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Denver gas station boasts homemade links

Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News Clint Hunt separates individual links of freshly made sausage at Triangle Food Mart in Denver.

ELIZABETH HEFFNER

Staff Writer

For the past 30 years, the Triangle Food Mart has been one of the best-kept secrets in Denver. Located on North N.C. 16, it is easy to drive by the store without a second glance. A row of gas pumps stands before the modest looking building, and its entrance is filled with traditional gas station delicacies. But the back of the store houses Triangle Food Mart’s main attraction — two meat cases filled with some of the finest cuts of meat sold in the southeast.

The Phillips family opened the store in the early 1980s. Current owner Ken Phillips has worked in the store since he was 18, and took over six years ago when his parents retired. According to him, most people had to drive to Charlotte for their groceries before Triangle Food Mart opened.

“The closest grocery store was in Charlotte on North Tryon,” Phillips said. “Thirty years ago, we were the grocery store for Denver.”

Since the rise in chain supermarkets, the food mart now focuses more on their meat market, although they do still offer a small produce section.

The meat market houses a variety of fresh meats, including steaks, prime ribs, pork roast, tri tips, and a full line of delectable seafood. Last week, the store added homemade sausages to their repertoire.

Phillips prides his store on cutting and grinding their meat in-house. He explains that supermarkets generally get their ground beef in a large tube, often adding in fillers such as the infamous “pink slime.”

“If they’re not grinding their own meat, it’s got pink slime,” Phillips said.

In addition to their filler-free meat, the store’s prices rival those of the local Harris Teeter or Food Lion. Phillips says they try to visit a supermarket at least once a week to compare prices.

“We’re generally dead on or even a little cheaper,” Phillips said.

Phillips recently found a new specialty with two New York products: Sahlen’s hot dogs and Chiavetta’s Barbeque Marinade.

“An employee from Buffalo used to bring jugs of Chiavetta’s back,” Phillips said.

After trying the marinade, he opted to purchase a couple boxes of it for the store. From there, it began selling like wildfire.

“People will drive hundreds of miles to buy this stuff,” Phillips said.

Shortly after the Chiavetta’s company began advertising Triangle Food Mart on their website, the company asked Phillips if he would be interested in selling Sahlen hot dogs, another product previously exclusive to Buffalo.

“You wouldn’t believe people would drive this far for a hot dog,” Phillips said.

Their Black Canyon Angus steaks are also a top seller.

“We’re probably the only people that sell Black Angus within 100 miles outside of a steak house,” Phillips said.

While the food mart occasionally advertises in area newspapers, the majority of their customers come through word-of-mouth promotion.

“The real estate agents here will take potential homeowners to visit us during their tour,” Phillips said. “We’re a selling point.”

Next year, Phillips is hoping to remodel and expand the butcher shop, bringing in more cooler cases for the meat.

“We want to get fancier and revamp the whole place,” Phillips said. “Customers will be able to get their own meats, so they don’t have to be waited on.”

Presently, the meat market operates as a behind-the-counter service.

The store currently runs with seven employees, with store hours from 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. during the week, with an extra hour in the evening on the weekends.

“It’s a skeleton crew, but I’ve got some good crew members, so I think we can handle it,” Phillips said.

Some may see the Triangle Food Mart as a simple novelty to jokingly show their friends. Phillips admits the store is a bit bizarre.

“It doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “But you run with what you got.”

 

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