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Shumpert’s IGA of Pelion celebrates 125 years of business

Pelion, SC (Angelica Iglesias) - Shumpert’s IGA in Pelion, SC is a staple in the community and it doesn’t come as shock that they are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year. The Shumpert family has been running the store since 1892 as just that, a family. Through the years, the Shumperts have served their community and provided a clean and friendly shopping experience to the citizens of Pelion and the surrounding areas. Besides the normal, everyday pantry staples you need to prepare meals for yourself and your family, they’ve also stocked and sold many items you just can’t find anywhere else. This true destination stop has a long history of family tradition and the community well-being at its heart.

Daniel Frank Shumpert III, known to most as Mr. Frank, considers himself semi-retired, but still comes in every day to ensure the business is being run to the high standards his grandfather set all those years ago. In 2004, he made the transition from the 5,000 square-foot grocery and gas store his family ran for years, to the much larger 30,000 square-foot grocery store now located at 861 Pine Street in the small, western Lexington County town.

The original Shumpert’s store was in the Fairview area and much of the business was done on a barter system. The founding Shumpert moved the store to Pelion after the railroads opened to make getting inventory easier. In the beginning, he had to drive a wagon pulled by a mule a full day into Columbia and a full day back to stock the store. The train made the trip easier and faster, a big plus he wanted to take advantage of.

Many people do not know that the store burned down in the late twenties, but that did not stop the Shumperts. They came back with a new store that not only had the groceries they were known for, but also a new hardware store for the farmers and rural clients who used them for their everyday needs. They sold everything from diapers to appliances and clothes to caskets. Mr. Frank’s grandfather would say that he took care of his customers from the cradle to the grave.

The gas station that was attached did more than your average station. They were affiliated with Texaco and would deliver gas to the farmers around the entire area. They even filled the tanks of small competing stores up and down the US highways of the day. Today, the Shumperts are out of the hardware business, but Mr. Frank still takes pride in his One Dollar section where people can find everyday items at a reasonable cost.

Over the years, the Shumpert family bought up property all around Pelion when it became available. Sometimes it was to help someone who was down on their luck, while other times it was just priced right and the Shumpert family had a knack for seeing value in the sandy land that could barely support a scrub oak tree. Often, where others saw sand spurs and gnats, the Shumperts saw opportunity.

Today, many pieces of property in and around Pelion belong to the Shumperts. The land the Corner Pantry sits on, just one building down from the IGA, belongs to the family. It is where the home of Daniel Frank Shumpert sat. A number of years ago that home was moved right across the street and has since served as the headquarters for the Shumpert’s IGA and the other businesses the family is involved in. It is a beautifully aging early twentieth century home. When you take one look at the house, it is easy to see why Mr. Frank figured out a way to keep it in the family rather than just sell it or tear it down.

Pelion used to be a happening town. Remember that the railroad stopped there all the time to take on water for the engine from Fort’s Pond. This in and of itself made the town a busy place. At one point, Pelion had two doctors, a bank, a hotel, and thanks to the Shumperts, a small movie theater where you could enjoy a picture show with your best girl or later, that growing family.

Once manufacturing took over, many farmers started moving closer to Columbia. The Shumperts wanted to give citizens, especially the ladies of the town of Pelion, a reason to stay close to home where their children were going to school. Mr. D.F. Shumpert went together with a group of other business and agriculture leaders and built a sewing room. That small business took bolts of cloth through the front door and finished shirts and other clothes went out the back on hangers. This was essential in keeping many Pelionians home in Pelion where they belonged!

It is clear how much the Shumperts care about their community and it can really be seen in the little things they do today and every day. Right outside of the IGA is a Coca-Cola machine that sells 12 ounce sodas for 50 cents. Nowadays, finding anything for 50 cents can be a struggle. Mr. Frank sells the drinks at cost, and as he usually does for everything, he has a good answer for why he does this. “Not everyone has more than 50 cents; but everyone deserves to enjoy an ice-cold drink,” Shumperts said as an explanation for that business practice.

The bargain drink is not a new tradition for Mr. Frank either. At the old store, it was a Mellow Yellow machine for 25 cents a can, but that was 13 years ago. I guess everything has to go up a little over time, but for the Shumpert’s it’s really just a little!

Another deal and community service that he provides happens every Tuesday in the form of Family Night. For $20, the store fills a Shumpert’s IGA Family Meal Bag with everything you need for dinner for your family of four. This includes the recipe, the drink, and even the dessert. To make this deal even better, it can feed up to eight people! Mr. Frank obviously sells these at a loss, but he isn’t worried about the profits of it. Each week, as a service to the families of the area, he encourages his customers to turn off their devices like the T.V., the iPad, the smart phone, and the tablets, and connect with their families while they enjoy a meal. Mr. Frank has found studies that prove that your child will do better in school and be better behaved overall if you do this. To him, that’s all that matters. He says, “You don’t always aim for the pocketbook. Sometimes, you aim for the heart.”

