Thirty and thriving: Garrett family celebrates 30 years in the grocery business
Published 4:00 am Friday, July 3, 2015
When Johnny Garrett bought the Big Bear grocery store in Brundidge on June 25, 1985, he had no idea that he was establishing a family business that would still be going strong 30 years later.
Garrett, laughingly, said he has been around “groceries” all his life and, even though he is retired from the grocery business, he misses being around people.
“I enjoy people and I miss being in the store,” Garrett said. “I guess being in the grocery business gets in your blood. It’s been a good life for me and my family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The Garrett family is celebrating 30 years in the grocery business this year and took time in the waning days of June to reflect on the years they have spent together in the grocery store.
However, Garrett’s first experience working in the grocery store was not what he expected.
“At first, I didn’t want any part of the grocery business,” he said. “But, then I got a job at the commissary at Fort Rucker in 1965, and it was a good job for that time.”
So good a job that Garrett and his brother-in-law, Charlie Parish, decided to go out on their own and open a grocery store in Alexander City. Johnny’s Cash and Charlie’s Pride grocery store was a short-lived venture.
“It might have had something to do with the name,” Garrett said, laughing.
He went back to the commissary and it was there that he introduced his young son, Stanley, to the grocery business.
“Stanley was a little fellow, and I’d take him to work with me and he would bag ‘taters’ for us,” Garrett said.
In 1975, Garrett went to work for his brother, Chester Garrett, at the A&P in Troy and later the IGA before venturing out on his own and purchasing the Big Bear in Brundidge in 1985.
Garrett’s wife, Patricia, had been the bookkeeper at Chester Garrett’s grocery store in Troy and she stepped right into that position at the Big Bear.
Stanley had been working for the Troy IGA since he was 13 years old and was a seasoned “first mate” for his dad at the Big Bear. Then Garrett’s daughter, Denise, and son, Steve, helped out as they could. Patricia Garrett thought her daughter might be interested in learning the bookkeeping side of the business but quickly realized she would rather be at the cash register.
Steve laughingly remembered standing on a milk crate to work the produce bins.
“We worked together as a family from the start,” Garrett said.
A year later, Garrett bought the Super Foods store in Troy and Stanley took the reins as the manager of the Brundidge store.
“I thought I would like to drive a truck or be a game warden, but the grocery business was all I had ever known,” Stanley said. “So, that’s where I needed to be.”
The Brundidge grocery store burned in 1995 and was rebuilt in 1996 with the addition of an in-store deli.
The deli in the Troy store was doing so well that a separate kitchen was need. In 2001, the Garretts added a café with tables for dining.
In 2003, Stanley bought the grocery store in Brundidge from his dad.
Although Steve had a degree in accounting, he wanted to return to the business that he had grown up in. He purchased a grocery store on U.S. Highway 231 in Troy in 2009.
“The grocery business was where I belonged,” he said.
The Garretts decided that Piggly Wiggly was the store brand for them, and it has proven to be a good choice.
In 2013, Johnny Garrett decided it was time for him to retire from the grocery business and go home to the farm. Denise bought the Pig Café and Steve bought the Piggly Wiggly on North Three Notch Street.
“The grocery business has been good for all of us,” Johnny Garrett said.
“It was an opportunity for us to work together as a family and we never had any problem working together. The hours are long and it’s seven days a week but I don’t think any of us have any regrets. We are proud to be a part of the business community and enjoy being a part of Pike County. We thank all the people who have shopped with us over the years and look forward to serving them in the future.”