When disaster struck Christon’s store, however, IGA was in immediate contact with her licensed distributor, MDI, on marshaling resources to help her, according to Ross.
“There were daily calls about what we could do to support her,” he says. “The interesting thing about her is that it’s a relatively small store serving an economically challenged region, and yet she’s one of our most innovative retailers. She’s not afraid to invest in new technology. There’s a lot of people that could have sat back during COVID and not reinvested in their stores because business was booming. She did exactly the opposite. She’s been continuously reinvesting in her store. She’s the only store in town, but it’s a great store and a great shopping experience. The loyalty happening in the community right now is coming because her customers recognize that.”
The community has indeed come together to raise money for rebuilding efforts, which Ross estimates will cost at least $2 million. People from all over Letcher County, the state and the country have been donating money to a GoFundMe page. The IGA Foundation is also raising money for Isom IGA.
The rallying around Gwen Christon and her grocery store, which has a sign out front that says “Hometown Proud,” is a reminder that independent grocers really are the heart of communities across this great country. Without Christon’s store, Isom, Ky., is not just a food desert – it’s also a community without community. Independent grocers offer better connections to locally grown food, to locally supplied food and fresh products, and to more specialized customer service. They also foster community connections among residents that are irreplaceable.
Now more than ever – amid pandemics, extreme weather events and economic hardship due to inflation – indie grocers need the industry’s support. If you would like to donate to the Isom IGA rebuilding efforts, please go here. You can also read about the IGA Hometown Proud Community Foundation by clicking here.