Quillin's Deli Boosts Annual Tent Sale

LACROSSE, Wis. Quillin's each summer has pitched a produce tent in some of its parking lots, selling seasonal fruits and vegetables at hot prices, and this time the company's deli departments got in on the act. To lure the tent customer into the store, the delis at the nine-unit independent's two largest stores ran a two-day-only sale that was a first, and it won't be the last, officials said. If

LACROSSE, Wis. — Quillin's each summer has pitched a produce tent in some of its parking lots, selling seasonal fruits and vegetables at hot prices, and this time the company's deli departments got in on the act.

To lure the tent customer into the store, the delis at the nine-unit independent's two largest stores ran a two-day-only sale that was a first, and it won't be the last, officials said.

“If customers purchased $5 worth of bulk deli meat, cheese or salad, they got one of our rotisserie chickens for $1,” Tony Doering, deli manager at the chain's flagship store, told SN.

Customers could mix and match, and most of them bought much more than $5 worth of deli meats, cheeses and salads, sending total deli sales soaring, Doering said. A few rings neared $40.

“The chicken for a dollar was a very good deal for customers, because our rotisserie chickens normally retail for $5.99 each. They're big — 3 to 3¾ pounds,” Doering said. “That first day we sold 190 of them — on a day we'd typically sell 40.”

During the two-day sale, each of the two stores sold more than 400 chickens. And, total deli sales were up 17% for the week at the company's flagship location.

“People were standing four and five deep at the deli counter, something I haven't seen for quite a while,” Doering said. “On the first day of the sale, we miscalculated slightly, and ran out of rotisserie chickens at one point. We substituted with fried chicken, eight pieces for $1, until we had more rotisserie ones ready.”

One day before the sale, which ran Thursday and Friday, July 22-23, the company had a half-page ad in the local daily newspaper, the LaCrosse Tribune, touting the produce tent sales. A coupon at the bottom of the ad described the deli offer.

Doering said on the first day of the sale, his hopes for sales success were momentarily dashed. Just as the tent was set up in the parking lot of the chain's biggest store, and the produce displays were readied, a rainstorm hit hard, and pulled the whole tent down. The storm dropped 2½ inches of rain in a little more than two hours, Doering said.

As the rain continued to pour, managers and associates moved the tent and its contents inside the store.

As a result, Doering got at least as many deli customers as he had expected. Having purchased peaches, watermelon and other seasonal items at the tent, customers then lined up at the service deli to buy what they needed to earn a plump rotisserie chicken for a dollar.