IGA SNAPSHOTS -- A LOOK AT MEMBER STORES

Goggin's IGARandolf, MaineIGA member since 1956Goggin's IGA, opened in 1946 by a soldier just returned from World War II, is now operated by his son, Ronald Goggin, who told SN he continues to operate the family-owned store with the neighborhood in mind.To meet the evolving needs of that community, Goggin rebuilt the store four years ago. "That was quite a change," Goggin said, talking about the store's

Goggin's IGA

Randolf, Maine

IGA member since 1956

Goggin's IGA, opened in 1946 by a soldier just returned from World War II, is now operated by his son, Ronald Goggin, who told SN he continues to operate the family-owned store with the neighborhood in mind.

To meet the evolving needs of that community, Goggin rebuilt the store four years ago. "That was quite a change," Goggin said, talking about the store's expansion from 2,700 to 27,000 square feet.

Goggin said the support of IGA over the past 45 years has been essential. "We like IGA's ideas, and the way that they back us independents," he said. "Their image increases over time, and we're happy to be a part of that."

Goggin's IGA has felt the crunch from competing formats and larger chains over the years. "There's no question Wal-Mart has affected our business," he said. "Hannaford Bros., which operates a store close to us, has provided some competition as well.

"It's tough in this industry, as the gross remains the same, but costs keep climbing. That's why you need to have a competitive wholesaler, which we have in Supervalu, and it helps to have IGA behind you, too."

But Goggin's small market is situated in what Goggin said is a perfect location, which has helped the store to remain competitive over the years.

"Location, location, location, as always are the three most important factors. We're across the river from Hannaford Bros. and that has helped us remain strong in this area," he said.

Also, Goggin said owning one store has helped Goggin's focus on what's important to him: meeting the customers' needs every day.

"I certainly think it's an advantage having one store. You can do one store right, and you can be happy with that," Goggin said.

Weber's IGA Food & Drug

Sedona, Ariz.

IGA retailer since 1987

One of the founding IGA members when it came to Arizona in 1987, Weber's IGA has grown from what owner and operator Jake Weber calls a "mom-and-pop store with '40s flavor," to a large-scale food and drug combination supermarket.

Weber opened shop at 2,500 square feet and through the years it has increased in size to 30,000 square feet.

Weber told SN that the unit has an extensive liquor department, specializing in a large selection of microbrewed beer; a Hometown Pet Center co-branded with Ralston Purina; a Bank of America branch; and a hot deli department, which has boosted the store's lunchtime sales.

"There's so much within these walls that it's like shoving two pounds of stuffing into a one-pound bag," Weber joked.

The unit has over 35,000 SKUs, and the quality and quantity of items is based directly on customer input, according to Weber.

"One of the great things about operating a single store is that you can really make sure you are giving customers what they want, not what you think you should be merchandising," he said.

Weber said the store has created a niche market that will not be bothered by competition from supercenters, and his alliance with IGA has helped him along the way, he added.

"The strength of IGA has been the cornerstone for our success. The association has given us name recognition coupled with our independent flexibility," Weber said.

Weber also credited his staff with playing a key role in the operation's success. "We have outstanding people here -- they are a great asset. We have been five-star since we first joined IGA, and our people know what that means," he said.

Boulineau's Foods Plus IGA

North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

IGA member since 1993

Located in a popular resort, Boulineau's Food Plus IGA has attempted to combat the off-season lull by creating a unique market for the year-round and seasonal customer.

The recently expanded 80,000-square-foot store features a two-story design, giving shoppers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean from the second floor, according to Frank Boulineau, Boulineau's president.

The Food Plus store, in operation since 1948, joined IGA in 1993.

"We feel that the IGA association gives us great advertising recognition," Boulineau told SN. "We're on a big tourist market, and when customers come from the rest of the country down here, they see the IGA banner and know they are getting quality. That has helped us stay successful."

Boulineau's IGA also attracts shoppers, in tourist season and out, with its cafeteria. "The cafeteria has been an amazing part of our business. We have seating for 150 people, and also operate a full-service sandwich bar, and even have a pizzeria," Boulineau said.

"Almost everything we offer in the cafeteria is made from scratch. It has really become a destination for home-cooking, and is probably our best year-round department," he added.

The Mad Butcher

Pine Bluff, Ark.

IGA member since 1999

Roger Burks, chief executive officer of the seven-store Mad Butcher chain, said it didn't take long before he was convinced of the benefits of joining IGA.

