Petersburg IGA replaces Trading Union grocery operation
Southeast grocery family steps in to restock shelves
February 23, 2023
It has been a week of dramatic change for the hundred-year-old Petersburg institution-on Monday the Trading Union was officially renamed Petersburg IGA and by the end of the week new owners Mike Ward, his daughter Caroline Bangs, and her husband Travis Bangs hope to have the grocery store's shelves fully restocked with fresh product.
"I got crew over from Wrangell, crew over from Haines, and we're power stocking this place," Ward said.
Ward, who is in his 44th year actively managing grocery stores, was born in Haines and as a young man managed his grandparents' grocery store, eventually buying it when he was 27, and now owns a few businesses in addition to Howsers IGA.
Caroline started working at the store her father named for her, Caroline's Closet, when she was 14, and after graduating high school in Wrangell began working at the grocery store in Haines while Travis got his start as a commercial fisherman.
"She's got my entrepreneurial bug," Ward said.
In 2018 Ward, Caroline, and Travis bought Bob's IGA in Wrangell, renaming it Wrangell IGA, and over the last four years Caroline and Travis have lived in Wrangell managing it.
The conversation around them potentially buying the Trading Union started last year after Caroline, Travis, and their daughter came to Petersburg for Mayfest and saw how understocked the store was.
Ward met with Trading Union General Manager Barry Morrison in January and said their discussions were "pretty quick."
"I shared my observations with him and we came to some agreements that time was of essence because you got to pay the bills and if you don't have something on the shelves to sell then you don't have cash to pay the bills and so something's got to change one way or the other, and so I felt that we needed to act quickly," Ward said.
With the deal being fast tracked, Ward said they are taking care of what they have to one day at a time and are focusing on getting the shelves restocked and getting the staff adjusted before moving forward with any long-term plans.
"We're just doing some quick renovations right now and trying to get this place rolling along, we'll worry about the other stuff later, right now we just want to get some stock in here," Ward said.
All but one of the current Trading Union staff are staying on and Morrison will continue working through the transition.
Ward, Caroline, and Travis also plan to be in town regularly to help guide the transition.
The store received an order of many of its usual items earlier this week along with another shipment of bulk items and organic food for the Evergreen Market.
"Hopefully we'll have everything everybody liked in the past and more," Caroline said.
Currently there are no concrete plans for the upstairs of the Trading Union or changes to the Evergreen Market, apart from limited hours at the market due to staffing, though Ward mentioned he has a sizable inventory of sporting goods and bikes at his store in Haines.
The grocery store will also not be able to take SNAP EBT benefits for a few weeks as they work through their process.
Ward added that he was glad to see that community members who came to the grocery store this week were happy to see the shelves being stocked again.
"They've been very welcoming, positive, very gratifying to hear people show appreciation and we are just getting started," Ward said.
Editor’s note, 9:00 pm, 02/23/2023 :
Part of this story’s headline, initially published Thursday morning, Feb. 23, has been changed to correct an oversimplification. The first line “Trading Union sold” has been changed to “Petersburg IGA replaces Trading Union grocery operation.”
This clarification is called for because at the time of this correction “Trading Union, Inc,” the company which owns the buildings and formerly operated the grocery store, is still owned by its current shareholders.
Petersburg IGA has entered into a lease agreement with Trading Union, Inc. and has agreed to purchase the remaining merchandise. While the handing over of operations has happened impressively quickly, all the longer term plans are still in negotiation.