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The main events

It’s hard enough to run a grocery store, let alone put on a show for customers. But how about three events in one month? That’s exactly what Colemans in Corner Brook, N.L., did at its Garden Market store this past spring. Colemans’ Judy Bennett, in charge of organizing the events, walks us through each one

Bridal Night
You don’t see wedding planners prowling the aisles of their local supermarket. Pity. Grocers have a lot to offer: cakes, flower arrangements and the ability to whip up delicious hors d’oeuvres. Colemans offers all these services and holds an annual Bridal Night to promote them. There’s even a fashion show right down the meat aisle. “More people are coming to the grocery store for their wedding cake,” says Bennett. “Brides are watching all these cake shows and they want what they see on TV.”

As an added draw, Colemans partnered with other local businesses whose services brides might want: a travel company to plan the honeymoon, a jewelry shop, and Colemans’ own furniture division, which set up a giant bedroom suite in the store for the event. Held for two hours on the evening of March 1, Bridal Night attracted 35 brides (who had pre-registered) while another 200 people dropped by. They sampled hors d’oeuvres and checked out Colemans’ cake-making handiwork. To give the evening a celebratory flair, non-alcoholic champagne was handed out, tables were dressed with white tablecloths and skirts and a guitarist played live music.

The gowns in the fashion show were provided by a bridal retailer in town. And where did the models come from? Easy, says Bennett. “I posted a notice in our three Corner Brook stores, asking cashiers if they’d be interested in modelling for us.” She had no trouble finding enough volunteers. And Bridal Night was such a hit that it was also held a week later at Colemans’ Stephenville store.

Multicultural Day
Just up the road from Colemans’ Garden Market store sits Memorial University. For years, students have gotten part-time jobs at the store. And Colemans runs a shuttle service two days a week that takes students from the university to the store to buy groceries.

Bennett says her company has always looked for ways to strengthen the relationship. Last year, she found one. Bennett’s daughter, a librarian, moved back to Corner Brook from Toronto to work at Memorial. “She helped with an International Night at the university and suggested I come along. As soon as I saw the event I knew that we should invite students to our store and duplicate the event for our customers,” says Bennett.

Held on March 25, Multiculturalism Day let international students share their favourite dishes from home. Students from Trinidad and Tobago, India, China and Belize each chose a recipe that shoppers could make with ingredients available at Colemans. They gave out samples, chatted with customers and handed them the recipes.

The event lasted just one hour on a Friday afternoon, but it proved immensely popular. “Shoppers loved it and a lot of them took the recipe cards and said, ‘Gee, I’m going to go home and try this,'” she says. “And the students were so proud to promote their home countries.”

Trails, Tales & Tunes
To attract more fans, opera singers in Europe have come up with a unique publicity stunt called Opera at the Market. As the name suggests, a group of opera singers in a particular city will head to an open-air market and spontaneously burst into song from behind the stalls. To get further attention, their acts are filmed and posted on YouTube.

The organizers of the Trails, Tales & Tunes music festival, held every May at Gros Morne National Park, loved the idea so much they contacted Colemans to see if a similar promotion could be held at the Colemans’ Garden Market store, about an hour and a half from the park. The result was a two-hour concert held in the produce section that drew some 1,000 people.

Logistics for the April 2 event weren’t easy. Colemans had to accommodate the musicians, equipment and sound crew in a 15- by 20-foot roped-o section. (To make room, the bread racks were wheeled to the back of the store.) Yet the concert was pure magic,  lled with traditional Newfoundland music, an Inuit throat singer from Labrador and, at one point, 27  ddlers, accordion and mandolin players on stage at once. “When they started to play the hair on the back of your neck stood up. Some seniors in the audience had their eyes  lled with tears.  e music was so beautiful,” Bennett says.

Most of all, the event  t with what Colemans is known for in the community: giving back and delighting shoppers with the unexpected. “It was really the icing on the cake for us,” Bennett says. Plus, clips of the concert were posted on YouTube.

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