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At the recent Maine Grocer & Food Producers Association annual summit, Kimberly Brackett from Brackett’s Market IGA was thrilled to accept the award for Grocer of the Year. “I just feel really honored to be a representative of the small, single-store owner, old-fashioned IGA stores. I think my employees and our store truly represent the iconic independent grocery store. There are lots of us out there that are just as deserving of the award, but this was our year to shine,” Brackett explains.
Kimberly and co-owner Steve Brackett opened their first market in Bath, Maine in 1996, before relocating to the current space they renovated on Front Street in the heart of Bath in 2002. Brackett describes Bath as a quintessential New England town, complete with gas lights, brick sidewalks, and pretty storefronts. It was the promise of this sort of bucolic community that originally drew Brackett north from Georgia, and it is the store’s connection to the community that she believes is one of the biggest keys to the store’s success.
“Bath is just an amazing community that really gets into supporting local businesses,” Brackett explains. “There are other options, but, in Bath, the first choice is always local.” While the community takes care of Brackett’s Market, the store also makes a point to take care of their community: “It’s not a stranger in your line. You’re checking out your neighbor, your doctor, or your kid’s teacher. Everybody knows everybody’s name. If one of our regulars doesn’t come in for a few days, one of our employees will drive by to check on them.”
Another key factor Brackett credits for the store’s success is the dedication of their employees. “When you ask people how their store is successful, they always say ‘we have good people,’” notes Brackett. Management makes a point to ensure everybody feels like they are part of the family. They achieve this with plenty of humor and a belief that every role is crucial to the store’s success. In fact, during training, Brackett tells new employees that they will have a variety of jobs in the store, but there is one that is reserved for her alone—scrubbing the toilets. This sense of camaraderie and dedication to each and every employee has paid off, as, over the years, Brackett’s Market has hired generations of family members.
Finally, Brackett notes that she gets a lot of assistance from her wholesaler, Bozzuto’s, and IGA. “With their dedication to the independent grocer, stores like ours can continue to grow and compete. Our store brand, IGA, is an internationally recognized iconic store brand. I grew up with an IGA in my hometown. IGA is recognized as a quality store brand—better in value but equal in quantity to the name brands.”
Christine Cummings, executive director of the Maine Grocer & Food Producers Association agrees that Brackett’s Market faced some stiff competition, but came out on top because "Brackett's Market is the epitome of a Maine hometown grocery store. They were chosen for their endless support for the Bath and coastal community, specifically recognizing their efforts to source local Maine products. It's evident when you walk in their store that their employees are truly family and that feeling reaches beyond the staff and spreads to their customers. Their knowledge of running a business and willingness to share the independent grocer perspective helps ensure Maine's business and food economy will continue to prosper."
Kimberly and Steve have also become pillars of the community outside the store. Both have served as elected officials, with Kimberly serving on the school board for eight years and Steve serving on the city council for six. Kimberly is currently active on several grocery boards, including the Maine Grocer & Food Producer Association, the National Grocers Association, and the IGA National Retail Advisory Board.