Big T IGA finds new way to stock shelves

Thursday, March 26, 2020
Big T IGA finds new way to stock shelves

Big T IGA Store Manager Aaron Boshart is reflected in the window of his office above the aisles below. The store has found at least a temporary solution to problems with product distribution, but ironically it comes at a time when some shoppers are clearing out shelves of some products due to the coronavirus scare. Pioneer photo by Jeffrey Durham

AARON BOSHART

AARON BOSHART

For months, the Big T IGA grocery in Big Timber has struggled to keep its shelves stocked with food and other products. Store owner Aaron Boshart was well aware of the social media backlash and complaints about the shortages. Now he has found a way to at least temporarily — and maybe permanently — keep the store filled with products.

Ironically, just as the store turned its distribution problems around, the coronavirus caused a run on many supplies, especially cleaning products and toilet paper. “We hope to get 200 cases in Thursday,” he said. “We had 100 cases last Friday and they were gone by Tuesday.

Boshart said he heard the IGA store in Columbus was asking for IDs from people coming in to buy similar paper products because they were traveling from Billings and other areas to find them in Stillwater County.

The good news is that the Big Timber store has hooked up with new distributors within the IGA umbrella, Boshart said last week.

“There were delays, but we finally got a loan from the (federal) Small Business Administration and re-incorporated,” Boshart said. “We have bought into this new program and we now can get new products at aggressive prices. We’re set going forward and keeping relations with all of our vendors. We are up in deliveries every day, catching up and getting ahead.”

Boshart said the store is now getting product deliveries six days a week, including produce five days a week, fresh meat every four days and potatoes, onions and bananas also every four days.

“We received 30,000 pounds of groceries just this morning,” he added, “plus another 60,000 on Thursday. We stocked extra milk, water, toilet paper, wipes and medicines. This different program with IGA is a separate service with United Natural Foods, Inc. that will springboard us to get a better deal and it is here to stay.”

One problem before was that the store “put all of our eggs in one basket” as far as distribution and Boshart said, “it didn’t work out.”

There still may be some shortages, particularly of cleaning products and toilet paper during the coronavirus period, but he added, “there is no need to panic. We will be well stocked.”

Boshart said many people are unaware that the store has long offered a grocery delivery service, with as many as seven or eight and up to 20 a day.

As far as products to stock shelves, he said they are up every day in food deliveries. “We sold a week’s worth of milk in a day and a half. Potatoes are a big item, as well as milk and eggs,” he added.

Big T is adjusting like all businesses that are staying open during the virus crisis.

“We are going to be OK,” he said. “I see us getting shorted some times but not out. We are going to be all right,” Boshart said. “We want to make it so people don’t feel like they need to buy 20 cases of toilet paper.” He said they considered making hand sanitizer instore but could not get the ingredients to do it, adding that it doesn’t help that many Chinese factories have lately shut down. “We are sourcing anti-bacterial soap,” he said.

Boshart said he understands that people were upset when the store had problems with distribution. He attributed one reason for that problem was due to the former IGA program they used had “had dropped a lot of small markets,” such as Big Timber.

The Big T owner said the outlook is good to keep the store stocked for its customers while maintaining competitive prices. Despite the current virus problems, he says they are now on the right course for the long run to serve area shoppers.

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