A Memorial Day Message from IGA CEO John Ross

May 21, 2020

You and your teams are probably exhausted after the last eight weeks, and if you’re like me, you are sick of talking about COVID-19. As we go into a busy holiday weekend, I think most of us are asking, when do we get back to normal? I know I am, every single day. So instead of talking about COVID-19, I thought I would talk about my family and what Memorial Day means to me.

My uncle served in the Marines during the Korean War. He passed this week, so close to Memorial Day Weekend, which got me thinking of all the veterans of all the wars my family has seen. My grandfather served in World War I; my great great grandfather died during the Civil War. My little brother served in Iraq.

Many of the original IGA entrepreneurs were veterans, too, who came back from their wars (mostly World War II), opened an independent grocery store, and made a living for themselves and a legacy for their descendants with their IGA stores. Almost a 100 years later, we continue that legacy.

But the heroes of my family weren’t just the men who served. My great great grandmother drove onto the battlefield and brought her wounded husband home! My grandmother raised a family mostly on her own, after her husband came back wounded from WWI. Those conflicts took a deep and profound toll on families—everyone suffered.

Memorial Day was designed to honor those who fell in battle, but we now know that the stress of war often never leaves those who survived. I think intuitively, we Americans have come to generalize this holiday to all who suffered—those left on the battlefield and those who returned, too, as well as the families who were impacted in times of great conflict.

So in a way, Memorial Day has come to honor all that has endured. The people, the families, and the spirit of our great country have endured great conflict, and from that, better things have come.

In my family, each generation has gone on to greater things. The kids went on to college, got jobs, and built families of their own, in the way that the American experience uniquely allows. I hope they would be proud of what their kids and grandkids and great grandchildren have done. My middle daughter graduated from Tulane University (my alma mater) last week and is headed to law school, and I think they would be proud of her, too! (Obviously I am.)

In your stores you’ve had high school and college kids graduating this week. They didn’t get the graduation experience they had expected. And they are wondering what their life will be like once this current crisis is over. I was asked to give a commencement address to some young IGA people graduating this year, and here is a snippet of what I told them:

The reality is that what we do, the miracle of the modern U.S. grocery system—the one that allows us to get 40,000 items fresh to grocery stores in the most rural to most urban locations, and do it all at the tiniest of profit margins—it is heroic without COVID-19. It just took a global pandemic for the rest of the world to realize that without us, their communities don’t survive.”

Whether you are a new IGA store, or one founded by a parent or grandparent (or great grandparent) I think your family would be proud of you. And years from now, your descendants will be proud of you, too, for what we experienced this year, and what is certainly not over yet.

To your family, your associates, and the families of our brand and wholesale partners who support us, I wish you all the very best Memorial Day Weekend.

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