The IGA hopes customers will ‘give them a shot’

Thursday was an exciting day in town. No longer is Great Falls void of a grocery store.

The Great Falls IGA opened its doors and garnered a welcome response.

Great Falls Mayor Lee Montgomery and Councilmen Marty Henson, Dean Runion, Earl Taylor and H.C. Wright joined the Gibson Family Partnership at the ribbon cutting.

Customers sang high praises to the Gibsons for providing a needed service to the town.

“It is a Godsend for the community,” Richard Smith said. “There are a lot of older people who don’t have cars. The Lord has blessed us with the IGA.”

“I think it’s nice,” shopper Denise Flowers said. “It’s clean and so organized. I’ll shop here every day. I think they’ll do good.”

“I’m glad to have a grocery store,” Karen Boulware White said. “It looks nice. It’s so clean. The meat department looks real good, the prices are good and everything is in stock. I will shop here every day.”

White thanked the Gibson family for opening the IGA.

“I am happy we have a grocery store in Great Falls,” Bubba Smith said. “My momma was worried about it.”

When Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company Inc. announced plans to close the local grocery store, Marvin Gibson started to explore options to provide the town with another grocery store.

Gibson persuaded Piggly Wiggly to keep the store open until he could get another store in its place.

For several months, Gibson negotiated with W. Lee Flowers & Co., Inc., a supplier to IGA retail stores and independent supermarkets across South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

The Piggly Wiggly closed on June 12 and a week later, the Great Falls IGA opened.

“This has been a long process in changing over with the Gibson Family and IGA,” Marvin Gibson said at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“I’d like to thank Lee Flowers and the community for its support. I think it will be a better situation than we were in and I hope the community will give us a shot.”

Donna Gibson Stricker said she is glad the family could bring new hope to the town.

“I’m so glad we could help. I think our grandparents, Carl and Margaret Gibson, would be very happy,” Stricker said, adding their grandfather built the building the former Piggly Wiggly was housed in and the IGA now occupies.

“And I hope the community will support a hometown IGA,” Rhonda Gibson Cato added. “I hope everyone will spread the word.”

Rhonda’s husband, Weyland; and Donna’s husband, Craig, and their sons, Justin and Grayson, also attended the ribbon cutting.

Marvin Gibson said opening the store has been a family project in more ways than one. His wife, Tammy, has sacrificed a lot of family time while her husband worked on the project. At times, Marvin and Tammy Gibson, daughter Brooke Black, son Michael Dean Gibson, twins Marvin “Bubba,” and Carly, 3; and four-monthold son Bentley, were inside the store. The twins were seen riding their tricycles in the store and pretending to check customers out.

Tammy Gibson said her husband got home at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, showered, changed clothes and was back at the store for the 7 a.m. opening.

Brooke Black created a Facebook page, “IGA Great Falls” to advertise weekly specials.

There are some new faces in the store but Gibson has not named a store manager. J.B. Lee has been hired as the meat market manager and Joe Casas as assistant meat market manager. Craig Gaston is the produce manager. Latoya Graham returns as the bookkeeper and another familiar face, LeAnn Trent, stayed on as the scanner coordinator. Brooke Black will work as a fill-in bookkeeper and scanner coordinator.

The IGA will be open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Robert “Spanky” Matthews, vice president of sales for W. Lee Flowers, was in the store Thursday morning, unpacking grocery items.

Matthews said the Gibson family came to their company in March when Piggly Wiggly announced its closing.

“They didn’t know anything about the grocery business but we told them we would stock the store,” Matthews said. “It’s come to this and we opened a day or two early. The Gibsons wanted to do this for the people of Great Falls. We think it’s great for the town.”

Stocking normally takes a week but workers got the process done in three days, Matthews said.

“The Gibsons didn’t have to do a thing but they wanted to. It’s a natural fit,” Matthews said.

Matthews said the store will run the same weekly specials (Monday through Sunday) as the Chester IGA advertises.