Neighbor: Garrett nominated

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 25, 2000

for top retailer award


Features Editor

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Aug. 24, 2000 10 PM

At first glance, Johnny Garrett wasn’t impressed by the notification of his nomination.

He laughingly said he thought it was one of those opportunities "where you pay $1,000 and get your name in a book."

But it wasn’t. His nomination for the "Retailer of the Year" awards was the real thing.

Garrett’s nomination was announced by the Alabama Retail Association Aug. 17 and he said he is proud and honored to be among the 54 nominees, which include former University of Alabama football standout Bob Baumhower of Wings Management, Daphne and Danny Loftin of Fat Boy’s Bar-B-Que in Prattville and David Martin of Rosie’s Mexican Cantina in Huntsville.

Garrett, owner of the IGA stores in Troy and Brundidge, is walking in tall company but he is modest about being nominated for the prestigious award.

"I don’t do much around here except take complaints," he said, laughing.

Garrett’s IGA stores are a family business. His son, Stanley, manages the Brundidge store. His son Steve, manages the Brundidge store. His daughter, Denise Taylor, is the manager of the deli business at both stores and his wife, Patricia, is the bookkeeper for both stores. But, it was Johnny Garrett who started it all and took all risks.

October will be 34 years ago, that Garrett accepted a job as stock clerk and cashier at the commissary at Fort Rucker.

"I didn’t really want the job but I took it with the intentions of working 90 days and then transferring to another job," he said. "But, after I started, I really liked that type work and being around people, so I stayed on for 10 years."

Then along came the opportunity for Garrett to be assistant to his brother Chester, who owned and managed the Big Bear in Troy. So, he left the commissary and got a taste of "family" business. After 10 years, Garrett thought he had the experience and the nerve to go it on his own. In 1985, the grocery store in Brundidge became available and he bought it and went "home" to work. A year later, he "went out on another limb" and bought the IGA store in Troy. Garrett called the ventures "huge investments and

mighty big risks."

Garrett’s commitment to his customers and to the communities he serves have made him one of the county’s most popular businessmen.

With the trend away from the mom and pop businesses, t he IGA motto, "The owner’s in the store," doesn’t always hold true. But, for the local IGA it comes about as close as it can.

"I’m usually in the store but, if I’m not, someone in my family is," Garrett said. "We’re a family business and we try to always treat our customers like they’re family, too."

That’s certainly what happened in Brundidge in 1995.

Garrett had just remodeled his store when it was completely destroyed by fire. Instead of taking the insurance money and taking it easy, he rebuilt.

"I felt an obligation to my family and to the community," he said, "and I wasn’t ready to sit on my hands either. I wanted to build a new store and try to do even better."

And he did.

After being closed for eight months, the Brundidge store came back strong. Business has more than doubled and the Troy IGA has survived strong competition from chain groceries.

Garrett attributes the stores’ success to quality merchandise at "as low prices as we can live with" and the friendly downhome atmosphere.

"I don’t know every customer by name but I know most of them," he said.

Recently, Garrett went out on another limb in an unfamiliar tree. He added a 4,000 square foot "cafe" to his grocery store bringing a new concept in eating out to the area.

"Some grocery stores have small eating areas for their deli customers, but not many around here have full fledged cafe facilities," he said. "I guess you could say we’ve branched out in the grocery business."

Garrett’s willingness to take risks and try new ideas have set him apart in the grocery business and his willingness to give back to the communities that support him have set him apart in the Pike County community.

"We’ve always wanted to be involved in everything we can – church, school and fund raising activities," he said. "We try to help any way we can and as often as we can."

Johnny Garrett is Pike County proud and it’s a safe bet that if Pike Countians could vote in the "2000 Retailer of the Year" awards, Garrett would win hands down.