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Spend a minute getting to know Rose and Kevin Schild, 2019 IGA Hometown Proud Retailers in the running for IGA USA International Retailer of the Year, then make plans to join us at the IGA Global Rally in San Diego this February to find out who wins! Visit iga.com/rally for more information and to register to attend.
Community is at the heart of Schild's IGA in Grafton, Ohio. You'll feel it the moment you walk in the door and see a bake sale held by a local organization, are greeted by name by an employee, or even when you're out and about in town. Owners Rose and Kevin Schild have made it their unofficial personal and professional mission to provide quality food, great service, and kindness to their shoppers while offering assistance to community members and organizations whenever they need it.
Schild’s IGA Owner Kevin Schild at the ribbon-cutting ceremony after their storefront and foyer renovation.
It started in the mid-1950s, when Kevin's father Donald returned from the service and started working for his brother's IGA store in Norwalk, Ohio. A few years later, Donald was planning to open a grocery store in Grafton. When the town's small corner market was eliminated due to a road expansion, he brought over the employees from that market to join his—an early example of the community service that Schild's continues to exhibit to this day.
"These eight or ten people who worked at Ozzie's Market—virtually every one went to work for my dad," says Kevin Schild. "So, a ground-up start at an IGA. And on Election Day, November 4, 1958, he opened his doors across the street [from where we are today]." Schild's IGA was born.
Since 1958, Schild's IGA has grown from a local grocery store to a community mainstay. Kevin Schild has been working in the store for 43 years—first for his father, and now with wife Rose. They led its first renovation in almost 30 years in 1997, spending nearly $750,000 to update the front of the building and creating a large, 1,200-square-foot foyer that would serve as a place for community use and better in-store displays.
Schild’s IGA gets a $750,000 facelift in 1997 to update the store and better serve the community.
"What's nice is that it's great for not only the display areas but for the community to use," Kevin says. The Schilds said before the renovation, community groups would ask to host events, like bake sales and other fundraisers, but there wasn't enough space to help them succeed, so the foyer now serves as a community hub.
Whether the Schilds are hosting free lunches and story and craft time for families in partnership with the Grafton Library or raising money for the volunteer fire department, the renovation solidified Schild's IGA as a community necessity. "The community has always been very good to us," Kevin says, "which is why we wanted to dedicate space in their store for their use."
The shoppers have changed over the years. Once a town of auto and steel workers, now the children of those workers are frequenting Schild's IGA and bringing new shopping needs. Rose says that being an independent retailer helps make them more adaptable to their shoppers needs. For example, when a young woman came in looking for nutritional yeast for a vegan recipe, she said she could order it and have it in-store within the week. Whereas a big box retailer would need to go through rounds of approvals before they could bring a new product in-store, Schild's can essentially serve as an on-demand shop. "I always say we're like the best DJs because we take requests," Kevin says.
They've stayed in tune with evolving tastes by offering ready meals and stayed true to their aging customers by delivering to shut-ins and even offering to deliver to injured community members.
The renovated foyer sees lots of activity from community fundraisers to in-store events.
"My motto is, 'a customer in need is a delivery indeed,' so I try to focus on people who are shut-ins, are elderly, or can't drive," Kevin says. He even keeps up with local families when a parent has surgery. "One kid, the mother had her shoulder redone, and I said, 'Hey, if your mom needs anything, tell her to just call me and I will deliver to her,'" he shares.
The Schilds believe in doing what's right and helping others—not for the benefit of their business, but because that's who they are. It's simply a bonus that their community investments keep their store competitive.
For example, Rose has been especially proactive in staying on top of the changing demographics in town and ensuring the town grows to attract young families. She joined the land use planning committee in town. "We're looking to appeal to that younger generation without disrupting our community's hometown atmosphere," she says. While Schild's IGA has always had steady business, Rose's participation in the town's growth strategy will ensure that they continue to have new residents and new shoppers as the years go on.
Schild’s IGA before their 1997 storefront renovation, which opened up the foyer as a space for in-store displays, community gatherings, and fundraisers.
As the town grows and changes, longtime residents return to Schild's and new residents are attracted to the unique qualities of the store. Fresh produce from local farms gets the feature treatment thanks to Laurel Grocery-provided signage for front-of-store displays, and Rose says, "We're very fortunate that our Walnut Creek cheeses are made in Ohio, and we have Ohio wines."
The Schilds are also strong advocates for the IGA brand. "Private label is huge for us," says Rose. "It's not available at the competition," she continues, "It offers exceptional quality and wide variety. We feel it is superior to other private labels and we promote it against the national brand." Adds Kevin, "I always tell people, 'Try the IGA brand. You'll find out it's as good as the name brands, if not better.'" They are so passionate about the IGA private label products that they offer a double your money back guarantee.
The Schilds are a refreshing example of two people who prioritize their community and through their generosity and mentorship of their employees, have created a business that nourishes the community, highlights local farmers, mentors employees, and treats all with respect and kindness.
"Good things come to good people," Kevin says. "We've been lucky for the support of our community."