The IGA store at 1650 Main St. (at the corner of Jefferson Avenue) is more than just a mid-sized supermarket — much more.
It’s also a place where one goes to socialize and soak in the welcoming atmosphere of the staff and even other customers.
That’s not surprising, considering the store’s decades-long history (not always under the IGA logo) — one that two, and now even three, generations of families have relied upon for their groceries and employment over the years.
"Without this community, we wouldn’t have a store," says store manager Kathy Shore, who’s worked at the IGA for the past 25 years, during an interview in the 14,000-square-foot store’s second floor office.
She recalls having shopped at the store with her mother when it was owned by the now-defunct Dominion Store — a national chain of supermarkets that was based out of Toronto. (Dominion is still the main brand name of the major-market supermarkets of Loblaw Companies Limited in Newfoundland.)
Norm Ohlson, 78, who works two days a week stocking shelves, has been employed at the store since its doors first opened on March 9, 1958. He had just moved to Winnipeg with his wife (who’s from here) from his hometown of Montreal after having served in the Canadian army for six years.
"I was looking for a job and got hired at Dominion as a clerk at first," he says, mentioning that he still supports for the NHL’s Canadiens and the CFL’s Alouettes.
Ohlson even remembers carrying out the groceries for then-Winnipeg Mayor Steve Juba on opening day those many years ago.
"I didn’t even know who he was at the time," he says.
Ohlson went on to manage the old Dominion Store at Winnipeg’s notorious ‘Confusion Corner’ off Osborne Street, before returning to manage the chain’s North End location.
Another long-time employee, butcher/clerk Grant Jago, who hails from Reston, Man., emphasizes that the best thing about working at the store is its family atmosphere. Then, there was that night about 10 years ago when he was working the late shift.
"I went outside during my break and there was an elderly woman sitting on a bench sobbing uncontrollably," says Jago.
"When I asked her what was wrong. She said she got on the wrong bus, and had no money for a taxi home. So I drove her home."
Now, that’s service. Just like family.
Martin Zeilig is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.