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East Lyme - Tri-Town Foods has begun offering local customers a card that will entitle them to savings on gas at the Trakas Sunoco Mini Mart on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The program, which began two weeks ago, will give customers a nickel off each gallon of gas for every $50 spent at the store. A limit of 15 gallons applies, and credits fade out at the end of the following month.
"It gives us one more thing to be competitive with," said Tri-Town store manager Ken Schroeder in a phone interview.
Stop & Shop, one of Tri-Town's main competitors, began offering a similar program several years ago that kicks in after customers purchase $100 worth of store items. The Tri-Town chain, at other outlets in Uncasville and Portland, has been offering gas credits for some time as well.
Schroeder reported that customers at Tri-Town have been "very positively responding to it."
Dan Trakas, manager and co-owner of the Sunoco station, said the new gas program has created a happy buzz around town.
"We're both neighborhood, family businesses," said Trakas. "There's always been a percentage of people who shop here, and a percentage that shopped there. Now there will be more shopping at both."
Tri-Town announced the new gas promotion just before its celebration this weekend of the company's 10th anniversary at Flanders Four Corners.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, the store will be offering customers a chance to try free samples of a wide variety of foods, including cheeses, olive oils and coffees. More than 20 vendors are expected to squeeze into the 17,000-square-foot store.
Schroeder, who has managed the store for the past four years, said Tri-Town has managed to stay in business - despite the opening in 2004 of a much larger Stop & Shop just down the way on Flanders Road - thanks to a loyal customer base that appreciates the store's dedication to service and quality.
He said the produce, deli, seafood, meat and bakery departments are particularly strong. The store holds a truckload meat sale every six weeks or so, he added.