By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
In Granite Falls, if there’s a bake sale, a car wash, or just a friendly chat with a neighbor, chances are good it’s at the grocery store.
There is only one in town, Granite Falls Market Fresh IGA.
More than a place to get milk or veggies, Mike Trask’s store is a sort of town center.
“Our kindergarten kids tour the store. He displays student artwork in his store,” said Kathy Grant, spokeswoman for the Granite Falls School District. “He donates turkeys for the holiday baskets we put together for families. He hires special needs students in transition to work. And that parking lot is used for all kinds of fundraisers.
“I don’t think he knows how to say no,” Grant said of the store’s owner.
What people in Granite Falls know — that Trask is deeply committed to the community — is being recognized in a big way.
Grant called Tuesday to share news she said Trask is too humble to brag about.
Trask’s store is one of three in the country being recognized with a 2013 IGA International Retailer of the Year award. Three stores abroad also will be honored, one each in China, Australia and Aruba. The other U.S. winners are in Rochester, Wash., and Schofield, Wis.
Trask plans to attend an awards ceremony in Chicago on April 15 with several employees.
There are many criteria used to select winners, said Ashley Page, an IGA spokeswoman. “One of the biggest factors is the way they take care of their community,” she said. “Mike is always sponsoring or holding events. Things like that play very heavily into the decision.”
The Independent Grocers Alliance has about 1,200 family-owned stores in the United States, and 5,000 around the world, she said.
Trask said the award reflects both his employees’ hard work and the longtime support of his customers. “I can’t thank them enough,” he said.
He took over the store in 1999; his brother, Stan Trask, had owned it since 1993. Until 2009, when it was remodeled and rebranded, it was Granite Falls Red Apple Market.
The awards process begins with nominations from wholesalers, Trask said. “Ours is Unified Grocers out of Los Angeles,” Trask said.
For the second time in two years, the Granite Falls store was named a five-star store, which put Trask in the running for this year’s big award. Among criteria used in judging, Trask said, are results of “mystery shopping,” employee training participation, marketing of IGA products, and community involvement.
Jude Anderson, managing librarian at the Granite Falls Library, was one of several people from town appearing in a video about Trask’s store that will be shown at the awards ceremony. Granite Falls City Councilmember Elizabeth Adams and Catherine Anderson, president of the Pilchuck Foundation that has worked to keep a local police force in Granite Falls, also were interviewed for the video.
“Mike Trask let us put up a table at IGA, and in one day we gathered nearly half the total signatures,” Catherine Anderson said of the police effort. “The store is truly the center of our community.”
Her group is sponsoring a pledge drive to raise money for law enforcement training and equipment the city can’t afford. “Huge thanks go to Mike Trask for putting pledge packets at the store service desk,” she said.
The librarian said the store’s donation may be used to buy summer reading program prizes, or to help fund a scholarship for a graduating senior.
“It’s probably one of the main anchors in our community,” Jude Anderson said of the IGA store. “I’m a member of a variety of organizations, and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Mike Trask say, ‘We’ll donate that,’ or, ‘We’ll make sure that’s provided.’ He’s a gift in the community.”
It’s a reciprocal deal, the store owner said.
“The town supports us,” Trask said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Trask, owner of Granite Falls Market Fresh IGA, will host a community open house from 5 to 7 p.m. March 20 at the store, 115 N. Granite Ave., to celebrate receiving an IGA International Retailer of the Year award. There will be free hors d’oeuvres; wine, beer and beverage tasting; and a drawing for a family night out for four, with Seattle Mariners tickets, dinner and a stay in a Seattle hotel.