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Big Y, F.L. Roberts team up for convenience store outlet

The first Big Y Express outlet is expected to open this fall in Lee at Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike. The partners expect to roll out more stores in the future.

This will be Big Y’s first venture into vehicle fueling — which is a trend for grocery retailers.

The two companies have been serving western Massachusetts for years. Big Y, founded in 1936, is one of the largest family-owned supermarket chains in New England. F.L. Roberts, founded in 1920, says it is the largest independent petroleum marketer in western Massachusetts.

For the venture, F.L. Roberts will be the operating partner and fuel supplier, while Big Y provides expertise marketing snack, grocery, freshly made and ready-to-eat offerings, the company said.

“Instead of selling out to a big conglomerate chain,” F.L. Roberts president Steve Roberts said in a statement, “two local, well-established companies are combining their expertise to help each other grow to better service our customers and communities.”

The two companies employ almost 11,000 people in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The new Lee outlet is near a Big Y supermarket.

The companies will combine their customer loyalty programs. Both Big Y Savings Card customers and F.L. Roberts Rewards Plus customers will qualify for discounts on gas purchases and other store merchandise.

Big Y costumers will be able to use their Silver Savings card at F.L. Roberts locations for the same benefits offered in the F.L. Roberts Rewards Plus program. Members holding an F.L. Roberts card, however, will receive savings benefits at Big Y Express locations only, not at Big Y grocery stores.

“Possibly in the future,” said Claire D’Amour-Daley, the spokeswoman for Big Y, “since it would involve a change in our entire software.”

Offering gasoline is a trend among grocery chains nationwide.

“It’s not like we invented the concept,” D’Amour-Daley said in a phone interview. “We’ve worked with them in other projects, and this worked out to be a great opportunity to work together and learn about each other’s business.”

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