During the time of declining sales in similar retail businesses, Rock Cave IGA has been steadily growing into a multi-million dollar business. Despite many setbacks, including a devastating fire and armed robbery, the owners and employees have looked steadfastly to the future, ever planning on ways to expand the existing business and to satisfy their customers. Realizing that because of their location and size, some goals were unattainable, and plans focused on the customer, trying to satisfy their needs. This goal has always been the basis for virtually every move made in improving the business. When a customer survey showed a major concern was the inability to make purchases on Sunday, the decision was made to open for five hours. This satisfied the customers and also enabled employees, who wished, to attend church in the morning or evening.
You see, the employees have been important to the owners, who would never ask them to do a job that they themselves would not. Knowing that no one was perfect, they look for the good in each other and try to build on that. When looking for ways to make improvements, employees are consulted and ideas considered, sometimes bringing about fantastic changes and benefits for the customers.
The Rock Cave IGA is considered by many to be the “center of the community” because of its involvement in the community. The owners and employees have worked hard over the past nineteen years to improve the quality of life in the surrounding area which not only includes Upshur County, but also Webster, Lewis, Braxton and Randolph. It is not unusual to find a Cub Scout (or another organization) bake sale going on in the lobby, the smell of hot dogs or hamburgers from another group trying to raise money, someone selling chances to help the Relay for Life, or one of the many other non-profit groups in the area. Square dances and Parking Lot Socials have also been popular. Kids like to go to the Book Nook to pick out a free donated book. One never knows what one might find here! Many customers say they like to stop in to get a cheery “Hello!” from the friendly employees.
The business has undergone a strict assessment by its distributor for the past six years to ensure that it conforms to required standards. We are proud to have received the highest rating, a Five-Star for Top Operational Standards five times, and barely missed it the sixth.
They have been a business partner with the Rock Cave Elementary School, and have also served on the School Improvement Council as a community representative for several years. They don’t stop in the community when helping schools, and have helped at some time, every school in Upshur County, as well as schools in all the surrounding counties. Believing in the importance of giving young people a start in life, they have always kept at least one high school student as an employee and tried to install in them the importance of good working habits. We are very proud of the achievements of these young people.
This nineteen year adventure began on October 1, 1989, When Glen and Jo Ann Hawkins began operating the B & B Mart in Rock Cave. Glen had been a Kroger employee for 21 years and thought he knew a little bit about the grocery business, but soon found out different. He and Jo Ann, an Upshur County School Teacher, found out they had a lot to learn. Thank goodness for the employees they had kept! They were just getting their feet on the ground when on a rainy night, December 3, 1990, fire completely destroyed the business and all they had invested. Sheer determination (or just plain stubbornness) and a lot of community support enabled them to reopen on July 1, 1991.
The road was rocky after the fire, and at times the future looked very bleak. In 1995, the operating name was changed to Rock Cave IGA to eliminate the “convenience store look” and the gas pumps were also dropped. Now, it’s fashionable for a grocery store to sell gas! Just when the future was looking more optimistic, more customers were finding they liked shopping where prices were reasonable, meat was excellent, and the service was friendly, disaster struck again. Armed robbers kidnapped Glen and Jo Ann and made away with a large amount of money, some of which was lost forever. Despite this setback, the business struggled on, belts tightened again, and they still looked for ways to improve service to the customers. The now-famous Ground Hog Sausage came into being.
Because of the location where several counties come together, tourism has always been a boost to the economy of Southern Upshur County. Glen and Jo Ann and the Rock Cave IGA became very active in the Southern Upshur Business Association (SUBA), the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce, and the Upshur County Development Authority in order to improve business and tourism in the area. They worked hard for years to get the Fidler’s Mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public. The “Y” at Rock Cave had been an eye-sore to many in the area, so they helped clean it up and later supported the Veterans Memorial at the “Y”. As pride in the area increased, more people became aware of what was special about Southern Upshur. The Wildlife Center attracted more tourists.
Rock Cave was growing! The Tri-County Clinic expanded again and again. Recognizing the need for a local pharmacy, the Tri-County Pharmacy opened in 2006. In 2003, after trying for years to get a bank interested in the area, Glen finally persuaded 1st Central Bank in Buckhannon to locate an ATM at the IGA, hoping that it would lead to a branch bank in the future. Glen also worked with Charles Wilson to bring the Family Dollar to Rock Cave in December 2003. Finally, in November, 2007, 1st Central Bank opened the long-awaited Rock Cave Branch!
The Rock Cave IGA has been a very proud participant in the Upshur County Relay for Life since its inception here. The Employees have worked together to raise thousands of dollars and walked hundreds of miles at the all-night event. They are proud of the Relay’s “Top Small Business” trophy on display in the office, along with the Retailer Community Involvement Award from their IGA distributor, Glen and Jo Ann’s Citizen of the Year Award from SUBA and the Pringle Tree Award from the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce. In 2005, the Rock Cave IGA was the proud recipient of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce “Small Business of the Year Award”. Then in 2006, Glen was honored with its “Citizen of the Year Award”.
The employees at the Rock Cave IGA work together to support activities in the area, such as the SUBA Christmas parade. They have had some very interesting activities going on in the back room of the store! Some have been overheard telling others it’s almost like family there, and Glen and Jo Ann are very proud of their family of employees. The laughter is one thing that one observes in the store very quickly, and makes customers like to linger and chat with employees and acquaintances they run into while shopping. It’s a great place to be.