the low prices afforded by national chains?
Myers’ strategic partnerships with IGA, Ace Hardware and a local credit union brought his ambitious goals to fruition. North Albany IGA provides truly local and fresh foods to the community. Myers designed the store with his shoppers’ convenience in mind. The local credit union in the front of the store can handle banking needs, and the Ace Hardware encompasses about 30% of the store’s space, eliminating a trip to another store for quality hardware supplies. Myers’ team even petitioned for a state agency license so they could sell liquor on-site, and they built a separate liquor store for that offering (per state law). Shoppers simply can’t find that number of services and conveniences at another store.
When building the store, Myers looked at each department and category to evaluate how to bring more local products into these areas. Thanks to that evaluation, shoppers can find a plethora of locally produced items, including pies, dairy, salsas and meats.