IGA: In Groceries Again

The store has been restocked.

Since the Piggly-Wiggly grocery store closed in Barnwell in 2007, there had not been a grocery store on the north side of town for residents.

Until now.

IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance) opened its own grocery store in the former Piggly-Wiggly on Marlboro Avenue.

With a swipe of shears by Barnwell Mayor Ed Lemon and a prayer by the Rev. Harris Barker, the store's grand opening was underway March 2 as curious shoppers crowded the aisles of the 22,000-square-foot grocery store.

IGA is the world's biggest voluntary supermarket network with about 4,000 independent supermarkets worldwide in its network.

The Barnwell store is owned by Dale Fennell. The store's wholesale supplier is Lee Flowers Inc. of Lake City.

"It's been a long time coming," said Robert Matthews, of getting IGA moved into the Barnwell store. Matthews is the vice president of Flowers.

IGA had been pretty much looking at the location since Piggly-Wiggly moved out, he said.

Lemon said he was encouraged that despite the tough economic times in the county, a new business was opened up here.

"It's nice you all have the confidence to go forward with this," he said.

"We are in a good industry - people have got to eat," Matthews said.

The store employs 63 full and part-time workers, said Fennell.

Matthews said he felt Barnwell was a good prospect for a store.

"This is our kind of people. We are good country folks," he said.

The store carries national food brands as well as its own IGA label and has a selection of Hispanic foods too. The store doesn't use an in-house discount card on brands like other grocery store chains have.

The store specializes in cuts of meat and fresh produce and "we are big on our customer service," Matthews said.

Unless the customer says otherwise, baggers have the standing order to carry the groceries to a customer's car, he said.

Globally, IGA has a combined retail sales of more than $21 billion per year. IGA operates in 44 states in the United States and in more than 40 countries. IGA began in 1926 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.