IGA celebrates 20 years in Tryon

Published 10:00 pm Friday, August 4, 2017

As Tryon’s IGA supermarket celebrates 20 years of operation this summer, the entire community is celebrated as well, for its continuous support.

While the store and its employees and staff mark the celebration, at least two of those individuals have been on the job for over a half century.

“It’s amazing how quickly that’s gone by,” Tryon IGA owner Willard Teaster said this past week about reaching the 20-year milestone. Teaster knows the grocery business, having worked for A&P for 32 years prior to IGA.

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A college student when he entered the supermarket business, Teaster rose to district manager of A&P at the company’s Charlotte office. “I was just out of high school at Wilkes Community College,” Teaster recalled.

Did he expect to spend his career in the grocery business?

“No, not really,” he noted. “I liked it. However, I wanted to be a store manager.” He accomplished that at age 24, while with A&P.

IGAs are franchised, so, better than being a manager, Teaster actually owns the Tryon IGA, and plans to stay there.

“I like it here,” he remarked. “I couldn’t think of a better place. I always had my eye on that store. I actually bought the store from A&P.” This was in August, 1997.

Tryon’s IGA has undergone many changes in those 20 years. Regardless, Teaster notes that IGAs “blend into the community.”

“We carry stuff that other chain stores don’t carry . . . we carry stuff that the chain stores can’t. We try to push service, including carry out,” Teaster explained. He added that his store and other IGAs (which stands for International Grocers Alliance) can respond to customer requests far faster than other supermarket chains can.

Donnie Jolley began working at the Tryon A&P in 1957 when it was in the building that became Owen’s Pharmacy. He is retired, but still works hard, albeit part-time. He describes himself as “semi-retired.” When Jolley whips a shopping cart of merchandise through the store, stand clear. As do other Tryon IGA employees, he only knows how to work, and to help customers.

“It’ll be 60 years February 12” Jolley noted of his upcoming work anniversary.

“A lot of things we used to sell a lot of, we sell very little now, like cake mixes, flour and shortening,” he observed. “These kids aren’t going to cook if they can buy it. They’re not going into the kitchen like mamma used to do.”

A big thing now is having bottled water for sale — something he would not have predicted 30 years ago.

“Thirty years ago, I’d never have believed we’d be selling the water we sell.”

Now, however, the store carries a good selection of craft beers and wine, as well as organic salads and other produce.

One of the changes Teaster recognizes is the changing of the guard.

“I remember when we (A&P) were the number one chain out there. Now,” he said, every week, an IGA store opens.”

“The reason I chose IGA is their private labels,” Teaster said. “At times, they’ve exceeded the national brands in quality.

While Teaster has been at the helm, and has no plans to leave, he admitted, “I couldn’t have done this all myself.”

Teaster said he has hired a number of younger employees through the years. “I’ve had good employees. I’ve had a lot of good kids over the years. Some of them have gone on to be quite successful. I’ve always had a good mixture of older and younger (employees). Sometimes, the older ones train the younger.”

One of those has been Pauline Babcock whose second career, as a cashier, began 20 years ago at the Tryon IGA.

“Before this, I worked for a pharmaceutical plant in New York for 35 years. I worked in quality control. We retired here, and moved here in 1997.” Babcock will retire again on August 30.

David Widdicombe, who was in the store to help the employees celebrate the milestone, describes himself as “a fan of IGA, a friend of IGA,” adding that, “they’re the finest people.” Tryon’s Bill Ingham has been a Tryon IGA customer for 19 years, and is obviously satisfied.

Tryon’s IGA is located at 370 South Trade Street, and can be reached at 828-859-9245.