All things considered, Rich Chadwick’s two Everyday IGA stores in Great Falls, Montana, and Teeple’s IGA in Browning are enjoying a strong state and local economy.
“I think the economy has grown in Great Falls. I think wages have grown quite a lot in the Great Falls area,” said Chadwick, adding that there are several multi-family housing projects under way in the area, “which is something that hasn’t happened in years.”
“I think the economy for Great Falls and Cascade County, and really the state of Montana, is on fire.”
Chadwick has worked in the grocery industry for about 45 years, getting his start at an Albertsons while in high school. He’s been an independent retailer for about 27 years.
He opened the first Everyday IGA in Great Falls in 2008, then added a second, smaller location downtown in 2015. He purchased the Browning location in 2017. Chadwick said he’s not looking to expand and instead is trying to slow down a little.
His stores came through the COVID-19 pandemic “really well” as far as sales go but faced issues such as supply chain shortages and local government placing limits on the number of customers allowed inside. As they return to a sense of normalcy, Chadwick is having “the same issues that I think everyone in the country is having – hiring and retaining help is a challenge, which I think is a direct result of the pandemic. There are still some supply chain shortages, just in certain categories right now.”
Inflation poses additional challenges, with the rising cost of gasoline front and foremost because “everything revolves around that fuel price,” Chadwick said. “That’s what’s driving a lot of the inflation everywhere because the manufacturers, the growers, the shippers, the retailers are all paying higher energy costs.”
Due to higher prices in the grocery stores, customers are trading down to private label or just going without certain things. “The average family is spending 50 bucks a week to drive to work. It’s got to come out of somewhere,” Chadwick said.
His stores are emphasizing their private label products as a quality value brand and working with vendors and manufacturers to create in-store temporary price reductions.
The deli departments at Chadwick’s stores feature grab-and-go and heat-and-eat options. They also have traditional deli foods, such as fried chicken, salads, sliced meats and cheeses.
“We’re always trying to grow our deli business…they do a great job,” Chadwick said. “We do daily lunch specials and obviously the grab and go’s, the different cheeses and things like that. At the holidays, we do a lot of party trays and in-store made sandwiches… Quality is kind of what we hang our hat on.”
In an effort to increase energy efficiency, Chadwick installed LED lights in both of his Great Falls stores a couple of years ago. He also put in self-checkouts, or fast lanes, in October. They have been well received by customers.
Chadwick said Everyday IGA will launch its e-commerce program June 29. While the stores always have had a good delivery business, using a local delivery company, the new online service also will include curbside pickup.
“The online presence was a kind of a long workaround, because we had to upgrade our front-end systems so that we can integrate to Freshop and that kind of stuff,” he said.
Even though there is competition in Great Falls – from big box stores to other independents – Chadwick’s customers are loyal.
“We’re neighborhood stores,” he said. “We have great customers, and we have great employees that take great care of our customers…we believe taking care of the customers will get us more customers.”
Everyday IGA is a true community grocer, serving its neighborhoods and getting to know its customers.
“We know a lot of our customers by name and kind of watch their families grow up,” Chadwick said. “We work with the food banks in Great Falls a lot and we have a Pioneer League baseball team that we do a lot of sponsorship with.”
Everyday IGA has a T-shirt giveaway to kids at the first Sunday game of the year. On the back, the store has printed a season ticket. “If they wear their T-shirts, they get in the game free,” he said.
For Chadwick, his favorite part of the job is “the people who work alongside me to give our customers a positive shopping experience.”
For more information, visit everydaygreatfalls.iga.com.