Article by Bailey Kolb, Beighliebird Photography LLC
If you live in West Liberty, you’ve shopped at Thoman’s IGA. Your grandparents and parents have shopped there too. Local families have utilized the store to supply a variety of special occasions and everyday needs for years. From BBQ’s before the fireworks and waking up the house with delicious donuts, to filling our fridges with high-quality meats and produce, the Thoman family has been there for every generation of shopper since 1951.
Thoman’s grocery store has always been a family owned business. Richard and Joe Thoman started the store in 1951 and became a part of the IGA Organization just one year later. Ten years following, they secured the lot where the store stands today. Richard and Joe’s children all worked in the store over the years which paved the way for Stan to step into a leadership role with his sister Marilyn, who still serves as the produce manager. In 2000, Stan’s son, Anthony, continued the next generation of family to work in the store, serving as assistant manager.
How did the business start and how long have you been in charge?
Stan: I’ve been here since back in ’75, and took over my dad’s duties in 1999.
Anthony: After college for me, the summer of 2000.
Do you guys have a management team or do you sort of do it all?
Anthony: We have a team. Marilyn is in charge of the produce and deli departments. Geneva is the pricing coordinator. And then the two of us as well.
Can you describe the culture of Thoman’s IGA?
Stan: It’s fun! I look forward to everyday. The last couple of years haven’t been much fun, of course, because of covid, so it has been more challenging everyday, but I still look forward to it.
Anthony: It’s fun, but we get work done. We treat everyone like they’re family.
How many employees do you typically have?
Anthony: It varies a lot, but we try to keep at least 17-20. The work force is really a challenge right now. The ages of our employees range from high school students and college kids home for the summer, all the way up to the semi-retired.
What are the most important aspects of maintaining good relationships with your suppliers and customers?
Anthony: We use the golden rule. Treat them how we want to be treated. We make sure that the store is a fun place to shop, have exclusive items, be convenient, add that personal touch and keep the store clean.
What do you love most about business?
Stan: Seeing customers now, and older customers that were once young. We get to see entire family’s grow.
Anthony: I love the history of customers that worked in high school and come back to shop with family. Some are retiring now too. People have been working for Thoman’s since 1951, so I love to see that the relationships transcend over time.
How does your business give back to the community?
Anthony: We sponsor local sports teams and donate items to charity. We can’t do everything, but we always do what we can. We try to support non-profit groups, help supply concessions for sports events, and other local special events.
What kind of professional systems do you use that are essential for your business?
Anthony: A lot of Microsoft. A lot of excel. We use that to keep reports, update daily spreadsheets. It’s essentially how we communicate. Excel can interface with our pricing system as well.
What’s unique about your company?
Anthony: We’re a small town grocery store. We know customer’s by name, and offer a clean shopping environment. We pride ourselves on not being a 2 hour shopping trip. We are convenient and high-quality, always having what people need. It’s sometimes hard to beat supply issues with covid, so we make sure to have some kind of option out there for everyone. We do the extra leg work to make it happen for customers.
What are the company’s next goals and the future of the business?
Stan: Continue to provide quality service, competitive prices, local meat and produce, but with a personal touch. It is what we have always done and will continue to do in the future as well.
The Thoman goal is to be, “Big enough to serve your needs and small enough to know you,” and local residents would agree that our grocery store is essential. Between the shopping environment and smiling faces that greet you, it’s easy to see why they have earned June’s Business of the Month for West Liberty.