In May 5 IssueBy John ThompsonTimes Journal Reporter
IGA held a grand re-opening ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday to mark the conversion of the grocery store from what was previously Houchens to the more widely known IGA brand.
The re-opening is the culmination of a three-month construction project to reduce the size of the store while at the same time refocusing on the product line and improving shopper experience.
Over recent years Houchens stores have been taking on the more widely known IGA brand name. The new changes to the store include equipment upgrades, painting, new lighting, new stand up deep freezer cases and refrigerator units and a revamping of the product line which will focus more on items most desired by customers.
A walk through the store and customers quickly realize they're in a whole new grocery store. "I really like it," said customer Mary Lee Eads. "It looks a whole lot better than what it did." A sentiment shared by Joe Campbell who said, "The store really looks good. It's really been an improvement, it's quick and easy and I'm glad to see them make the improvements."
Customer Kayla Milby liked the ease of shopping, "I like it. I like the layout, and things are easier to find."
At the ceremony Monday were many members of the Russell County Chamber of Commerce to welcome the changes.
"My first job was at the IGA in Columbia while I was in high school," said Chamber of Commerce President Joy Fletcher, in a discussion after the ribbon cutting. "And I'm glad we can bring the IGA name to our community."
There was some question whether Houchens Market would make the transformation to IGA or close their doors, a decision that's being made with the remaining Houchens stores in the southeast. Currently nearly 90 percent of former Houchens stores have made the conversion or in rare cases have been closed.
Steve Branscum, President/CEO of Branscum Construction, was at the ceremony to congratulate the chain for deciding to invest in the community. "I think we all have the same common interests and goals," said Branscum, "and that is to service the people the best we can. They use the term 'Hometown' and that concept is truly what it is about. The company is involved in the local community, in the Chamber (of Commerce), involved with the school system, the little league program and all the things that make a community that is 'hometown'."
Branscum also expressed that he was certain the change to a Hometown IGA name would also attract more business from the frequent visitors and tourists who make Russell County their vacation destination. While Houchens, as a store name, is known in a few southeast states, IGA is a nationally recognized food store chain.
District Manager for Houchens Industries, Tracy Worley, is a veteran at store conversion, with the Russell Springs IGA being his 18th. He was eager to get customers into the store to see all the new improvements, and more importantly, the great deals they have to offer. "We have a meat program you won't find anywhere else in Russell County," touting their commitment to 100 percent angus beef being sold in their store, he also wanted everyone to know about the pick 5 program, a program that allows customers significant savings by buying in quantity, reducing packages of meat from $15 or even more down to $9.99.
While the new store lost approximately 5,000 square feet in the renovation, the store still occupies 17,000 square feet, a change Worley says has focused the attention on the products the customer desires, while making the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable.
Russell Springs IGA will be holding a drawing on June 3, 2011, with a number of wonderful prizes to be given away, including a 32" television, a patio heater and even free groceries for one year. All you have to do is visit the newly renovated store and enter to win throughout the month of May. Celebrations will continue throughout the week with specials and door prizes as well as IGA brand Angus Beef Ribeye sandwiches available Friday.