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PATRONS CAN PAY WITH PESOS PIZZA CHAIN ALLOWS MEXICAN MONEY USE.

Byline: LARRY ALTMAN Staff Writer

WILMINGTON -- A pizza business with an outlet here is apparently the county's first chain to accept Mexican currency, setting off an avalanche of strong opinions on both sides of the immigration debate.

Dallas-based Pizza Patron received about 1,300 e-mails this week in the opening hours of its ``Pizza por Pesos'' promotion. About 60 percent were negative, including a few death threats, said spokesman Andrew Gamm.

But in the community, the Pizza Patron marketing tool just might be a success.

``We think it's pretty positive and we've had some very positive response from the community,'' said Brett Fielder, owner and managing partner of the Los Angeles franchises in Maywood and Wilmington.

Brett said the idea came to light about a year ago in Mesquite, Texas, when a customer came up short with dollars and asked if he could pay the balance of his bill with pesos.

Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said that he had not heard of any other chain in Southern California accepting pesos.

``It probably could be a success. It's an interesting approach. It's a way to generate some business and also build some loyalty with what can be a very loyal customer base once you get them aware of you,'' Kyser said.

If Pizza Patron succeeds, other companies that cater to Latinos, including supermarkets, might be candidates to follow suit, Kyser said.

Two of the customers who showed up for lunch about noon Tuesday at the Anaheim Street store paid with pesos.

``I've got a lot of pesos,'' said Jose Leal, who purchased two large pizzas for himself and his Time Warner Cable colleagues. ``Now I can put (them) in my pocket and come and eat.''

The pizza chain, which caters to the Latino community in five states, began accepting pesos for payment on Monday. Gamm said this is the first time a multistate chain has opted to accept pesos.

``A large number of our customers frequent Mexico and oftentimes they come back from business and visiting family and they have leftover pesos in their pocket,'' Gamm said. ``We thought it would be fun to give them somewhere to spend them here in the states.''

And if Mexican businesses accept U.S. dollars, an American business should be able to accept pesos here, Fielder said.

Pizza Patron, which opened in Wilmington on Feb. 17, 2006, operates 59 stores in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.

Fielder said the two Los Angeles-area stores took in about 500 pesos ($45.42) on Monday. Tuesday, once word spread, the Maywood store took in about 1,000 ($90.84) pesos at lunchtime.

Fielder said the promotion will continue for two months and be assessed to determine if it should continue.

larry.altman@dailybreeze.com

(310) 540-5511, Ext. 220
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 10, 2007
Words:470
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