Though a bigger, better and rebranded Save Mart is being built literally next door, not everyone who shops at the current store at 2920 Whitmore Ave. has noticed.
A young woman who came out with her groceries Thursday afternoon and said she’s a regular customer who lives right around the corner was pleasantly surprised to have the soon-to-open store pointed out. And Manager Donna Lambert said a number of shoppers have asked why the store’s inventory has been dwindling of late, not realizing it’s becauseso the new store can open.
But when shoppers step into the store – set for a soft opening June 26 – for the first time, they’ll notice for sure.
The new location is 15,000 square feet bigger, and a lot is going into that space. Features include a burrito/taco/nacho bar with tortillas made fresh in the store, a Valley Fresco area with vegetable- and fruit-infused waters and a fresh juice bar, a bakery, a deli with specialty sandwiches, a soup bar and an in-store grill. Shoppers can pick out cuts of meat and leave the grilling to store employees. The only extra cost is the state sales tax on prepared foods.
The grill is a very new feature for Save Mart, said Lambert. Stores in Oakdale and Los Banos have them and they’ve been very popular, she said.
“The customers are so excited to have a real grocery store, because we have just the bare minimum – no fresh deli, no bakery, just groceries, meat and produce,” Lambert said. Staff is hearing most buzz about the deli and bakery, because “that’s what they have to go to other places for, and now they’ll have it all in one place,” she said.
Longtime regular customer Margaret Maestas said she’s one of those shoppers. She drives to Turlock to get deli meats because she can’t find low-sodium selections in Ceres, and goes to Cost Less Foods for fresh tortillas, she said. “I’m all for it,” she said of the new Save Mart.
Other features of the new store include a bigger produce department with an expanded organic selection, a larger floral department, an expanded selection of natural and bulk foods, a cafe seating area and four self-checkout lanes.
All these additions translate into additional staff, too. For the bakery and deli, employees with that experience have been hired, as well as other service specialists and cashiers, Lambert said. In the new store, totaling 43,000 square feet, she will manage 74 employees, with 28 of those jobs being new.
Staff is excited about the move, she said. “Just being in a new place with new equipment. The store here is very old (it may have opened as early as 1980, Lambert said) and the equipment is old, so just the newness of it all.
“They’ve treasured this little old store for a long time,” but it’s time for something bigger and better, Lambert said.
And, just as with customers, she said, “We’re excited we can grab a steak and say, ‘Please grill this for me for lunch.’ ”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327