A Thanksgiving Message from IGA CEO John Ross

Nov 25, 2020

Let me tell you a story about a time in the world when millions of lives were at risk all over the world; where East and West were in the midst of a vicious trade war, involving sanctions on both sides. It was a time where the U.S. was split politically, with Republicans and Democrats vilifying their opponents in the media and calling for a change in the two-party system.

The year? 1939.

Europe was at war; the Nazis were gobbling up countries in the East and West. Japan and the U.S. were in a trade war, and our country was worried about getting stuck in in another European war. So of course, what everyone was mad about was Thanksgiving.

Yep, you read that right, Thanksgiving. The trade wars, sanctions, and the brewing World War were creating product shortages for U.S. retailers. Worried that they wouldn’t be able to supply the demand, retailers lobbied to have our unique national holiday pushed closer to Christmas—the last Thursday of the month of November, instead of a fixed date that could, in some years, create one more week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The president, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, sided with retailers and moved the national holiday. Congress went berserk, calling it an un-American, unpatriotic move. 18 states revolted and celebrated Thanksgiving on the old date. Opponents called it “Franksgiving," and the media ate up the discourse with front page articles and editorials taking sides in every major daily.

Though the nature of the crisis has changed, the story seems all too familiar. This year has been hard and impossibly bizarre in some ways. Contested elections, divided parties, social unrest, trade wars. And of course, a global pandemic.

Compared to many, we in the grocery industry have a lot to be thankful for. Our American holiday was designed for years like these. No matter how crazy the world behaves, or how tough the everyday job becomes, we always have things to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my family: my kids, my wife, and my extended family. I am thankful to be in the grocery industry. And I am thankful to be part of such an amazing business as IGA. I couldn’t be luckier, getting to know and work for family business all over the world, each working hard to serve their communities and keep those communities safe.

My story about 1939 is meant for perspective—no matter how crazy our world is, we prevail. We grow and change and learn and get better. And we make a better world for our kids. 2020 has been full of adversity but then, retail is always full of challenges.

Back in 1939, the federal government identified food distribution as a critical industry. Then, like now, keeping our country fed domestically—and soon thereafter our troops internationally—became a top priority of the country. Then, like now, people in our business were thought of as heroic. Thousands of G.I.s would soon be eating their Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, cranberry relish, and dressing far from home, but feeling a bit closer because of what our industry was able to do. A few years later all the angst about the date for our national holiday was long gone.

If your grandparents were in the industry then, they lived through a time where the word hero meant something. If they are alive today, they are giving you hugs for what you are going through (while wearing masks, hopefully). As retailers, wholesalers, brands, and partners, we all deserve a (safe) hug.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. All my best to you and your family.

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