Merchant's Tire and Auto Centers donated $29,620 on Feb. 28 to the Toys for Tots campaign following a Christmas drive.
Steve Steffens, vice president of marketing for Manassas-based Merchant's Inc., said the firm had participated in the campaign in the 1970s and 1980s, but 2002 was the first year since then. Merchant's pledged $20 to Toys for Tots for each cooling system fluid exchange job performed from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
The company also collected toys at its 112 locations in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
``We were looking for something that could help the families around our stores,'' Mr. Steffens said.
Merchant's plans to have another Christmas drive this year in addition to a summer golf tournament and charity auction. Mr. Steffens said the company advertised the campaign in newspaper and radio ads, plus in direct mail to regular customers and on the Merchant's Web site. He said he was not sure if the campaign directly increased sales or traffic.
Merchant's plans to add five to six new locations within its current geographical region this year, Mr. Steffens said.
Two retail stores-in Woodbridge, Va., and Thomasville, N.C.-are under construction and are expected to be open by June.