BY GLENN PUIT
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — John Rodge witnessed business competitors come and go over the last three decades.
The founder of Traverse City’s Two on the Town, a restaurant and entertainment discount program, endured all the challenges, though, and this year is his 30th putting out two-for-one discount cards that promote area restaurants and businesses.
“I’ve had competitors come in and tell me they are going to put me out of business,” Rodge said. “I figure if they put me out of business, I’ll go to work for them because they’ll like me. But by the next year, they are already gone.”
The cards sell for $29.95 and each features more than 137 two-for-one specials from 72 area businesses. Rodge acknowledges the idea originated from someone else’s coupon book concept three decades ago. He eventually evolved the program into punch cards that focused on discounts at restaurants and fun-entertainment businesses like Lucky Jack’s.
“It didn’t seem like a lot of people cared about family portraits and oil changes,” Rodge said.
Three different Traverse City area businesses, Pangea’s Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery and Tuscan Bistro said they find value in participating in the card promotions.
“It brings in a lot of people,” said Joe Welsh, general manager at Cold Stone. “There’s a certain percentage of your demographics who will only come to your business if you give a discount. It’s also a good way to win over customers who might not normally have the expendable income to enjoy premium ice cream.”
Mickey Cannon, Tuscan Bistro’s owner, said the cards help bring in customers during the winter months.
“It has doubled and tripled our business in those months,” Cannon said.
Rodge previously was a teacher for 12 years in Suttons Bay and moonlights as a John Wayne impersonator. He said he’s proud of what he’s accomplished with his business as he approaches retirement.
“I’m very pleased with how it has changed some habits of Traverse City (business customers) because it allows them to try different places and programs, and the waiters and waitresses love it,” Rodge said.