"To tell you the truth, at first I was against it," Burks, told SN. "But about 15 minutes into the meeting with IGA executives, I thought to myself, 'I'd be a fool not to join.' It was a real no-brainer."

Burks said his decision to join also sparked interest in IGA from other retailers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, he said, which has helped IGA extend its national reach.

Because The Mad Butchers are located in small southern towns, and operate in a family-oriented style, Burks said the chain fits perfectly with the IGA image.

"The IGA theme blends perfectly with our name, and adds to what we have been trying to do as a family business," Burks said. "IGA is first class. From their Hometown Proud Program to their Red Oval Partners Program, everything is done well, and the people there are extremely professional."

Burks also said the IGA Web site offers him instant access to information, and that the organization of IGA helps him prepare for events and promotions long before they are put into effect.

"It has brought our costs way down. Even some of the artwork for promotions that we are provided would have cost us thousands were we to do it ourselves," Burks said.

However, Burks said he likes the close-knit atmosphere at IGA best.

"We really do feel as if we're family," he said. "Dr. Haggai and everyone in Chicago have been very attentive to us, and we feel we fit in well. We had nothing to lose in joining IGA. We have only added to our operation."

Kirby Foods

Champaign, Ill.

IGA member since 1961

Vic Buraglio, president, Kirby Foods, said perhaps the greatest benefit his company derives from its IGA membership is being part of a uniform marketing and merchandising platform.

"IGA is like a family," Buraglio told SN. "Apart from that, their programs help us market to our customers effectively, and it's much less expensive than doing things on my own.

"You couldn't afford to have the infrastructure or staff that IGA affords. There's no way I could create and run the TV and radio spots I get from IGA on my own. Also, the private label is great. It puts our name on the shelves as well as on the front of the store, again achieving consistency and value for our customers.

"We get national name recognition. People know and trust the name. Also, the national promotions IGA does, like 'Explore the Store' and 'Kids' Best,' help us remain consistent and competitive as one big family of stores. It's good to have someone like IGA behind you."

Buraglio said the 15-store company is always on the lookout for acquisitions, and remodels are constantly in progress. "We try to complete one major remodel a year, as well as minor refurbishings to another store," he said. "You have to in today's market. There is just too much competition to think otherwise."

One store in Eureka, Ill., for example, recently went from 12,000 square feet to 22,000, with expanded deli, bakery and frozen food departments.

Gary & Leo's IGA

Havre, Mont.

IGA member since 1986

Gary & Leo's IGA was selected as one of IGA's International Retailers of the Year earlier this month, and Gary Leland, operator of the four-store chain, said he joined IGA just as the business was starting.

"The Hometown Proud merchandising approach fits ideally with small independents like myself competing against the big chains," he told SN.

When asked about why he feels he was picked as a retailer of the year, Leland said he believes that high standards and commitment to the community set Gary & Leo's apart from other retail operations.

"IGA's criteria for the awards is based on high operating standards, and ours are very high. And involvement in the community is another key factor. We fit the Hometown Proud image in that we are constantly working with the communities in which we operate to make them a better place to live," Leland said.

One way of making communities better is by making stores better, according to Leland, who added that Gary & Leo's has just finished a complete remodel of its store in Havre, and is adding nearly 10,000 square feet to a unit in Conrad, Mont.

"The Conrad store will also be completely modernized with all new equipment to better serve customers now and in the future," Leland said.

Martin's IGA Plus

Effingham, Ill.

IGA member since 1952

Founded in 1938, Martin's IGA Plus joined IGA in 1952 and was recognized by the organization as one of its retailers of the year earlier this year.

Newland Martin, the four-store chain's owner and operator, credited his father both with starting the business and joining the alliance.

"My father believed in IGA's private label and felt, even way back then, that it would help give his operation an identity and something that would keep growing. Through the years, IGA has brought credibility to our operation," Martin said.

Martin's IGA has also sought to establish credibility through expanding its services, Martin noted. "We have tried to develop some niche areas. We have a child care center in the store where mothers can leave their children while they shop. We also have a full pharmacy and banking facilities right in the store for added convenience."

Martin also said his father started a small coffee shop inside the store that has grown into a full cafe. Today, the Ironhorse Cafe seats 160 and sells gourmet coffee and homemade baked goods.

"The cafe is a tremendous asset to our operation. It is practically a business within itself," Martin said.

Martin said he believes in keeping his stores modern. There is almost always a remodel in progress, and currently one 11,000-square-foot store is set to be expanded.

"We are continually reinvesting into the operation and seeking growth. If you take money out of the stores, you'll find yourself out of business," Martin said.