Delete - Merge Up As eager as Guyton area residents are for Ken's IGA to open its doors, the store's owner is just as anxious.
Ken NeSmith, who owns Ken's IGA in Brooklet and another in Blichton, is preparing his newest store for opening.
"We're excited about being here," NeSmith said. "We're super excited."
NeSmith and his family knew the store in Guyton was going to close. NeSmith said he's known many people from Guyton, particularly since many of them have been customers at his other two stores.
"We have always thought of Guyton as being a great community," he said. "We knew a lot of folks from over here. A lot of employees working for us live over here."
When Thompson's IGA closed this spring, the NeSmiths spoke with several people in Guyton. They came to Guyton to talk with people and came away convinced that taking that store over and opening it under their flag was the right thing.
"We were very impressed with the fact they wanted a grocery store," he said. "We felt like we became family right off the bat. There was no doubt in our mind that this is what we needed to do."
NeSmith opened the first Ken's IGA in Brooklet in 1978 and opened the Blitchton location two years later.
NeSmith's son Jason is one of his managers, and his daughter, Jennifer works in accounting for him. Another of his managers, Jodi Anderson, has been with the NeSmiths for 15 years and Kim Melton, who worked for Ken's IGA in high school and had been working for a bank in Savannah, returned to the fold when she heard they were opening in Guyton.
Melton will be the store manager in Guyton and there will be a manager on duty at all times. Ken's IGA will rotate its management crew, and Jason NeSmith will be one of the managers in the store. The store will have about 25 employees.
"She's an excellent lady," Ken NeSmith said of Melton. "She'll be the face of the store."
They began work on the store about seven weeks ago. They've completely gutted the store - installing all-new equipment - and are awaiting new sliding doors for the entrance.
"We're fixing it the way we know how to operate a business," NeSmith said. "That's what's taking so long to open. It's gone rather fast with all we've done, but it seems slow because we want to be open for the community."
The store, "knock on wood," NeSmith said, could be open as early as the end of next week, once the sliding doors are delivered and installed. The open may get pushed back a few more days if their necessary permits aren't in hand.
Three trucks have made deliveries already and two more were expected Thursday.
"We already have the store pretty well slam full of groceries," Nesmith said. "We want to get to open."
The other two locations offer smoked meat and NeSmith would like to do the same at the Guyton location. In the meantime, he has permission to cook the meat at his Blitchton store and take it to Guyton to sell. If his Guyton customers like the smoked meat and if he can find a place to put in a smoker, NeSmith said they'd like to add one to their newest store.
A soft opening for a couple of weeks is planned, so the NeSmiths can work out kinks in the new store, before a grand opening ceremony is held.
"We have always admired this community," he said. "We're a community store. It just fit exactly who we are and what we are. We felt the folks wanted us to come and after we spoke with some folks, we felt excited that we felt very welcome."