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    Indiana Grocer Expands Gasoline Program

    Yet another smaller, regional chain joins big supermarket trend.

    ELKHART, Ind. -- Martin's Super Markets yesterday said it plans to continue growing its fuel business by adding a gas station and car wash to its Elkhart, Ind. store. The South Bend, Ind.-based grocery chain is seeking approval for a major amendment on the planned unit development to allow the uses at the site.

    In May 2002, Martin's opened its first self-service gas station and car wash in front of its store in neighboring Bristol, Ind.

    "We think they're a natural trend with food stores," said Dan Bailey, executive vice president for the chain. "It's not something we invented. All the major chains in the country have them.

    Since the first pumps were added at Martin's, customers at several other locations have asked for the services near them, according to Bailey. "We think it's a convenience for customers," he said. "We think we can provide fuel in a good, clean and safe environment -- and at a very competitive price."

    Bailey said the market can handle the new competition, primarily because the closest gas stations is a Phillips 66, which is 1.6 miles away, and BP, Citgo and Marathon stations which are about two miles away.

    If approved, Martin's plans to mirror the services it has at its prototype unit. The gas station would feature four islands and eight dispensers, and the car wash would operate on a conveyor system.

    The city's planning board will make a recommendation to the Elkhart City Council, which must approve major amendments to the supermarket, which first opened in 1999. If the council approves the changes, then the proposal returns to the plan commission, which must approve the final site plan.

    Martin's also intends to add gas stations and car washes at a couple more locations in the surrounding markets in Indiana, but Bailey declined to reveal locations until zoning is approved.

    "It's a trend we want to continue where we have the ability to do so -- where space allows," Bailey said.

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