Isom IGA to reopen after devastating July floods

The Kentucky store will officially open its doors on Wednesday after nine months of repairs.
Isom IGA in Isom, Kentucky, is now ready to welcome shoppers back into the grocery store. / Photo courtesy: IGA

Following the devastation caused by last July’s flooding in Kentucky, Isom IGA is finally ready to welcome shoppers back into the grocery store.

After nearly nine months of repairs, the grocery store in Isom, Kentucky, will reopen its doors. A vital community food source in Letcher County, the 16,000-square-foot store at 29 Isom Drive will host a soft opening on Saturday at 7 a.m. and an official ribbon cutting event at 9.a.m on Wednesday.

“To see a hometown grocer like Isom IGA be rebuilt with an overwhelming amount of national and community support speaks to its vital role in its neighborhood,” said IGA CEO John Ross, who will attend the grand re-opening. “Not many small businesses are able to make a comeback after such devastation, but this independent retailer has defied the odds with a great triumph. We eagerly anticipate the good that is to come in Isom IGA’s next chapter.”

After a 12-hour deluge in eastern Kentucky brought 7-10 inches of rain overnight and raised the North Fork Kentucky River about 11 feet above flood stage late last July—an occurrence the National Weather Service deemed a one-in-1,000 chance of happening in the area—the grocery store was considered a total loss by its insurance company. Products were knocked off shelves after more than six feet of water had crested and retreated inside the store.

The store opened in 1973, with Gwen Christon joining the team that summer. Twenty-five years later, she bought the store with her husband, Arthur, and said that it is more than a store to her.

"The store is my home away from home, and the employees and community are an extension of my family," she said in a statement.

Christon was named Woman of the Year by the Women Grocers of America (WGA) at the NGA Show in February. 

After the flood, the community needed food and Christon rose to the occasion even while clean-up was underway at the store. She lent the Isom IGA parking lot to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit providing freshly made, nutritious meals to anyone who needed them.

The Alex Lee, Inc. team, which includes Isom IGA’s distributor MDI, played a major role in coordinating restoration and funding efforts for the local grocer, IGA said.

Although insurance helped cover a quarter of the cost (at least $2 million) to reopen, as soon as disaster struck, the MDI and Alex Lee, Inc. team took action, researching available funding avenues, including FEMA relief, grants, and small business loans, according to an IGA statement.

As cleanup continued, IGA set up a GoFundMe page for small donations, where many IGA retailers, as well as grocers and wholesalers across the country, donated. The IGA Hometown Proud Foundation also helped Christon rebuild and supported the communities affected by the flooding.

Good Morning America’s sponsor Netspend donated $10,000 toward Isom IGA’s rebuilding efforts. Father Jim Sichko, a preacher based in the Diocese of Lexington, collected donations from companies like Delta Airlines, and University of Kentucky President Eli Capitulo provided a $75,000donation to help Christon reopen, IGA said in a statement.



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