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Newly Remodeled Liberty IGA And Ace Hardware Now Open In Kentucky

At the grand reopening event at Liberty IGA in Liberty, Kentucky, the ribbon is cut by store owners Rick Davis and Scott Blair; also attending were representatives from the store’s wholesaler, Laurel Grocery Co.: President David Pearson and CEO Winston Griffin.
At the grand reopening event at Liberty IGA in Liberty, Kentucky, the ribbon is cut by store owners Rick Davis and Scott Blair; also attending were representatives from the store’s wholesaler, Laurel Grocery Co.: President David Pearson and CEO Winston Griffin.

Liberty, Kentucky’s fully remodeled Liberty IGA store reopened its doors Jan. 18, with a ribbon cutting to celebrate.

The store was expanded by about 6,000 s.f., approximately 5,300 s.f. of that in an adjacent Ace Hardware store. The store now is more than 20,000 s.f.

The overall shopping center where the store is located also was redone, and a Little Caesars Pizza was added.

Rick and Suzette Davis, their daughter Tiffany and her husband, Scott Blair, and other members of their families are the owners of the IGA, Ace Hardware, Little Caesars and the shopping center.

Through the flood

The shopping center could have shut down in 2010. A flood hit the town of Liberty on May 2 and poured four feet of water into the grocery store, causing significant damage and loss of product. The entire center sustained damage.

At the time, Davis owned the shopping center and the real estate under it with business partner Kevin Wessling. Liberty IGA would reopen under the ownership of Scott and Tiffany Blair about seven weeks following the flood, on June 25. The entire store had to be gutted and then re-drywalled, restocked, etc.

Davis and Wessling retained ownership of the real estate.

Since that time, the Liberty IGA and the shopping center have come under the common ownership of the Blairs and Davises.

Considering some changes

In the summer of 2013, talks of adding Ace Hardware and/or a remodel of the IGA began, but due to space limitations and lease and budgetary concerns, plans had to be put off until the plan was feasible, Blair told The Shelby Report.

By October 2015, the door was being opened on the expansion process, as two co-tenants left the shopping center.

By March 2016, the Little Caesars Pizza store became a replacement tenant.

On July 5, 2016, the remodel of Liberty IGA and the addition of Ace Hardware began with the removal of a wall.

A diverse product array at Ace Hardware

The Ace Hardware at Liberty IGA soft-opened Oct. 21 last year while store décor changes continued.

Ace sells approximately 18,000 SKUs, but the store has access to 80,000 more SKUs through its Ace distributor, RSC in Gainesville, Georgia, and another 200,000-300,000 SKUs via direct relationship between Ace Hardware and other manufacturers through a drop-ship/bill-through program.

Blair said, “Not only was core hardware added, but we added niche departments/vendors that Ace put emphasis on and we felt tied in with the existing IGA supermarket.”

These include Stihl outdoor/power equipment; Bass Pro-branded fishing gear; Muck Boots; Yeti coolers; Big Green Egg; small kitchen/household appliances like toasters, griddles, coffee makers, mixers, blenders, irons, etc.; kitchen gadgets under labels such as OXO and Good Cooks (offering a good, better, best variety when combined with existing gadget assortment); and cookware and bakeware under labels like T-Fal, Farberware, Lodge Cast Iron and Pyrex.

In addition to the Ace Hardware—which has two checkouts that can be used for not only hardware but grocery purchases as well—the store now has public restrooms; a Stihl equipment service technician area; and a reconfigured customer service counter up front.

The frozen food department and non-food gondolas were temporarily relocated so that new frozen food equipment could be installed and the deli-bakery department could be reconfigured.

Family runs through it

There are more than a few family connections at work at the Liberty IGA shopping center.

Rick Davis and his wife Suzette have both of their daughters—Tiffany and Amber—working for the company.

Tiffany and Scott Blair moved back to Kentucky in the summer of 2005 after getting married and completing college. Scott began working for his father-in-law in 2006 and, under his mentorship, learned the grocery business and how to run a store, Blair said.

Blair became store manager at Liberty IGA and later supervised multiple stores for Davis and Wessling.

A former nurse, Tiffany has been “primarily running the household” since son RJ was born in 2007 and daughter Alyssa came along in 2010, according to Blair. “She is now, with the kids being fully in school, beginning to handle much of the accounting work for the family businesses,” he said.

The Little Caesars business is owned by the Blairs, Davises and the Davises’ younger daughter, Amber Bloomer, and her husband, Macy. Amber, also formerly a nurse, operates the Little Caesars; Macy is the Ace hardware manager for Liberty IGA.

The operations and management of the businesses are handled by Scott and Tiffany; Rick and Suzette supply “support, opinions and consultation when necessary and needed,” Scott Blair said.

The family connections are found at the store level as well. The grocery department is managed by Scott’s brother-in-law, Paul Maloney, who is married to one of Scott’s half-sisters. Maloney has worked at Liberty IGA since 2009.

All in all, according to Blair, the store’s core management team has been together for nearly a decade, with many having been at the store prior to Davis and Wessling owning the store.

Members of the management team include:

• Shirley Dalton, produce manager, who has been at the store since late ’70s.

• Billy Caudill, meat manager since 2006, joined IGA in 2005.

• Andy Hensly, assistant manager and IT coordinator, joined Liberty in 2010 following the reopening, having worked for Rick Davis and Scott Blair in prior locations since 2007.

• Charlene Bryant, pricing and receiving coordinator, joined the company in the early 2000s.

• Lisa Wells, front-end manager, is a 20-plus-year store veteran.

• Anthony McFarland, stock crew supervisor, came to IGA in 2009.

• Amos Rodgers, assistant produce manager and assistant manager, has been with IGA for more than seven years.

• Jessica King, assistant and closing manager, has been with IGA for five-plus years, going from cashier to deli clerk to closing manager.

The Laurel Grocery connection

The store is supplied by Laurel Grocery Co. (LGC), which is based in London, Kentucky. Rick Davis worked for LGC for a time in the late ’90s and into the early 2000s. Davis has owned several stores supplied by LGC as well as former Smith & Woods stores in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

Due to medical issues, Davis let the Tennessee and Georgia locations go about 10 years ago.

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