“THERE’S a lot of history in this place,” Innes Garner sighs with obvious regret.
“I’ve been in and out of this store ever since I could walk.”
When the doors to Garner’s IGA shut this Friday it will be for the final time.
What began way back in 1926 as a small grocery outlet grew to become much more for the Garner family and the people of Gloucester.
Originally owned by Henry Harris, the business was purchased by current manager Mark Garner’s great grandmother Ellen and immediately became a refuge for the family following the untimely death of Ellen’s husband.
Two years later the largest flood in Gloucester’s history struck.
“We’ve been through a lot over the years,” Innes says.
“Grandfather dying, the flood, the store burned down, we moved to another store and then that was flooded out as well.
“At one time there was no money to keep going, we had to borrow to stay afloat.”
But Garner’s survived, at various times selling everything from groceries to hardware, munitions to floor coverings, fabrics to children’s clothing.
Innes Garner took control of the business 35 years ago, after first buying out his uncles and later his parents.
“Our biggest growth period was when we started IGA,” Innes says.
“We were one of the first group of 54 IGA stores in the State. Trade increased by 60 per cent. It was a golden period in my career.”
The writing on the wall for Garner’s came several years ago with the announcement that Woolworths was interested in opening a store in Gloucester.
“It went to court,” Innes said.
“Two separate reports to council said the town was not large enough to support three supermarkets, yet there was still a push to get it through.
“We knew at that point there had to be some adjustment in the company.”
The purchase of the Foodworks site had given the family options and two separate development applications, one for Foodworks and one for IGA, have received council’s approval.
“There are plans in place for both sites,” Mark Garner says.
“After Woolworths opened we gave it a period of time to see what areas of the business would be impacted. It will be a two-pronged approach, the redevelopment of Foodworks and of the existing IGA site, which also has an approved liquor licence.”
There have already been job losses within the company.
The family is trying to do what it can to retain as many staff as possible but was still not keen to divulge how many would be leaving.
“We wouldn’t put a figure on it yet. There will be an integration of some staff members,” Mark said.
“Some will be taking new jobs elsewhere in the company. The casual staff are the ones that have and will suffer the most.
“So many other industries and other businesses will be impacted. We’ve already been contacted by a couple of local suppliers who have told us this could mean the end for them. And the opportunities for local youth to get part-time work won’t be there to the same extent.”
While not giving too much away, the redevelopment of the Foodworks site will include enlargement of the floor area, increased storage capacity, more modern access and better car parking and unloading facilities.
And there could still be a few surprises in store.
“Our trading name and marketing will be confirmed in the near future,” Mark said.
For now, Garner’s Home Timber and Hardware (another family-owned business) will use the space created by the closure of IGA to expand its own floor space.
And when the doors finally do close on Friday, it is likely it will not just be the Garner family that mourns.