While growing up in the store and now being a co-owner, Nick didn’t always work in his Father’s business. He also ran some cafes at the coast before coming back to join the family business in a senior role.
Brisbane, Nick says, was also a better option for raising children.
“It’s always been about being around family,” he said.
“You’ve got to be with your strength.”
His Father Chris Nicolaou and two partners bought the the once small general store in 1955. It is still fondly referred to by many as Chris and John’s.
Nick says with the multiple generations working at Chris’ IGA, which now employs about 100 staff, they have got to know many families in the area really well.
“We get the sons and daughters of the parents who have moved away or unfortunately passed away.”
I asked Nick what changes he’s seen in consumer habits in recent times.
“There used to be the philosophy that “I’ll come and do my one big shop'”, he said.
“What we find is there are lot of people who will come in every day. What has changed with the GFC is that they’ll come in and get their fresh produce – small amounts that they don’t throw away, rather than going out a fair bit. I know that the restaurants have had a hard time with it.”
“The biggest impact we had was introduction of Sunday trading. Sunday was our busiest day. We found Monday to Friday was still good.”
Nick says the store has a good relationship with the many locals who have supported the business for such a long time. Many of them, he said, will tell staff if they have gone to Woolworths because it had a particular product that they didn’t sell. He says that Chris’ IGA reacts to customer feedback and requests to try and stock the products they ask for.
Quality is one of their big selling points and, for that reason, they don’t advertise in the paper which they see as just being about low prices.
“We could bring our prices down and say “look how cheap we are”, but then the quality is not there. People would come in and grab the specials and then they would start complaining about the quality,” Nick says.
Chris’ IGA is known for the emphasis on little extras such as specialty hampers and platters the deli organises to taking customers’ groceries to the car. Nick says this sort of point of difference is highly valued by their customers. He says getting involved with local causes and organisations via sponsorship and programs such as the IGA Community Chest has provided a meaningful connection to the region.
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