CUBA CITY—A family-run grocery store has reached its 40-year milestone this month. Thompson’s IGA, was purchased by Mark and Trish Thompson in August 1977 and continues to be run by the family.
Mark had worked at an IGA in La Crosse throughout college and was a store manager there for five years after graduating.
Mark and Trish Thompson first bought the IGA grocery store on Washington Street in August 1977. At that time there were two grocery stores in Cuba City.
When the store in Cuba City became available, he got backing from the warehouse to buy it.
“They actually borrowed me the money to get in here,” Mark said. “They don’t do that anymore. I started out with $500 in my pocket and a big loan.”
In 1992, they moved to the former Sentry store, which was located on Main Street, where Thompson’s IGA currently resides. In 2000, they bought the building and built a 5,000-foot addition that included storage, a meat prep area, coolers and offices. They also replaced the roof of the building and put in a heat reclaim system.
“Everything we’ve done we’ve tried to do by cutting the overhead down and becoming more energy efficient,” Mark said. “We put in new energy efficient lighting and coolers and freezers. We had to invest and borrow more to put those in, but they’ve really helped on the energy usage.”
Trish and Mark have four children. All of their children worked for the grocery store at some point over the years. Casey has worked at the store since high school and is now store manager at the family’s store; Bradley runs the meat department at Piggly Wiggly in Waunakee; Matt owns Chippewa Valley Crematory in Eau Clair and Schriver-Thompson Funeral Home in Bloomer; and Jennifer is a counselor at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Madison. They have seven grandchildren.
Thompson’s IGA currently has 35 employees, down from the 50 it used to have.
Many things have changed over the years, although some have stayed the same. Mark said Louise Alt was an employee of the IGA store when they bought it in 1977. He said she has become a part of the Thompson family.
“Forty years ago there were no gluten-free products,” Mark said. “People supported us better back then. They supported the town in general.”
He said the cost of everything has gone up, from the product to the freight to operating expenses.
“You have to try to neutralize that and keep our costs down by investing in the freezers and such,” Mark said.
Last year they received a $5,000 façade grant to assist with resurfacing the parking lot, a $20,000 project.
“There’s always something,” Mark said. “You’ve got to keep doing it. If you let it all fall apart, people will notice it. I want it to look nice for the people and the community.”
They now have TV monitors in the store that show the current sales. They have a website with monthly coupons, meal planning, recipe ideas and more. Find it at www.thompsonsiga.com.
Customers can sign up for the store’s rewards program to earn free groceries with a purchase. People can also sign up for the Bright Aisle App to get deals sent to their phone.
Mark said competition has been a huge factor for them. Walmart has made a big impact on all of the grocery stores in the region and many other stores are adding grocery components, creating even more competition.
“It has been a struggle,” Mark said. “It gets worse every day, it seems like. It gets tighter every day trying to keep things going, keep things alive and keep people shopping locally.”
Thompson’s IGA recently switched its advertising group.
“Hopefully it’s better for us,” Mark said. “The ad will look a little bit better and at the same time it will hopefully be a little more cost efficient for us.” The ad will be distributed in the same places.
Mark said the new advertising group will also be acquiring more allowances from vendors than the store’s warehouse to saturate the store in discounted products.
“We want to give people another reason to come in and shop with us,” Mark said. “Price has always been a factor.”
The Cuba City location isn’t the only one Mark and Trish have owned. They have had stores in Dodgeville, Marshall and Mineral Point.
“Now it is hard enough keeping one store open,” Mark said. “We are trying new ideas to keep people shopping close to home. We’re adding gluten-free and organic items. Any time we have a customer ask for something special, we try to accommodate them. We are trying to add more inventory that people want.”
Mark said the bakery and meat department have been a huge draw for people to their store and Casey has been adding to the produce section.
“Our perishables have to be the draw,” Mark said. “We have a lot of people who come to us for those items.”
Mark has given some of his responsibilities to Casey and is trying to cut back his hours at the store.
“Trish still works more than I do because she takes care of the bookwork,” Mark said.
At one point Mark was president of the Cuba City Chamber of Commerce and he now serves on the Cuba City Economic Development Commission.
Thompson’s IGA, located at 312 S. Main St., Cuba City, is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.