Beneath the red, white and blue bunting, newly stocked shelves — replete with thousands of Friskies cat food cans and boxes of Saltine crackers — tempt a milling crowd undeterred by drenching rain. As customers peer from the shelves to shopping lists and coupon inserts, they chat with friends and strangers alike.
One woman looks down at a gallon of apple juice: $0.99.
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“Wow, that’s cheap,” she exclaims.
That seemed to be the general consensus at the grand opening of C-Town, located in Dixwell Plaza, three blocks from the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The store opened two weeks ago but held its first big sale Friday. Dixwell residents expressed excitement that a supermarket has finally entered the neighborhood, offering an alternative for residents who until now have had to travel to either Shaw’s or Stop & Shop.
“It’s been almost 15 years since they had a store in this area,” one woman said as she hurried out of the store with a cartful of goods.
Herbert Pellot, C-Town’s manager — his golden tie matching his beaming grin — said the supermarket aims to become a partner with the neighborhood. All store employees were hired from the surrounding residential area, he said.
“This neighborhood needed a store like this.” Pellot said, “And the price is right — that’s why were all here.”
But C-Town is not only interested in offering good deals, Pellot said. He also wants the store to be known also for its unique offerings, which he hopes will entice Yale students to do their shopping here.
“We’re going to have organic food — we’re going to have different kinds of food for everyone,” Pellot said, rattling off products like plays in a playbook. “And if we don’t have it, [students] can let me know, and we’ll bring it in. They’re going to be part of the C-Town family.”
He said he hopes Yale will offer a student shuttle to C-Town.
But YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 said the YCC is unlikely to sponsor a C-Town shuttle in the near future. At 50 dollars an hour, the shuttle would be costly to the YCC, he said.
“It’s always possible that if there is enough demand and support for it on the council, we would set up a test shuttle, a pilot program to see if it is worth doing,” Marks said. “And then if there was sufficient ridership — then we might do it.”
The YCC previously set up a shuttle to Shaw’s, but it was discontinued due to lack of use, Marks said.
Meanwhile, as C-Town awaits its off-campus student clientele, local Dixwell residents wander the aisles eagerly.
Susan Thivierge reached down to inspect the eggs for cracks. Satisfied there were none, she placed two cartons into her cart — $1 for both
“You can’t beat that,” she said. “I’m shopping here for the sales.”
Asked if she has any loyalty to C-Town, Thivierge said it depends on whether sales continue to be offered, but that the new store is definitely the nicest of the supermarkets at which she has shopped.
Many of her fellow customers seemed excited by the atmosphere and the offerings.
“We’re having a happy day shopping at the new store,” remarked Genevieve Butler, grabbing a few last items off the shelves as she headed toward the cash registers. “They’re very compassionate here, very mannerly; nothing but the best.”
Butler wondered aloud if competition from C-Town might force nearby supermarkets to lower their prices as well.
Store employees were frantic to keep up with the pace of the shoppers and to troubleshoot equipment issues. When debit cards wouldn’t swipe, customers dug around for dollar bills and pennies in their pockets. The employees agreed that it was by far the busiest shopping day since the store had opened, a fact they attributed to a new weekly sale and first-of-the-month paychecks.
One employee who did not give her name said that she lives across the street and had applied after seeing signs on the store windows. She said she hopes C-Town will become and remain a community-based store.
Back in the produce section, Thivierge and her companion looked a little disappointed. It turned out that they had not read all the coupons carefully, and for each free 20-pack of toilet paper, they had to spend at least $25.
They put a couple packages back on the shelves and decided they could just buy one package between them.
“I was going to get one for my mother,” remarked Shann. “But it’s alright, we’ll split it.”