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Standing the test of time

Local IGA grocery store in Wilmore still family owned

and community supported more than 60 years later

For more than 60 years, Fitch’s IGA in

Wilmore has been busy making a name for

itself as the local hometown grocery store.

Serving the community a hot breakfast,

freshly made donuts and homemade deli

lunches, Fitch’s also offers every other

commodity you would see in any other

grocery store in the nation.

A member of the Independent Grocer’s Alliance

since 1936, owner Leonard Fitch took over the family

store 10 years ago. He said he moved to Kentucky

from upstate New York, in a town almost 40 miles

from Montreal when he was 16 years old in order for

their children to attend Asbury University.

“The reason (we moved) was my mom and dad

wanted us to go to Asbury,” Fitch said. “There were

six of us, and most of us did. The store opened in

1956 where the Subway is located now. In 1966, 10

years later, they opened half the store here. Another

10 years later, we completed the store.”

Fitch said he was always involved in every bit of

the business growing up. At 8 years old, Fitch said he

remembers the store had a locker plant at the family

store in New York, and he would work grinding

beef.

“The IGA is not around much anymore,”

Fitch said. “The market is so tough a lot have

closed in other places, but in this area, we are

one of the few that have existed.”

Founded in 1926, the IGA was formed in

order to bring together independent grocers

across the United States ensuring trusted,

family-owned and operated grocery stores

remained strong in the face of growing competition

that was emerging in the nation. Today,

some IGAs still exist and are being run

by second, third or even fourth generations

following in their family’s footsteps. The alliance

includes 5,000 hometown proud supermarkets

worldwide with stores in 46 of the

United States and more than 30 countries

around the globe.

Standing apart from the cookie-cutter

chains across the world, IGA stores were

made to be unique, just like the local communities

they decided to set up shop in and

serve.

“We got a funny slant too in that we are the

only one that didn’t open on Sundays,” Fitch

said. “We still don’t open on Sunday and it’s

phenomenal how good people are to us. The

(other) amazing thing about it is we don’t sell

tobacco and never have. Back then everybody

raised tobacco and the farmers they still supported

it. It shows how wonderful the people

are.”

Fitch said he knows everybody that comes

through his store. From the group of professors

who meet in the back of the store every

morning, to the farmers who come to gather

and talk up front daily, he looks forward to

every customer he gets the opportunity to

come in contact with.

“I love the community. I really do,” Fitch

said. “The community is so good to us really.

And the expanded community, High Bridge

and Bethel, those people are good to us too.

They are wonderful people and I am so glad

that they come in.”

Fitch said the IGA store is no stranger to

community events either. From the Christmas

Walk where they serve more than 1,000

biscuits, to the Wilmore Fourth Of July

Celebration where he sets out yearly to cut

open watermelons, Fitch said the store is also

involved with many events in nearby High

Bridge.

“We try our best to be a part of the community

and the employees that we have are

with us for a long time,” Fitch said. “We are

so honored that they are because they are

such a help to us. ”

Fitch said the people in the Wilmore community

and surrounding areas who have

always made a point to support his family’s

store have been so good to the local IGA

throughout the years.

“We are very fortunate to exist,” Fitch said.

“We love them to come in a feel like it is home

to them. A lot of them come in and visit with

us and we always want them to feel that they

are welcome because they are.”