In 1926, J. Frank Grimes founded the Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) to help family-owned neighborhood grocery stores survive against the threat of emerging chains. His vision was to surround these businesses with an alliance of peer partnerships to give them equal footing against stiff competition without destroying their independent identities or community connections.
Since then, the IGA brand has become a familiar sight, with its cheery red oval now appearing on more than 5,000 storefronts across the U.S. and around the globe. Some IGA stores are in their third or fourth generation of family ownership, and most have the feel and reputation of a true neighborhood grocery store. While the “Hometown Proud” feeling is a big part of the brand, upon closer scrutiny, it’s clear to see IGA encompasses much more than that in order to put IGA retailers in a position to win.
IGA’s CEO attributes that legacy of brand value to a history of strong leadership.
“In IGA’s first 90 years we have been fortunate to have two inspirational leaders,” said Mark Batenic, IGA president and CEO. “Founder J. Frank Grimes led the company for 40 years. He made it grow and thrive. Then, in the 1950s, his son took over the business and, during difficult times, turned to an inspirational Baptist minister from North Carolina, Dr. Tom Haggai. Between J. Frank and Dr. Tom, they have inspired family-owned entrepreneurial grocery stores to thrive amongst the competition out there today.”
For the last 90 years, IGA has provided a support system to independent retailers through resources and partnerships that help them grow and thrive in the face of intense chain competition. Even more impressive, the brand has allowed them to remain independent and connected with customers while strengthening their relationships with wholesalers and manufacturing partners. Its strategies have worked well for 90 years, but how will IGA position its independent retailers for a future in which they must become more digitally engaged with shoppers?
Find below a special Shelby Report tribute to IGA and its 90th anniversary.