Shawgos sell Orion IGA

by Mindy Carls correspondent
Lorry and Jerry Shawgo, who have owned and operated Orion’s grocery store for 34 years, have sold Orion IGA.

Showing a pleasant attitude to visitors has paid off for Orion.

The visitors were looking to expand their grocery business Orion IGA owner Jerry Shawgo said. After visiting a store in another town, they stopped in Orion and really liked the village and Orion IGA.

“They liked Orion having a hardware store and pharmacy but no Dollar General,” he said.

Shawgo didn’t realize they had stopped in Orion IGA until the next day, when his employees told him people had been taking pictures in the store.

The visitors contacted Shawgo with a lot of questions, including whether he and his wife Lorry had ever thought about selling.

Jerry and Lorry always had a price in mind, updating it occasionally. The prospective buyers agreed to the price.

“We never really had it etched in stone when we were going to retire,” Jerry said. “There is a right time. We’re at that time for us. Our goal was to make sure Orion kept a grocery store, and our employees all kept their jobs. We were able to do both things.”

The Shawgos bought the grocery store in 1986. It was named Jack & Jill, then Food Pride, the IGA. Long-time employees include Dawn Evans, assistant manager, pricing coordinator and payroll, 33 years; Ruby Anderson, produce, more than 30 years; and Mona Mitton, deli, 20 years.

Shawgo said the new owners are “lucky to have employees with so much experience. They couldn’t ask for a better place.”

He said he considered himself a problem solver, and he wanted to be approachable so people with a problem could come and talk to him about it.

“We would do everything in our power to make it right,” Shawgo said.

Orion IGA closed on Wednesday, Jan. 13 for inventory, and ownership transferred to John Jojo and his group the next day, Shawgo said. The new owners have asked the Shawgos to continue working at the store until Friday, March 12.

Both the village and the store have been through a lot, he said.

Early on a Sunday morning in April 1997, a fire destroyed the store.

“I remember it just like it was yesterday,” Shawgo said. “I would not wish that fire on my worst enemy. But no one got hurt.”

Deciding to rebuild was easy, Shawgo said. Orion needed a grocery store.

At the time, the Shawgos also owned the grocery store in Galva. During the seven or eight months it took to rebuild in Orion, the Orion Chamber of Commerce organized caravans to Galva.

“It was nice to see everybody,” Shawgo said. “We have made a lot of friends. It’s been a wonderful place to own and operate a business and raise our children.”

Looking back over the years, Shawgo hopes he and his wife have made a difference in the lives of their employees.

“At the end of the day, that’s all you can hope for,” he said. “Everyone needs to learn how to work with the public and how to work as a team with goals.”

The Shawgos, who are natives of Cambridge, will continue to live in Orion. They have no plans to go to work anywhere else. Instead, they are looking forward to spending more time with their five grandchildren.

They’ll also take some trips. Before the pandemic, they had gone a couple of time to the St. Louis Cardinals training camp in Florida.