KEVIN BROUILLARD

EAST LYME, Conn. -- Tri Town Foods store here is surrounded by competition. Within a five-mile radius, there's a new Wal-Mart, two Stop & Shops, a Big Y and a local independent. Yet Tri Town has managed to succeed."We do not have the marketing budget nor the clout of these [competitive] entities," co-owner Kevin Brouillard told SN. "However, we can maintain higher service levels, react quickly to

EAST LYME, Conn. -- Tri Town Foods store here is surrounded by competition. Within a five-mile radius, there's a new Wal-Mart, two Stop & Shops, a Big Y and a local independent. Yet Tri Town has managed to succeed.

"We do not have the marketing budget nor the clout of these [competitive] entities," co-owner Kevin Brouillard told SN. "However, we can maintain higher service levels, react quickly to special requests, support local initiatives, expand catering and create sales 'events."' These factors have earned Tri Town Foods a 2005 IGA International Retailer of the Year award.

Brouillard, 48, has owned this Tri Town for three years with partners Rick Sharr, president, and Jack Fitzpatrick, general manager. Before they acquired the lease, the store had been operated as a Colonial Market. IGA is the primary banner of Tri Town's supplier, Bozzuto's, Cheshire, Conn., which supports the IGA private label and offers various marketing programs. Brouillard and Sharr run a second Tri Town Foods IGA in Portland, Conn.

Brouillard's career in food retailing began after he graduated from Providence College in 1978. He joined a family-owned business, Michael's Markets, in Canterbury, Conn., and stayed on for seven years. Afterward, he served in management positions at Better Value Supermarkets and Bozzuto's. After that came his co-ownership of Tri Town.

The store was built in the late 1970s. It was gutted in January 2002 and redesigned. The freshly designed interior reflected an emphasis on perishables: The produce section was expanded and a sushi kiosk was added, as were sections featuring seafood, and hot and cold prepared dishes. A full-service meat counter was installed. Bakery, catering, and a strong natural and organic focus were highlighted. The Tri Town unit now occupies 16,500 square feet of selling space and 3,500 square feet of storage space. According to Brouillard, the store supports local Connecticut vendors, and it's constantly searching for unique signature items.

Situated in an upper-middle-class community, Tri Town averages 8,000 shoppers a week. It has a market radius of five to seven miles. Brouillard said natural and organic products are well-received, and the meat department is the store's strongest asset.

Brouillard said he considers Tri Town to be an important member of the local community. He noted it is strongly committed to various nonprofit organizations. "Community involvement is an integral part of who we are. We work with dozens of groups, and typically participate in fund-raisers where we negotiate the cost and arrange delivery [of tulips, mums, wreaths and so on] from a local grower and the group keeps all the profits.

"I enjoy the relationships of the food industry in general, and specifically, with our employees. I enjoy assisting customers and taking that extra step. I enjoy the challenge of sourcing products that are different and, yet, are timely and relevant. I enjoy being an integral part of the community.

"If there was much I didn't enjoy, frankly I would be doing something else," he said.