FOURTH-GENERATION WHOLESALER

Ira Higdon Grocery Co. has defied the odds in reaching the age of 100. The company, based in Cairo, Ga., was founded in 1909 by Ira Higdon, a traveling salesman for a grocery company who decided to go into business for himself, selling and delivering groceries. His son, Ira Higdon Jr., joined the family business in 1935; and Ira Jr.'s son, Larry Higdon, came on board in 1972. When Larry's son Nat

Ira Higdon Grocery Co. has defied the odds in reaching the age of 100.

The company, based in Cairo, Ga., was founded in 1909 by Ira Higdon, a traveling salesman for a grocery company who decided to go into business for himself, selling and delivering groceries.

His son, Ira Higdon Jr., joined the family business in 1935; and Ira Jr.'s son, Larry Higdon, came on board in 1972. When Larry's son Nat Higdon joined the company in 1998, there was a four-year period when the latter three generations worked together before the son of the founder retired in 2002. He died that same year.

There is a fifth generation, “but they're just babies right now,” Larry Higdon, chairman, president and chief executive officer, pointed out.

Asked how he feels about the company's accomplishment in reaching 100 years, Higdon told SN, “Obviously, it feels great. It's like we started something good and we've continued to get better and continued to grow.

“Looking at some of our long-term customers, it feels like we've been raising a family, and we want to keep going that way.”

Competitors that it has outlasted include Scrivner, Certified Grocers of Florida, Affiliated Grocers of Florida and RIO, a former wholesaler based in Albany, Ga.

Higdon has been servicing customers in Georgia for all of its history; it expanded into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle about seven years ago, after Fleming Cos. went out of business, which left retailers scrambling for new sources of supply.

Most of its customers are rural, operating outside large cities, though it does service retail accounts in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and some smaller towns in the Tampa area.

Higdon said he believes the retailer who has been a Higdon customer the longest is Spires IGA, with stores in Lake Butler, Lake City and Baldwin, Fla., who became a customer almost 50 years ago.