The building that housed Delta Junction’s only grocery story had been boarded-up since its roof partially collapsed in late December 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 unbelievable!” she said as she watched the demolition.
By mid-afternoon, all that was left was of the old IGA Food Cache was pile of rubble.
Store General Manager Jeff Lisac said that as soon it’s hauled away, work will begin on a new store.
“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 the store, including some new freezers they’d just installed, were too damaged to salvage.
“Couldn’t save anything in here,” he said. “So, the shelving, everything has to be replaced.”
Lisac said there’s no official dollar estimate of the damage yet. He said store owner Ed Larson is still working on insurance claims and other issues. They’ve also have had to work around supply-chain issues and the high cost of materials like the type of steel used for shelving.
It’ll take a year for the new shelving to be delivered, said Lisac. 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 liquor store next door. 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.
Gray said 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 said 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 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 said 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. He said 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,” said Smith.
Lisac said that if all goes well, the new IGA Food Cache may open in the fall.