Young’s Payless IGA Celebrates 70 Years

Nov 8, 2023

As Young's Payless IGA celebrates their 70th anniversary this year, Owner Kevin Young has been reflecting on the moments that got them to this milestone, including one decision that would not have led him here: when he almost sold the store to Family Dollar in 2013. 

“They contacted us about our Pioneer location and threatened to build across the street if we didn’t sell them our business,” Young recalled.

At the time, Young thought it would be in their best interest to sell to the store. But the town’s residents had different plans since their local grocer means so much to them.

“Shortly after our community got wind of us being in escrow with Family Dollar, they formed a task force and collected thousands of signatures and contacted the media,” Young said. “In essence, they pushed Family Dollar out of the small community of Pioneer.”

That community effort and passion drove home the importance of remaining an independent to Young, and all that goes with it: giving back, community involvement, and being hometown proud. 10 years after deciding not to sell, Young intends to remain independent. After all, it's in his DNA. 

Like most children of grocers, Young remembers getting involved as early as eight years old. He started as a bag boy and then moved to courtesy clerk and other duties. Young was put on payroll at 12 years old.

Today, he is the third-generation owner and operates three Young’s Payless IGA locations and three Ace Hardware stores in central California. All stores are located in rural farming communities that have maintained the same identity throughout the years.

Young does everything to keep his store fresh and relevant. He’s implemented timely practices like digital marketing, digital couponing, and upgrading the point-of-sale systems every three to five years.

Young's Payless IGA digital ad

Community Events

Community events and Young’s Payless IGA go hand in hand. Some have become so well established that Young doesn’t have to do much advertising. Take their annual Steak and Shrimp dinner, a fundraiser for the local elementary school that Young started 21 years ago after opening his third location in town. Back then, it served as a way to benefit the children in the community while introducing himself and the store to the neighbors. Now, the fundraising event is engrained in the community.

“We've been doing it for so many years that it sells itself,” he said. “You don't really have to try because everybody in the community knows about it. It's been raising well over $30,000 every year,” he said, adding that all proceeds go to the school.

Other programs include similar dinner events, golf tournaments, and C&S Wholesale’s backpack program, which gives out backpacks filled with kid-friendly food to children who live in food-insecure households.

“COVID kind of put an end to that but we're going to fire that back up again. That was a really good program,” Young said.

Backpack Kids
Kevin Young and an IGA tiger (back row) with local schoolchildren and backpack recipients.

Store Expansion

Young added a second location in 1999 and a third in 2002. Both stores needed new leadership and were fortunate to keep local ownership thanks to Young.

"The Pioneer location had actually shut down. The owners were basically going out of business. We knew them just from being in the industry, and they had approached [my dad] and said that they were closing it down. And that's where we decided to buy that one and take it over.”

Similarly with the Copperopolis location, a gentleman from his IGA advertising group had built the store but felt it was in need of new ownership, so he approached Young because he knew they would do a fine job in taking it over.

Store Samples
Young's Payless IGA hosts a Christmas gathering for the community.

Reaching 70 Years

“It's pretty surreal,” Young said of the 70th anniversary, tracing back to Feb. 4, 1953. “It's crazy to think I've been in business a long time, but I'm only 51 years old. I worked alongside my grandfather, my uncles, and my father. It's hard to believe that it's been that long. But it's been a great business that has supported our families for 70 years.”

The celebration included a custom ad and several events inside the stores. The grocer gave away a Blackstone grill, Yeti cooler filled with groceries and goodies, and bags of groceries to random customers. Staff joined the fun by spinning a wheel to win prizes.

As important as business is to him, Young stressed the need for work-life balance.

"Make sure that you do have work-life balance. I think it is super important, especially with the stresses of government regulations and all the things that are going on and, in business, nowadays make it stressful."

Favorite Programs & Differentiators

Young is a frequent user of IGA’s Quarterly Marketing Kit to keep stores looking fresh with new signage.

“I love that IGA is addressing value. Right now, that's what's important. So, they're continuously keeping those signs fresh, and they're hitting what needs to be hit.”

Young is an engaged member of IGA. He's serves on the National Retailer Advisory Board for the Alliance and is a former chairman of the board. 

Youngs payless QMK
IGA's Fall Quarterly Marketing Kit inside Young's Payless IGA

As an independent, Young’s Payless IGA needs to set itself apart from the corporate chains. The first and foremost differentiator in the stores is the meat department, where each store has a butcher that can cut steaks to a customer's specifications and provide recommendations to customers.

Another thing you won't find in most grocers is a Chinese kitchen making fresh meals daily by real Chinese cooks.

“We introduced that in the early ‘90s. When we expanded our Lockeford store, we added 10,000 feet to it,” Young said. “And my uncle had the thought of adding that. Because the expansion was augmenting the deli and the bakery. So, we decided with that expansion that we would put in the Chinese kitchen. And it's been a hit from day one.”

Daily Challenges

When asked what his hot button issues are, Young said maintaining value and constantly adhering to government regulations.

“It just seems like every year it becomes more difficult to operate any business for that matter, but grocery specifically has been very complicated, and it becomes more and more complicated. California is one of the most difficult states to operate a business.”

Young said the California Grocers Association has consistently fought against new legislation that would burden business owners like him. He previously served on CGA’s board of directors and will return to the board at the end of November.

“That's probably the most valuable organization that we're involved with, because they're constantly speaking up for not only the independents, but also the chains in government and battling,” he said. “There's a lot of things that didn't happen this year that could have happened if it weren't for them. That would have made it even more difficult. So, they're crucial in our day-to-day business.”

Furthermore, Young has a great management team surrounding him for several years.

“We operate like a family. It's a good environment and some of my best friends are working for me. And it's that way amongst the managers and the employees as well. That small town, family atmosphere with your employees is powerful."

Could we see a fourth generation ownership of Young’s Payless? Potentially. Young’s son Jordan currently works as an assistant manager and shadows his father to learn all the ins and outs of the business and industry.

Kevin Young's community involvement, innovative practices, and differentiation from corporate chains sets his stores apart. With a strong emphasis on maintaining work-life balance and navigating the challenges of government regulations, Young's Payless IGA remains a small-town institution, demonstrating the importance of local businesses.

You May Also Like

These Stories on Feature Story

Subscribe by Email

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think