Anyone who has set foot inside Shumpert’s IGA can tell you it is one of the cleanest and friendliest grocery stores they have seen. Cashiers greet you with a smile as you walk in and the bright lights display the store’s meticulous cleaning and organization. Shumpert’s IGA may not always be able to compete with corporate big-box grocery stores when it comes to the lowest price or largest selection, but Shumpert’s has got them beat on quality every time.

The produce section is where this store really shines. Shumpert’s IGA partners with Jackson Brother’s Farm of Pelion, so most of their produce is actually grown right there in Pelion. Through the partnership, Shumpert’s is able to pick, pack, and put the fresh produce on the shelf on the same day. The customers get the freshest vegetables and fruits and it is easy to tell by taste that your produce is really the freshest and from Shumpert’s. You especially will not want to miss the fresh strawberries in the spring and the sweet corn or tomatoes when the summer’s sun is shining!

Not only is their produce of the highest quality, but so is their meat. Many of the trays the beef sits in are black and that signifies that it’s Certified Angus Beef. This is a higher quality, better marbled, and tastier variety of beef. There’s a butcher on duty daily who can custom cut your beef, chicken, or pork to order. They can even hand form burger patties and they carry cuts like turkey necks and oxtails that appeal to senior customers and people of varying heritages and backgrounds.

The rest of the store is just as impressive. There is a huge display of Hispanic foods and items that cater to the area’s large, agricultural, migrant population. In the back is a suite where you can pay your phone bill or change your Comporium account’s features.

Papparoni’s Pizza, a local micro-chain, also has a counter staffed by smiling young workers and a kitchen where you can order a pizza, a sandwich, a salad, or just stop to enjoy a soft-serve ice cream.

Shumpert’s also has an extensive canned goods section that features the larger #10 size cans for the cook preparing for a larger crowd. There’s also a huge selection of yellow b-b-q sauces, a favorite here in the Midlands of SC, and especially in the Pelion area; just one of the items you won’t find at another large, chain grocery store.

If you ask Mr. Frank how Shumpert’s IGA has been so successful for so long, he will tell you it is all about adapting. “If you can’t adapt, you can’t give your customers what they want,” Mr. Frank said. “If you can’t give your customers what they want, they’ll go somewhere else."

Today, the fourth generation of Shumperts is working in the business. Daniel Frank Shumpert IV, or Daniel to his many friends, is the next generation to hold a management role in the Shumpert’s organization. Both of Frank Shumpert’s daughters, Melissa and Katherine Shumpert Sturkie, run or work in departments in the IGA. The youngest of the current generation of Shumperts, Phillip, is a student at USC where he is studying to be a pharmacist. They all carry the mantle of the Shumpert family proudly, knowing that being a Shumpert in Pelion is a responsibility as much as a privilege.

In 2011, Shumpert’s IGA was named the IGA International Retailer of the Year. This recognized them as the top of the top in IGA stores from around the globe. In accepting the award in Vancouver, B.C., Frank Shumpert acknowledged his past, his community, his family, and all the employees that have helped to make their store great. He especially told the important role that the store’s employees hold in their business.

Most of Shumpert’s employees are more like family, dedicated and proud to do their part in a dynasty, a legend of community service to the Pelion and the southern Lexington County area. These are people who have worked there year after year; people like Stephen Simmons, Ray Spires, Michelle Ross, Doug Kaminer, and others. Some of these employees have parents who worked in the store and now they work in the store also.

Others like Sam Jackson, now the VP, started working at Shumpert’s as teens while in high school and have stayed for many years. All of them exemplify the Shumpert’s values of hard work and great customer service to the people of the area.

As the newest generation of Shumpert gradually takes over the business, Mr. Frank believes that he and his wife, Beth, have done everything they could to ensure that their children are prepared to carry the locally famous name. They’ve taught their children manners, respect, the importance of honesty, saving for a rainy day, and serving others selflessly. Mr. Frank taught his children these virtues just as his father and grandfather taught him. He’s even passed on, by genes perhaps, his slow, deliberate manner of speaking. Shumpert has a habit of taking long pauses as he talks to reflect on what he’ll say next. Daniel already exhibits this trait that makes you know he’s thinking before he speaks. All of this knowledge has served Mr. Frank well and he hopes his children will carry on the attitude and their family’s legacy, into the future.

In the coming years, Shumpert plans to keep doing what he does best. He’ll go into the store daily to meet and greet his customers and serve them where he can. He’ll apply what he knows: working a little harder, keeping the store a little cleaner, selling produce that’s a little fresher, and being the kindest and friendliest place there is. He knows that these are all ways that can make you successful. And now that he’s gradually going into retirement, he’ll enjoy his children and grandchildren, looking forward to what’s to come in the years ahead.

Pelion Town Council Member Star Corley presents Frank

Shumpert an award in recognition of 125 years of service

to the Pelion area.

Shoppers enjoying the celebration at Shumpert's IGA

The old coke floats were a HUGE hit!

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