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LONGVIEW, Texas -- One convenience store retailer here is taking his on-site marketing to a new level and it is drawing attention and raising eyebrows -- for better or worse -- from the local community.
Business owner Don Talley, who operates convenience stores called Don's Food Stores, a liquor store and a drive-thru beer barn, is featuring "Don's Darlings" at the drive-thru bays of his beer barn, which is adjacent to one of his convenience stores, the Longview News-Journal reported. The Darlings -- a bikini-clad entourage of women that are strategically placed in a large hot tub -- are an idea Talley created to make him stand out from the competition.
"There are about 25 stores in this area that have closed, gone bankrupt," Talley told the paper. "You've got to be on the cutting edge to survive."
The idea came to him when he watched customers waiting in line.
"One of the problems we had was that when three or four cars got backed up waiting in line, the last one would get impatient and sometimes drive away," Talley told the News-Journal. "The idea is to keep them in line and keep them coming back -- we're just trying to break the monotony of waiting in line."
Customers have given mixed reviews of the Darlings: "It seems like a good strategy to me," Noah Drennan told the paper while he waited in line at the drive-thru. "It gets people in here and gives them something to do while they wait in line."
Richard Furhman, a loyal customer of Talley's businesses, holds a different view: "Scantily clad girls are not the draw for me," he said.
One of the Darlings, Susan Hasty, compared her job to the local pool. "It's just a good clean job, and it's fun," she said. "There's no more flesh revealed here than at a swimming pool. If you want that, go to a strip club."
The staff of Darlings was not hard to come by either, Talley said. "Most of them are young, single mothers who need a job, and they have been excited about the prospects of getting paid to sit out in the sun, flirt with the guys and get a tan while being friendly," he told the paper.
The concept is expanding as well. Wednesdays will be ladies day -- young men "with six-pack abs" will be in the tub.
"Overall, it's been very positive," Talley said.