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.”