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Foothills IGA’s Former Owners Receive ‘Spirit of IGA’ Award

Foothills IGA accepting the Spirit of IGA award from John Ross, president and CEO.

The Independent Grocers Alliance has honored Jeff and Sandy Downing, former owners of Foothills IGA in Marble Hill, Georgia, with the “Spirit of IGA” Award in recognition of their store’s customer service, high-quality food and community engagement over the past 21 years.

The award also recognizes the contributions of the Downings, who are enjoying retirement after selling the store to Lowes Foods, owned by Alex Lee Inc., which has taken over its daily operations.

IGA CEO John Ross visited Foothills IGA in Marble Hill, Georgia on Sept. 15 to present the award in front of friends, family and staff.

“On behalf of all 6,500 IGA stores around the globe and on behalf of everybody at IGA, we congratulate you on your retirement. When we heard the news, we were certainly so proud of the two of you,” Ross said.

“After all of those long hours, now comes the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family. We’re envious, we’re excited for you and we’re so proud.” 

Jeff Downing said he was honored to receive the award, “especially on behalf of the present employees and the former employees that have worked here over the last 21 years now. It’s been an honor to be part of that family.” 

In 2015, Jeff Downing and Foothills IGA were named IGA International Retailer of the Year. The store has also received IGA’s Five Star status multiple times.

Downing has been an IGA member since 1997, when he founded Bryson City IGA in Bryson City, North Carolina, which he sold in 2005. He opened Foothills IGA in 2002.

“The good news is the store is going to be well taken care of by someone who’s already part of the IGA family. [Alex Lee Inc. and MDI] are incredible strategic partners and some of the best people in the industry,” Ross said.

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Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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