Last updated: August 25. 2013 6:20AM - 1666 Views

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LIMA — The owners of Rays grocery stores announced Tuesday a name change and investments in the Lima market, including $3 million in upgrades to the Lima stores and a new rewards card with fuel savings.

The three Lima stores will be known as Chief, said company President and CEO Stephanie Skylar. Chief is the name of their parent company, Chief Super Markets Inc., based in Defiance.

Skylar has been working since 1996 to bring the company’s 11 stores under one brand name. The change to one store and brand is a matter of convenience and savings for the company, Skylar said.

“The Lima stores are the only properties under the Rays name. We felt it was time for a change,” Skylar said. “We are one company, and now we have one name.”

The upgrades include a major remodel at the Northland store, and work is under way. The company plans a grand opening in October, and customers will see a major upgrade of the store, with features similar and even beyond what the South Cable Road location offers. The store will see an upgraded and expanded front; an expanded cheese department; increased convenience foods, such as already cleaned and cut fruit and vegetables; and a fish monger on the weekends.

The “farmhouse” theme in the store will be welcoming.

“We want people to feel like they’re in our kitchen,” Skylar said.

The new Chief Great Food Savings Card will replace the former Rays Good Neighbor Rewards Card, Skylar said. Rays card holders are receiving new Chief cards in the mail. Starting Thursday, customers can use the Chief card.

In Lima only, the card features a fuel reward through a partnership with Speedway. Customers will receive 5 cents off a gallon of gas, up to 20 gallons, for every $50 spent in one transaction. This Friday through Sunday, customers can receive 25 cents a gallon off when spending $75. The company surveyed customers, and a fuel reward was the No. 1 thing they wanted in a reward card.

The Tuesday announcements are the latest in a string of significant moves Chief has made, including closing its Clocktower Plaza Rays store, closing the pharmacies and selling the business to Walgreens, and a switching to a new private label wholesaler, Spartan Foods. The moves have focused the company on improving the grocery shopping experience and selection of food offered.

The direction is purposeful, Skylar said. The company is refocused on providing an experience and products not found elsewhere in the Lima market. The move has meant training and hiring choices, such as developing expertise in wine selection and employees to make the fresh sushi offered at some stores.

The number of competitors has ballooned in the Lima area for food and meal shopping; that means Chief needs to be better to remain strong in the grocery business, Skylar said.

“You can get your groceries at Menards now. You can go to Speedway and walk out with a hot pizza,” Skylar said. “We have to find a way to be different, to provide value to our customers.”

Chief Super Markets Inc. is a family-owned, regional supermarket chain with headquarters in Defiance. The company operates 11 stores in nine communities in northwest and west central Ohio.

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