A Family Affair
By Ross Markman
John Malisani wasn't satisfied with his job. He didn't like the direction it was taking him and didn't care for the feeling he had in his gut each night when he returned home.
Malisani lived in Portland, Ore., with his wife, Laura, and two kids. He worked as a finance manager for a Portland car dealership, a position he held for 10 years.
Four years ago, John Malisani left his job and moved to Havre to work for Gary & Leo's IGA as a deli manager. Malisani's father-in-law is part-owner Gary Leland.
"I never could have envisioned myself doing this. But once I tried it, I got to liking it," said Malisani, now the store's assistant manager. "I'm going to do this for a long time."
The family ties don't end there.
Two years ago, Laura Malisani came on board, and now takes care of accounting and payroll for the First Street supermarket. The couple's children, 10-year-old Joe and 8-year-old Megan, also pitch in.
"They're already involved. They come in and help me with paperwork. They give me their opinion on what Christmas candy will sell," John Malisani, 35, said. "And they like being close to their grandpa."
Leo's family has also gotten into the act. Leo Job retired about 2 years ago. His son, Tracy, is the store's manager.
"This is a good, wholesome business," Tracy Job, 40, said. "And I like the organized chaos. It's so fast-paced."
Tracy Job has worked for the company for 14 years, the last 10 at the Havre store. He spent more than three years at a Butte location, which has since closed. Prior to joining IGA, Job worked eight years for Pepsi Cola as a route salesman.
"I love it here. It's a great place to raise kids," he said.
None of Job's four children, the oldest of whom is 15, work in the store yet.
"I'm sure they'll be in here sometime, at least part time," he said.
Together, Gary and Leo own four IGAs, all in Montana. Other stores are in Florence, Conrad and Columbia Falls. The chain has nearly 4,000 locations worldwide.
The Havre store, Malisani said, employs up to 130 people, depending upon the season. In June, the local market will celebrate its 16th birthday.
"We have a lot of part-timers. And it seems like there's a lot of young folks, high school and college kids, that work here," he said.
"There's also a lot of dual-income people," Job added. "Being open 24 hours a day gives us the ability to accommodate a lot of schedule requests."
The job, however, can be a challenging one. Although Albertson's is the only other comparable grocery store in Havre, other small stores and restaurants provide plenty of competition, Job said.
"We actually compete for food dollars. Any fast-food place is direct competition for us," he said. "There's also some business we lose to Great Falls."
"Folks around here don't mind driving. A 100-mile trip for us is nothing," Malisani chimed in. "If we slack off and don't provide good service to our customers, it'll drive us out."
You might also think there's a challenge in working so closely with family members, which Malisani does every day and up until two years ago, Job did as well.
"A lot of people would think it would be really difficult, but Laura and I are both very passionate about it," he said. "And Gary and Tracy don't put nearly the pressure on me that I put on myself."
Job is just as impassioned, although he admits Malisani can usually be found on the store's floor and he in the office.
"It's a people-oriented business. Serving the customers is the real enjoyment of the job," he said. "I'd love to be out there more."