2012-06-01 / Front Page

Pond Cove IGA gets facelift

By Jack Flagler Staff Writer

Norm Barrett, store manager at the Pond Cove IGA grocery store in Cape Elizabeth, said he doesn’t try to compete with larger grocery chains like Hannaford and Shaw’s.

Because he runs an independently owned store, Barrett, who has worked at the IGA since 1986, knows he can’t quite match the larger store’s prices. But he said many locals come to the IGA willing to pay slightly more to support a local, independent business.

“People here know we’re an independent. They don’t really shop here for the prices. They come here for the quality,” Barrett said. “People are very loyal around here, they want to support local people.”

Although Barrett said he doesn’t judge his store’s performance based on the competition, his store’s recent three-month-long remodeling project has helped the IGA improve its sales numbers.

Since the remodeling project finished at the beginning of May, Barrett said his sales are up nearly 20 percent compared to last year. Some of that sales increase may have to do with the poor weather through the beginning of last summer, but Barrett said he thinks the main reason for the uptick in sales is the renovation.

Since the project finished, the IGA is now 2,000 square feet larger, with nine new doors of frozen goods, additional natural and organic foods and nearly 1,000 new items total.

The remodeling project also allowed Barrett to add a craft beer section that features highend microbrews brewed both locally and nationally. Barrett said some of these beers run as high as $18 a bottle, and the section gives the store a new source of income that it would not have been able to offer without the added space.

“I probably get 30 to 50 comments a day (on the remodel),” Barrett said. “It’s much brighter and people have room to roam around.”

Barrett is pleased with the increased business after he came very close to switching over to Hannaford as his supplier last fall, in a move that he said would have been more cost-effective and would have allowed him to remain the store’s general manager.

But negotiations broke down, Barrett said, when Hannaford’s parent company, Delhaize Group, reconsidered the deal. With negotiations stalling, Barrett said he decided to pull the plug. With business improved so far this year, Barrett said he is pleased that the move ultimately never happened.

Assistant Manager Ernie Livingston has been working with Barrett for more than 20 years. Livingston started at the IGA in 1988, two years after Barrett started working there. Livingston said he couldn’t ask for a better job. He can see the store from his house, and his children can walk to school from it. However, it’s not just the convenience that Livingston appreciates about the job, he said, it’s the familiarity with the customers.

“It’s a great job. I love the people, everybody knows everybody,” Livingston said. “Customers come in, you know everybody’s name and they know you. You can’t get that at other places.”

The Pond Cove IGA in Cape Elizabeth is one of 15 stores around the state that feature the IGA label. IGA is an acronym for Independent Grocers Alliance, a franchise based in Illinois that consists of independently owned and operated stores from around the country.

Staff writer Jack Flagler can be reached at 232-4337, ext. 219

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