PAUL VARIBAULT (Auburn, Maine)
There is a free lunch, America, and it’s cooked each week by the marketing manager at Agren Appliance Stores, Paul Varibault. Each Wednesday, Varibault turns the Viking display kitchen at Agren’s Auburn store into a working diner, offering customers a plate of his own specials, from mini-meatball subs to rueben chicken casserole complete with sauerkraut and swiss cheese. “Our customers are delighted,” says Varibault. “Often, they are trying to squeeze in an appliance purchase during their lunch hour, so this is nice for them.”
The “customers lunch with us” tradition started close to three years ago, when a one-time cooking demonstration in the showroom left Varibault with hundreds of dollars worth of leftovers. “I didn’t want to throw it all out, so the next day, I cooked some things up for the staff. They said, ‘Let’s do this every week!’ and soon customers were joining us. It’s become a mid-week tradition. It gives everyone something to look forward to.” Varibault is uniquely qualified for this long-term promotion, having done time as a short-order cook in his early adulthood. He says he likes surprising customers with tempting smells as soon as they walk in the door, beef barley soup during the frigid Maine winters or grilled burgers and hotdogs in June.