When Island Market IGA opened in January 2021 on North Padre Island, just outside of Corpus Christi, Texas, it became the only grocer. The family-owned and -operated independent retailer is a resource for residents, who previously had to travel about seven miles off the island to the nearest grocery store.
Josh Meadows and his wife, Farrah Rasheed, operate the 20,000-square-foot grocery store, owned by Farrah’s parents. Meadows serves as operations manager, while Rasheed is store manager.
Having worked at H-E-B for a while, Meadows came into the business from working as a vendor in the linen industry. When Rasheed’s parents asked if the couple would want to help them operate the new store as a family business, they agreed to run it.
Meadows said the community has welcomed the store. He noted there is just one bridge to the mainland. Being a tourist destination, traffic congestion can be a problem during peak season.
“It’s actually quite frustrating for folks, because they don’t want to leave the island,” he explained. “They actually have a saying around here, they call it OTB, which stands for ‘over the bridge.’ They’ll get locked into these little competitions about how long it’s been since somebody’s had to go over the bridge.
“Once we opened the grocery store here on the island, it made it easier for them to stay… hopefully, we contributed a little bit to people getting better scores in that little competition.”
Island Market IGA is a conventional grocery store. While it does not offer curbside, delivery is available through Instacart.
Meadows said one of the advantages of Instacart is that it allows them to deliver beer and wine. He tries to promote the idea of people having those items delivered, since many vacationers are at the beach all day. That way, “nobody has to get out and drive…people can do their beer runs without actually having to go anywhere. And it…helps keep the community a little bit safer.”
Island Market IGA is a supporter of local manufacturers and products. “That’s one of the things that I would definitely put on our highlight reel,” said Meadows, adding that the store buys from one of the region’s last independent dairy farms. “We get milk and cheese. And on the day of delivery…we can actually boast having the freshest milk in South Texas. The farm is in a little town called Sandia.”
Meadows said the store has been impacted significantly by inflation, along with some property tax issues. He said people are more cautious with their spending. However, being a tourist destination does help some.
Given the store’s Gulf of Mexico location, severe weather is always a concern. While the building was constructed with hurricanes in mind, Meadows said they have not experienced one since being open. However, he said the collapse of the polar vortex in February 2021 was a challenging time.
“The whole state of Texas froze over. We found just how quickly your grocery store becomes less like free-market enterprise and more emergency management.”
While many were without power, Island Market IGA became a source for food and water. “At some point, you’ve really got to step up and be that resource for the community in trying times.
“I anticipate, in the hurricane scenario, it’s going to be like that. We’re going to try to be the last place to close and the first place to open, and then just make sure that we have the emergency supplies readily available.”
Meadows said the winter event put a lot of stress on the supply chain. He reached out to additional vendors to try to get water delivered to the store. As the store’s primary warehouse is in Houston, they were able to get trucks through while stores stocked out of San Antonio were unable to do so due to icy road conditions.
“We got lucky in that respect. You get more involved in logistics than you ever thought you would, once you’re trying to manage an emergency.”
Meadows said his favorite part of being an independent grocer is the flexibility.
“We don’t have to answer to corporate, really. Essentially, corporate is my mother-in-law, and her office is right over there. I walk over there and say, ‘Hey, this is an idea that I have that I want to do.’”
As the store opened in the middle of the pandemic, Meadows said the supply chain issue was challenging. “We had a lot of our national brands that would just blip in and out of existence. A product would be available for a little while, and then we wouldn’t see it for months.”
Being able to change planograms quickly allowed them to better manage out of stocks. As a result, they were able to keep items on the shelves.
“We had a lot of customers who would come into our store and be very, very, very surprised that we were so well stocked, because we had that ability to make those changes to our planograms without requiring any long corporate approval process.”