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IGA Honors Retailers, LDCs At Its Annual Global Rally

IGA Awards, LDCs, Retailers
Eddie Minton, recently retired director of IGA operations for MDI, and his wife receive the J. Frank Grimes Award from IGA’s Mark Batenic and John Ross.

Among the many awards IGA presented at its Awards of Excellence Brunch at the San Diego Air & Space Museum on Feb. 24—during its 2019 Global Rally, Feb. 22-24 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina—was the J. Frank Grimes Award, created in honor of IGA’s founder. This award is presented at the discretion of the IGA chairman to “those who are driven to work beyond their own needs and desires to achieve goals benefiting the IGA brand.”

The award winner, Eddie Minton, who recently retired as director of IGA operations for MDI in Hickory, North Carolina, started his grocery career as a bag boy while in high school. After serving in the military and going to college, he returned to the industry and never left. In total he’s spent well over 50 years working in retail, “ultimately ending up as the IGA champion on one of IGA’s most dedicated LDCs,” according to IGA. “Known throughout the industry for his passion, dedication, and an unmatched work ethic, Minton has guided the successful development of countless employees and business owners, inspiring a legion of IGA believers in his wake.”

When IGA asked people how they would describe Minton’s impact on their careers and their lives, it says they spoke about the irreplaceable knowledge he has about the industry and the people he’s worked so hard to support. They also spoke of his warmth and wit, and how much they valued not just his mentorship, but also his friendship.

International Retailer of the Year hails from Montana

The judging process for IGA USA International Retailer of the Year began in the fall of 2018, when IGA President and CEO John Ross, IGA VP Doug Fritsch, and last year’s International Retailers of the Year—Gary and Terrie Baker of Baker’s IGA—visited each of the candidates’ stores to get a feel for how they are serving the shoppers of their communities. In the end, Gary & Leo’s Laura Malisani was chosen as IGA USA International Retailer of the Year, joining a winner’s circle of global retailers chosen within their own countries. The store is located in Havre, Montana.

Malisani grew up working in the family’s Gary & Leo’s grocery store learning valuable business lessons from her father, Gary, and his business partner, Leo. Today Laura, her husband John, and their business partner Tracy own three Gary and Leo’s Fresh Foods IGA locations, including the award-winning Havre store known for its commitment to local products and high-quality offerings.

With lots of standout features to keep shoppers coming back, Gary & Leo’s Havre is the primary grocery destination in the area, according to IGA. The store’s scratch bakery “makes some of the most delicious on-premise baked goods of any store in the state,” IGA says. “The deli serves a wide selection of ready-to-eat meals—most made daily using their own unique family recipes and local ingredients. A full-service coffee bar at the front of the store invites shoppers to slow down, talk with friends, and enjoy their shopping experience.”

For Laura, though, the store’s true distinction is their commitment to service and relationship building. She says the company’s “Family, Friends and Food” tagline is more than just an advertising slogan—it describes a culture rooted in generations of families and friends working together to bring value to everyone involved—the business, employees and, of course, the shoppers.

As Laura’s dad used to say: “You can feel good about selling people something they need at a fair price. Treat people well, help when you can, and it is a good life.”

Gary & Leo’s is supplied by Supervalu-Billings.

IGA Awards, LDCs, Retailers
From left: IGA Chairman Mark Batenic; Hometown Proud Retailers for 2019 Mack McLamb; Kevin and Rose Schild; Laura Malisani; Jim Shook and his daughter Allison; and IGA CEO John Ross.

Malisani was among the 2019 IGA USA Hometown Proud Retailers, “who stand out as the best retailers among the nation’s more than 30,000 independent retailers,” IGA says.

Each year, IGA honors a select few who stand out as the best retailers among the nation’s more than 30,000 independent retailers. From this winners’ circle of IGA Hometown Proud Retailers, IGA then chooses its IGA USA International Retailer of the Year.

The other Hometown Proud Retailers for 2019 are: Mack McLamb, Carlie C’s IGA, Dunn, North Carolina, serviced by MDI; Kevin and Rose Schild, Schild’s IGA, Grafton, Ohio, serviced by Laurel Grocery Co.; and Jim Shook, Lake Region IGA, Hawley, Pennsylvania, serviced by Bozzuto’s.

LDCs honored

In addition, three IGA Licensed Distribution Centers (LDCs) were honored for their leadership and innovation in the advancement of the IGA Brands and its retailers.

The IGA USA LDC of the Year is Bozzuto’s Inc.

Bozzuto’s has been an IGA LDC for about 50 years. The Cheshire, Connecticut-based company had a number of significant contributions in support of IGA and IGA retailers in 2018, according to the alliance. These include:

IGA Awards, LDCs, Retailers
Michael Bozzuto with his company’s award.

• Strongly backing the IGA National Digital Ad, going above and beyond to provide feedback and ongoing support to help us to develop, fine tune, and then maintain the most effective programs and offers possible.

• Serving as a conduit between IGA and their retailers and encouraging those retailers to engage with their brand at a deeper level—like attending Town Hall meetings, supporting existing programs, and signing on as early adopters to new programs.

• Working directly with IGA to pilot the Local Equals Fresh brand position in all areas of the store, and serving as a resource for how other IGA retailers can bring it to life in their stores.

• Demonstrating the importance of training as a true market differentiator through ongoing support of the IGA Coca-Cola Institute and its upcoming Supermarket Management Class

• Supplying their retailers with more than 950 SKUs from the IGA Exclusive Brand line and offering insights on how to merchandise IGA products.

• Making a huge investment in cause marketing through their Hometown Proud Foundation, raising more than $10 million for Special Olympics and other worthy charities since the inception of the foundation in 2002.

The 2019 IGA USA Award for Brand Development went to Laurel Grocery Co. in London, Kentucky.

IGA Awards, LDCs, Retailers
David Pearson, Kip Faulhaber and Winston Griffin of Laurel Grocery (center) accept their award.

IGA says Laurel Grocery has a reputation for setting the pace for change at IGA by volunteering to test programs in its company stores prior to an IGA-wide launch. “Their ‘let us go first’ enthusiasm came shining through again in 2018, as they took leadership roles to pilot both the National Digital Ad and IGA’s Local Equals Fresh merchandising, going so far as to invite the IGA National Retailer Advisory Board to hold their fall meeting at a corporate store that had been fully branded with all of IGA’s initiatives,” IGA says. “Their valuable feedback and insight into these and many other IGA programs have been instrumental in helping us build better retailer resources and a stronger, more visible brand.”

The 2019 Licensed Distribution Center Award for Store Growth went to MDI.

IGA Awards, LDCs, Retailers
Bob McTeir and other MDI representatives accept their award.

According to IGA, MDI consistently advances IGA as their brand of choice for prospective retailers. In 2018 they had the largest increase in IGA store count among all IGA LDCs, continuing an upward trend of growth that shows a 61 percent increase in IGA store count over the last 10 years, from 92 stores in 2008 to 149 stores in 2018.

To see all the awards bestowed by IGA, click here.

About the author


Lorrie Griffith

An observer of the grocery industry since 1988. Away from her editor job, she's a wife and mother of two grown sons and thinks cooking is (usually) relaxing.

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