BIG LAKE — Under its new name, the Big Lake IGA will continue to offer the same friendly service, selection and competitive prices as its predecessor, Steve’s Food Boy.

Longtime manager Jerry Hill said the switch to purchasing through the Independent Grocers Alliance, or IGA, will mean better prices, 800 added products and the same friendly customer service. The change also includes new signage on the storefront, and inside the change includes wider aisles and new signage and uniforms that all bear the IGA brand.

Customers Ina Mueller and David Ion had good things to say about the grocery.

“We really noticed the added product line,” Mueller said.

Ion says he’s done his grocery shopping at the Big Lake store for 13 years, and in his experience, its prices are lower than competitors.

“Their everyday prices are better,” he said. “And that’s from someone who eats here.”

Bill Miller is vice president of Omni Enterprises Inc., the employee-owned Alaska company that owns the Big Lake grocery store and many others like it around the state. He said the words “employee-owned Alaska company” matter a lot in terms of local economic impact.

“The majority of the food money spent here, stays here,” Miller said.

Additionally, the store directly employs 35 people, which also boosts the local economy.

Hill said he’s thoroughly enjoyed managing the store and working with the community for the past 10 years.

“It’s really a pleasure to run the store in Big Lake. It’s such a nice community,” he said. “Everyone here works together.”

Among locals, the small grocery is well known for its selection — from camping gear and dog biscuits to fresh baked goods, tomatillos and wasabi powder.

“If we don’t carry it, ask,” Hill said.

He said customers bring him empty containers of this or that item they’d like him to carry. He scans the UPC code, and if the warehouse has it, he’ll order some and see how it sells. If sales go well, he’ll keep it in the inventory.

The store marked the switch to IGA with a two-day celebration June 7 and 8 that included live music by Sterling Silver, and free food and prizes.

Friday during a ribbon cutting ceremony, Miller said Omni Enterprises’ long-term plans include building a new store across Hollywood from the present location. He said they’ve also kicked around the idea of then using the grocery’s old space to open a hardware store.

“We’d really like to look into that,” he said.

Ion and Mueller said since the Spenard Builders Supply store closed in the Meadowood Mall, people have to drive to Wasilla to buy most hardware items.

“General hardware would make you a hit,” Ion said.

Contact Heather A. Resz at 352-2268 or

I've been the managing editor of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman since September 2010. This is my second time working at the Frontiersman. I was the assistant editor here from 1996 to 1998.

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