- Mike Chapman, Clinton IGA
When Clinton IGA owner Mike Chapman started bagging groceries at the Clinton Kroger store at age 16; his only thoughts were to make some money to buy some new fishing gear. He probably never imagined moving up the grocery industry food chain to manage and later own his own store.
Chapman worked for Kroger for more than eight years when he was offered a job at Clinton IGA from then owner Bob O’Neil. When O’Neil decided to retire in 1994, he sold the store to Chapman.
On Saturday, Nov. 30, Chapman will say goodbye to his second family when he hands over the keys of his Clinton IGA store to Kirby Foods.
“It’s scary,” said Chapman with a heavy sigh as he reflected on both the past and the future. “I want to relax a little bit and spend time with the kids and grandkids.”
The past nearly half century has been one of many changes in the grocery business but Chapman said technology has had the most impact.
“Everything is computerized now,” said Chapman. “And, there are apps out there for everything—even money itself. Everybody uses plastic—debit cards, credit cards, food stamps are all plastic. It’s convenient for people and us.”
The labor force may have changed over the years, but Chapman said he’s been “very blessed” with the employees who have worked at Clinton IGA. “I have a lot of people who’ve been with me for many years and that’s really been the best part for me.”
Chapman appreciates the friendship and comradery. “We’re one super large family. I’ve known their families and they’ve known mine.”
Chapman’s son, Trevor, is now principal at Normal Community High School. His daughter, Haley Bevans, is a teacher at Clinton Junior High School. Combined, they’ve given Chapman five grandchildren (Leah, Jenna, Brylee, Gunnar and Raelyn) who will now get more time to go fishing, walk in the woods and sit in deer stands with their grandpa.
“I’m hoping they’ll want to hang out with me.”
Whether it’s spending time with his wife of 47 years, Kay, his grandchildren, fishing, hunting, chopping wood or even mowing, Chapman plans to keep busy (“I can’t sit still”) and stay in the area. “My roots are right here.”
“I’ve worked my whole life,” said Chapman, admitting not doing so is going to be difficult, but not seeing his employees will be the hardest.
“I’ve seen the good and the bad in people’s lives and they’ve done the same for me. I’ve seen people who’ve lost loved ones and they stood alongside me when my parents passed away. These people were here for me. They went above and beyond anything I could have ever expected.”
Chapman said Kirby Foods will be getting “some of the best people ever. Their loyalty is unsurpassed.”
Over the years, Clinton IGA has employed 55 to 100 employees.
Dennis Wagner has worked with Chapman the longest, just ahead of Anita McDonald, Jenni Overby and Donnie Chapman.
Chapman said his employees are the key to his success. “They’re what has kept me motivated and going all these years.”
“He deserves it (retirement),” said 23-year employee Jenni Overby. “I’m glad he can enjoy himself while he’s still young and healthy and active.”
Overby said Chapman always took time to listen to his employees and help them when he could. “He’s always been there for us. He cares about us personally. He made the decision to sell to Kirby for us because they will treat us like family just like he does.”
“It’s been good working for him,” said Anita McDonald who has been with Clinton IGA more than 42 years. “It is a family here and Mike has always been willing to help any of us. I’m happy he will get to spend more time doing what he loves.”
Chapman has also helped people in the Clinton community whether it was a sponsorships of ball teams, donations to churches and charities, and of course, the frequent fundraising cookouts.
Rest assured, he may be retired, but Chapman won’t be sitting still.
“I might even be looking for few yards to mow,” he said with a laugh.