Standing on the mezzanine of his newest IGA store, Alain Gagné looks across its cavernous interior like an artist admiring his latest work. “This is how I imagined the perfect store,” he says. “It’s a dream for me to see the realization of the ideas I had in my mind.”
To be sure, Gagné’s new store, called IGA des Sources, is a visual feast. Built on a hilltop overlooking the St. Lawrence River, just east of Quebec City in the town of Boischatel, the 37,000-sq.- ft. structure is made almost entirely of wood–a North American first for a supermarket, says the Quebec company that built it, Nordic Structures Bois.
Designed according to Gagné’s vision, the $15-million store is lit by a mix of natural light from large windows in the massive sloped roof and artificial light from stylish fixtures of different shapes and designs.
On the floor, centre store aisles spill into the fresh food areas, not at the checkouts. “It improves in-store circulation [and> increases sales per transaction,” explains Gagné, who first introduced this aisle system in the IGA he built in nearby St. Augustine des Desmaures in 2010.
Another novelty in Gagné’s new store (his fifth IGA, plus an IGA Express convenience store) is the mezzanine. Mostly dedicated to organic and gluten-free foods, it also has a small frozen yogurt and ice-cream stand and a licensed, bistro-style restaurant that offers both stunning views of the river below and high-quality meals made by a chef using ingredients from the store. The IGA also sports 90 parking spots in a heated underground garage, with escalators and elevators to the store above.
This IGA, which opened in September, is an impressive return to Gagné’s roots. He grew up in Boischatel and worked as a butcher in his parents’ grocery store. When it was destroyed by a fire in 1986, his family moved to Saint-Augustine-de- Desmaures, on the west side of Quebec City, and opened a successful butcher shop. It later became Gagné’s first IGA.
But Gagné vowed to one day return to Boischatel. And now he has. “This one is my masterpiece,” he says. “One of my buddies told me it looks like a cathedral to food. In some ways, I think he’s right.