Owner of Wilmore IGA struggles to stay afloat; community steps up to help
It may not sound romantic, but the relationship between Leonard Fitch and the City of Wilmore is no doubt a love story.
"I'll be 80 in May," says Fitch.
Leonard Fitch is the stock boy, the cashier, the accountant and the owner of Fitch's IGA.
The store has been in his family for 60 years, and he's got the stories to prove it. A couple of which include a car crashing into the building.
“Full disclosure, the first one was my aunt. She came crashing through the front window. John Michael's daddy jumped clear over the meat cleaver."
If these walls could talk they'd be filled to the gills with personality, but unfortunately, profits are a different story.
"He can't afford it but nobody walks out of this story hungry if Leonard can help it," says Lewis Nagy, a regular customer at the IGA.
With his wife's permission, Fitch has been transferring funds from their personal account to the store's account.
"Every year, for the last 6 years," says Fitch.
When members of the community advise him that transferring those funds might be contributing to his struggle to keep the store afloat, his answer reveals that is dedication isn’t just to the store.
"I hear that, I know,” says Fitch. “But I love this town and I love the people."
It appears those feelings are mutual. A grassroots effort is underway now to give Fitch's a fighting chance.
"Anytime it's cold out I give him some money for utilities. I want to keep him open so I can keep coming here for my coffee," says Nagy.
His sentiment echoes the sentiment of many people in the community, who want to see the IGA around for a long time: keeping the good-hearted grocery store open is as much about keeping the community strong as it is about doing business.
"It doesn't take long to realize what kind of man Leonard Fitch is," says Nagy.
Fitch hopes to hand over the family business to one of his children, but that won’t happen anytime soon. He says right now, he has no plans to retire.