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For Alex Stodola, who recently took over the business his dad and uncle owned and ran for decades, being the owner and manager of Stodola’s IGA in Luxemburg, Wisconsin means maintaining the store’s solid reputation and keeping up with the pace of rapid change in the industry.
In his current role since his father retired last April, Stodola received a vote of confidence recently, when the store was voted “Best Supermarket” in Kewaunee County in a poll conducted by a local radio station. Loyal fans also placed the store second in “Best Bakery” category.
The credit for the award lies in the staff’s focus on customer service and keeping a clean, pleasant store, said Stodola. “Cleanliness is our claim to fame. There’s a corny ad we run with me holding mop in one hand, and a calculator in the other,” he said. As for the bakery award, a lot of that recognition can be attributed to Stodola’s Belgian pies, made from scratch. A regional specialty that pays homage to the area’s Dutch settlers, this sweet yeast pie is typically filled with a fruit filling or rice pudding and finished with a cream cheese topping.
In business since 1971, Stodola’s IGA is located in a predominantly dairy farming area, with more cows than people. The store proudly represents locally-made staples such as Salmon’s Meats (sausage, hot dogs, etc.) and Ron’s Wisconsin Cheese, as well as local cherries and other seasonal items.
Another specialty made in-house is head cheese, an old-time tradition that turns a pig or cow’s organ meats into a meat jelly or pâté consistency, that’s typically served on bread or crackers. When the equipment they use to make head cheese broke recently, Stodola looked far and wide to find replacements to keep the production going. “It’s a distinctly local product and one that people might try because it’s different and you can’t find it most places,” he said.
Focus on the Future
Stodola has been working at the store in various capacities since 1999 and now that he’s in charge, he’s putting some plans—both big and small—into action, to position the business for long-term success. Although Luxemburg is a small town of 3,000, it’s not far from Green Bay, Wisconsin’s major grocery chains, and Stodola’s also has to contend with nearby dollar stores and convenience stores.
To stay competitive, Stodola is in the process of building an online ordering system, which he hopes to launch before the holiday season. At the moment, they are entering SKUs and testing in preparation for going live. Then there’s the smaller, day-to-day stuff, like posting to social media, where Stodola uses his Facebook platform to promote his store’s weekly ad, recipes from IGA.com and other sources, and photos of the employees and offerings that make his store unique.
To round it all out and further solidify the store’s place in the community, Stodola keeps busy volunteering and serving on the boards of various organizations. “I try to stay involved in local community projects, and get the name out there,” he said.