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White’s Fresh Foods in Erwin converted to IGA

Erwin’s two White’s Fresh Foods supermarkets were converted last week into IGA stores, officially ending nearly 64 years of doing business under the White’s family name.
Bowling Green, Ky.-based Houchens Industries, which bought all 14 White’s stores in January 2009, has been slowly bringing the purchased stores under the Hometown IGA umbrella through the region.
Alan Larsen, a marketing director with Houchens, told The Erwin Record Friday that the concept is to capitalize on the nationally known IGA brand.
“The primary focus is to synergize the brand inside that marketplace,” Larsen said. “IGA is a Houchens Industry brand. The concept is to convert as many of the conventional stores under one brand. IGA is a well-received legacy in the markets we service.
“IGA is a national brand, and we are fortunate to be able to capitalize on the name equity and branding power to better serve our customers there in Erwin.”
The change in the name will also mean, Larsen said, continued improvements and “conversion of the interiors and exteriors … with greater varieties, especially in the meat department.”
“It’s our expectation that there will be some positive changes,” he said.
The supermarkets bookend Erwin’s business district, with a store on North Main Avenue in the Erwin Village Shopping Center (locally referred to as “White’s No. 1”) and the other on Jackson-Love Highway. Both stores now feature new signage with the new IGA name.
But Larsen said the company doesn’t want to get “hung up on names.”
“We want the community to say this is our store,” he said. “We want you to say this is my store. It doesn’t matter what the name is, it’s your store in your community.”
Houchens Industries has annual sales of $2.5 billion and is an employee-owned company with nearly 170 conventional supermarkets operating under multiple brand names.
Larsen said Doug White and his family wanted to sell to a company that had the best interest of White’s nearly 450 employees at heart.
“I had the personal privilege of working with Doug White and his family in what was, for them, a very, very difficult time,” he said. “I don’t know that we could have asked for a nicer family to work with. They made their decision based on what was best to protect their employees and the communities to be served by a good, strong grocery store.
“We couldn’t be happier to be in Erwin. We are very appreciative of Doug White and his family’s service to the communities that they served for many years and we continue to serve today.”
With Erwin’s stores now under a new name, Larsen said there are only three more of the original 14 White’s Fresh Foods still to be converted.
The White’s grocery chain stretched from Erwin to Southwest Virginia.
Doug White built the chain alongside his parents, “Bob” and Ruth White, who first opened Gateway Service Station and Grocery in Erwin in 1946. In 1956, the family converted the store into White’s Supermarket, the first store operating under the White’s name.
Over the years, the stores operated different names, including White’s Discount Foods and White’s Fresh Foods, but they all held the White family name.