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New supplier revives grocery store

WILLSBORO - Willsboro's largest grocery store is reinventing itself to try and stay in business.

The store formerly known as Country IGA has switched suppliers in an effort to bring back customers with lower prices, thereby preserving an ongoing commitment to its community.

"We made the decision when we realized the community wasn't supporting the store," said store owner Mark McKenna. "Obviously, our prices were too high."

Business at the store slowed to the point where it could no longer continue doing business under its previous methods. The number of customers dwindled and emptying shelves were left under stocked.

"It sent a signal to many of our customers that we were closing," McKenna said, "but we weren't."

The problem, explained McKenna, was with its distributor, whose exorbitant mark-ups on grocery items kept the store from offering competitive prices. After a thorough search, he discovered another supplier that would offer similar products for considerably less money.

AG New England, a cooperative that serves more than 600 stores throughout the northeast, began serving the Willsboro store at the end of January, bringing products made under the Shur-Fine label.

"The customer perception so far is that it's a better product," said Tracy Spooner, store manager, noting that Shur-Fine has higher standards in its product specifications.

McKenna said by getting products through AG New England, prices at his store were cut 20 to 40 percent across the board. Customers, impressed with the new prices, are returning to the store in greater numbers and buying more items.

As a result, the store is essentially reborn, he said. Shelves that had gone nearly bare are now 95 percent restocked. Since it will no longer carry products with the IGA label, the store is in need of a new name and is polling its customers to come up with one.

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