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Owner demolishes Delta’s damaged grocery store building

Delta Groceries
An excavator begins demolishing the IGA Food Cache building in Delta Junction Monday morning. (Photo by: Tiki Levinson)

‘We’re going to build a better store’ that will open by the end of this year, store’s general manager says

Workers tore down the building that housed Delta Junction’s only grocery story Monday, nearly three months after its roof collapsed under the weight of an extreme snow load. And the owner plans to build a new store in the same location in downtown Delta.
The old IGA Food Cache has been boarded-up since its roof partially collapsed on December 26th after a heavy snow and rain storm. So when heavy equipment began demolishing the 50-year-old structure Monday morning, it caught locals like Lori Yates by surprise.

“Well, look at this! This is unbelieveable!” she exclaimed as she watched the demolition.

By mid-afternoon all that was left was a pile of rubble. And store General Manager Jeff Lisac says as soon it’s hauled away, work will begin on a new store.

“So, yeah, we’re definitely rebuilding,” he said in an interview at the site Monday. “We’re going to build a better store than we had. Everything will be brand-new inside of it.”

That’s necessary because almost all of the inventory and equipment in store, including some new freezers they’d just been installed, were too damaged to salvage.

“Couldn’t save anything in here,” he said, “so, the shelving, everything has to be replaced.”

Lisac says there’s no official dollar estimate of the damage yet. He says store owner Ed Larson is still working on insurance claims and other issues. And he says it’s been an ordeal dealing with that and engineers and contractors that are still submitting bids to build the new store. They’ve also have had to work around covid restrictions and supply-chain issues and high cost of materials like the type of steel that's used for shelving.

“And they have a steel surcharge on top of that (cost),” he said. “They used to not have that. Even shelving for like the brand-new freezers that we just put in -- they used to come with shelving. Now it doesn’t.”

Lisac says it’ll take a year for the new shelving to be delivered. So the new store will be set up with a more basic temporary system. Meanwhile, Larson has been serving customers with a sort of mini-grocery set up in his next door liquor store. It’s pretty limited, but customers like Monica Gray say it helps fill the gap left by the loss of the town’s only grocery store.

“It’s nice to have stuff in the liquor store, but I mean, it’s not a grocery store,” she said after stopping by the store.

Gray says it’s better than trying to buy staples from the two convenience stores in town, which run out of inventory pretty quickly these days.

“No milk, no eggs. You know, it’s like there’s usually a dozen eggs down at the gas station,” she said, adding, “because you don’t want to have to buy it at the gas station -- until that’s the only place to get ’em!”

Gray says her family hasn’t had to deal with that, because her dad is retired military and can shop at the commissary on Fort Greely. But most folks, like Peter Osipchuk, don’t have those privileges. So they’re driving more often a hundred miles to shop in Fairbanks.

“Right now, we more go to Fairbanks (to) buy more food,” he said during a quick stop at the store.

Bruce Smith says he’s OK with buying his groceries at Larson’s liquor store.

“You can get a lot of stuff here -- most of it, anyway,” he said.

Smith is a trucker, and he often picks up groceries after making a delivery. And he says that’s better than driving the icy Richardson Highway to get to stores in traffic-congested Fairbanks.

“We’ll stop at Three Bears in Tok and get a lot of stuff, instead of having to deal with Fairbanks and the nightmare road!”

Smith, and Osipchuk and Gray all say they’ll be glad to see the new IGA Food Cache reopen. Lisac says if all goes well, that may happen in the fall.