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No Lights, No Problem: Charlie's Adapted, Stayed Open

Charlie's Mini-Mart, out of power from Sunday to early Wednesday, had to toss the ice cream bars and half-gallons, along with the cold cuts and milk. But owner Charlie Giokas adapted and kept the store open.

The lights went off at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. They flickered, and then went. And Charlie Giokas, owner of the convenience store, knew he would go without for awhile.

His wife, at home, listening to a police scanner, was telling him wires and trees were coming down all over Milford.

"I heard, it's like a ," he said Tuesday, recalling Irene, who arrived in Milford as a tropical storm.

Charlie's had the power back on by Wednesday morning, but for three days, Giokas kept his shop open by being resourceful. In an interview Tuesday, before the power came back on, Giokas explained how he was making do. (At the time, he was among nearly 1,200 customers in Milford who r.)

The first thing he had to toss, Giokas said, was the ice cream. He opened the store on Monday morning, and the ice cream had melted. He estimated he tossed about $200 worth of novelties and half-gallons.

Next in the trash were the cold cuts, hotdogs, eggs and packaged meats in a reach-in refrigerator, and the containers of fresh milk.

The cold soft drinks were no longer cold by Monday, so Giokas pulled out two large, circular bins that he uses for family parties. By filling them each morning with ice, he was able to continue selling bottled water and sodas, nice and cold.

He used natural sunlight for lighting, and when it got dark, turned on a Coleman lamp, installed overhead. He also set a flashlight at such an angle, on the floor, that customers could find their way down the store's two aisles.

As a business affected by Tropical Storm Irene, Charlie's Mini-Mart was lucky. Most of his merchandise is not perishable. He continued to sell newspapers, candy, snacks, Massachusetts Lottery tickets and other items. The bread aisle, somewhat picked through, was waiting on a new delivery from , another Milford business, also affected by power loss. (Editor's Note: Like Charlie's, Mazzarelli's had power Wednesday.)

His customers, through it all, were loyal. Dim lighting didn't keep them away.

"My customers keep coming," he said. "The regulars keep coming."

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