Las Vegas, NV – On Monday, Women Grocers of America (WGA) today presented its Woman of the Year Award to Gwen Christon, owner and operator of Isom IGA in Isom, Ky.
Presented during the 2023 NGA Show in Las Vegas, the award is given annually to a female grocer who displays strong leadership, a passion for the grocery industry and a commitment to her community.
“Gwen’s incredible journey began in 1973 when she began working at Isom IGA. She then purchased the store from previous owners in 1998, ensuring that the only grocery store in a 12-mile radius stayed in capable hands,” said Kristin Popp, WGA president. “Last summer, Gwen faced one of her greatest challenges as severe floodwaters destroyed her store and much of the surrounding community. Through her perseverance, determination and the strong community connections she had made throughout her career, the store is on track to open later this year.
“Gwen is truly an inspiration to women and young girls everywhere. I congratulate her on receiving this award and look forward to seeing what she accomplishes in the years to come.”
The July 2022 flood left Isom IGA under 6 feet of water that destroyed everything in the building, including recently remodeled parts of the store. Unfortunately, the store’s insurance policy only covered a small portion of what would be needed to rebuild.
“Isom IGA started receiving donations from members of the community right away as they knew how important it was to have their local independent grocery store withstand this terrible tragedy,” said John Ross, IGA president and CEO. “In a strong example of her commitment to the community, Gwen decided to give some of the donations she received back to the community. As she planned to rebuild, she worked with World Central Kitchen and Mercy Chef Kitchen to feed 10,000 people that were made homeless because of the flood. Gwen is one of the strongest people I have ever met, and she represents what IGA stores means to communities across the country.”
Christon, who was named IGA Retailer of the Year in 2007, led a major remodel of her store in 2016 that included energy efficient cases, lights and solar power to reduce electricity costs. Two months before the flood, she installed self-service lanes and several other departmental enhancements.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Christon was critical to keeping local children fed, partnering with a commercial kitchen to provide thousands of food boxes to those in need. Christon is committed to helping the local school system, serving on a committee to recruit and retain teachers, custodians and other open roles.
“Independent grocery stores are critical to the strength and vitality of their communities they serve, often serving as the only option for food and fresh produce for many miles,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO. “Gwen’s journey shows why local independent grocery stores are a linchpin for Americans. The way in which she supported her community, and they supported her, is a reminder of the importance of having a main street business that will be there for you through the hard times and the good. I’m inspired by Gwen’s resilience and can’t wait to see Isom IGA bounce back over the next few years.”