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Isom IGA Rebuilds, Reopens Store In Kentucky

Isom IGA

The Isom IGA store held a grand reopening celebration April 5 at 29 Isom Dr. in Isom, Kentucky. Among the many special guests, Independent Grocers Alliance CEO John Ross attended. 

A 12-hour deluge beginning July 27, 2022 in eastern Kentucky brought 7-10 inches of rain overnight and raised the North Fork Kentucky River about 11 feet above flood stage – an occurrence the National Weather Service deemed a one in 1,000 chance of happening in the area.

Following the Kentucky floods, Isom IGA was deemed a total loss by the insurance company. Products were knocked off shelves after more than six feet of water had crested and retreated inside the store.

The 16,000-square-foot store served as a grocery pillar in the Isom community and is the only full-service grocery store in town. The next-closest grocers are 12 miles away. 

The store opened in 1973, with Gwen Christon joining the team that summer. Christon bought the store with her husband Arthur, and they have owned it for almost 25 years. Over those 50 years, Isom IGA has become much more than just a job.

“The store is my home away from home, and the employees and community are an extension of my family,” she said.

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 nonprofit providing fresh, 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. 

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 team leapt into action, researching available funding avenues, including FEMA relief, grants and small business loans.

Christon publicly vowed to rebuild and reopen soon after the disaster, and Isom IGA received donations toward rebuilding efforts.

Many IGA retailers, as well as grocers and wholesalers across the country, donated to the GoFundMe campaign or IGA Hometown Proud Foundation to help Christon rebuild and support 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 to provide a $75,000 donation to help Christon reopen.

“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,” Ross said.

“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.”

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