Store owner Marty Reeser, store manager Mike Kellett and executive chef Chris Gersch display a tray of grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings on May 22. They are preparing to grill burgers for customers each Saturday from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day. Staff photo by Chris Sturgis.

By Chris Sturgis

Roughly two years after Marty and Rebecca Reeser bought Marrazzo’s Market in Robbinsville, they are moving into new territory as well as reviving a store tradition.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, customers who shop on Saturday will be rewarded with one free hamburger fresh off an outdoor grill for every $25 they spend on groceries. An alternative treat will be a sandwich of store-made sausage.

The Saturday cookouts are another way to sell food in an industry that has hired chefs, created cafes and touted gourmet takeout menus all for the convenience of the customer. “We want to be known as the place to go for food, any kind of food,” Reeser said. “We want to cover the gamut of possibilities for people who want to do food shopping for the week and take home a ready-to-eat supper, as well as people who want to choose each ingredient of their special dish and prepare it exactly the way they like at home.”

Reeser said the Saturday cookouts are a new wrinkle in a tradition started by store founder Sam Marrazzo, who charged little or nothing for the burgers. By tying the number of free burgers to the size of the grocery order, Reeser will be rewarding big spenders.

The store has conquered breakfast with omelets from the cafe or pastry from Dunkin’ Donuts. They moved into lunch with Italian hoagies, cheesesteak sandwiches, wraps and entrees like pork loin with fresh vegetables at the cafe. They also have kid-friendly choices, such as chicken fingers and potato wedges.

Now, the store wants to be invited into customers’ homes for dinner. When customers stop by the store for something they ran out of at home, Reeser hopes they will save themselves the trouble of cooking dinner and pick up an entree created by chef Chris Gersch. The entrees range from seafood with an Asian flair, such as salmon glazed with hoisin sauce, to traditional comfort foods, such as homemade pot pies and meatloaf. Side dishes include broccoli rabe with garlic, grilled vegetables and garlic-roasted mashed potatoes.

“It’s a chef-prepared entree with no waiting for a table and no tipping the waiter,” Reeser said.

In addition to the Boar’s Head products at the deli counter, the store roasts its own beef, pork loin, turkey breast and Virginia ham, he said.

Reeser said supermarket lunch counters faded with the rise of the fast food business in the 1960s and 1970s, but the menu has to be more sophisticated because of the competition.

He said customers are cutting down on number of car trips as the price of gasoline continues to soar. Marrazzo’s can help them adjust by offering an in-store post office and a jewelry counter, that replaces watch batteries.

“One customer pulled seven watches out of her purse that she had been meaning to get new batteries for,” he said.

The Reesers are hoping these conveniences and the quality and taste of their food will weave the store into the customers’ lives. He said he’s very proud that he sees some of the same faces at the cafe every day. He said one group of friends told him they have been getting together for Sunday brunch at the cafe since the store opened in 1989.

Marty Reeser found his way into the supermarket business through his wife, Rebecca, whose family owns four stores. When he finished college, he went to work for her family, but left to do some retail-consulting work. Then, Marty and Rebecca opened a store of their own, Vidalia Marketplace in Lansdale, Pa., which is smaller than the Marrazzo’s with more specialty foods and a beer shop that has a long list of domestic and imported brews.

The Reesers bought the right to use the Marrazzo’s name, but eventually plan to rename the place and create their own brand, possibly creating a brand around the Vidalia name.

Customers may order take-out meals from the chef-prepared, catering and deli departments over the telephone by calling (609) 426-4400.