Save Mart's $6 million flagship store opened Wednesday in northwest Modesto, bucking the recession that's caused so many other retailers to close.
"We've been working on this for a long time," Save Mart President Steve Junqueiro said of the massive store at 3601 Pelandale Ave. It anchors the new NorthPointe Shopping Center, and it replaces the smaller and older Save Mart down the street.
"We've always reinvested in Modesto," said Junqueiro, explaining the decision to proceed with construction despite the recession. "We are committed to this community. It's our home and always will be."
Save Mart has its corporate headquarters in Modesto, and six of its 131 Save Marts are in the city. The chain also owns 113 Lucky and FoodMaxx stores in Central and Northern California.
"Our first store opened 58 years ago," Junqueiro said. "We've been a growth company ever since."
But the new Pelandale store will be its last for a while.
"I don't know if we're going to build another store anytime soon. The growth has practically stopped," said Ray Agah, Save Mart's vice president of engineering
and construction. He said the chain will focus on upgrading its existing stores.
The new Pelandale store will become the standard, but other stores will find it tough to match.
Here's why: It's big, with high ceilings and 50 skylights that flood the store with natural light. And it's designed to be extremely energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Its water-based refrigeration systems eliminate ozone-depleting chemical refrigerants. The store also has heat-recovery systems, reflective white roofing, variable-speed air handling systems, and computer- and sensor-driven energy monitoring systems to optimize energy use.
Because it has more than 56,000 square feet (which is about 24 percent larger than the store it replaced), it's got space for much more variety.
Say you want bananas. You can choose from regular bananas, baby bananas, burro bananas, manzano bananas, organic bananas or plantains.
You can buy cauliflower that's white, orange, green or purple in either full-size heads or cute little baby heads.
The produce section also includes hard-to-find items popular with Latinos, such as yucca root, cactus leaves, milperos and fresh garbanzo beans.
If it's fresh crab you need, there's Dungeness, red king and snow crab varieties to pick from, plus imitation crab meat.
Speaking of meat, there's a premium butcher counter with thicker cuts and higher quality than the regular meat section.
"You can pick your own steak, and they'll wrap it up for you," said Jorge Jauregui, the store's manager. "It's more custom with select cuts."
Store down street closedJauregui oversees the store's 97 employees, most of whom transferred from the now-closed store down the street. But the new store has 10 more employees than the old one, so Save Mart hired people to round out the staff.
Plenty of people got jobs during the building's construction, too.
Modesto's Huff Construction Co. was the general contractor, and most of the subcontractors were from this region.
The 60-acre shopping center, owned by Dan Costa and John Johannson, has plans for seven buildings in the first phase. One building next to Save Mart with 19,800 square feet is being built for retail use, but no leases have been announced.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2196.