Biz Beat

Familiar face leaving downtown Modesto, but market lives on in Mexican grocery chain

Longtime locally owned Mexican supermarket chain La Perla Tapatia is moving into downtown Modesto in a familiar spot.

The family owned grocery stores have purchased Sam & Dave’s Market, an independently owned convenience store and deli on I Street, and will continue to run it under the same name with much of the same merchandise. But starting at the beginning of the new year it will add freshly prepared Mexican food, baked goods and specialty items to the store.

Sam & Dave’s Market was opened in 2016 by former Modesto City Councilman Dave Lopez and his business partner Sam Garrett. The general store sells everything from ibuprofen to salsa, chewing gum to homemade soups. Lopez and his wife. Sheri, were a constant presence in the shop, working behind the deli and checkout counter in their aprons.

But Lopez said the day-in, day-out grind of running the store became too much physically for them, particularly for his wife who retired last week. So they looked into selling the business. Lopez said he has known the family of La Perla Tapatia owner Manuel Villa since he was a child and they used to go to church together.

Monica Vergara, La Perla’s marketing and community relations manager, said the downtown location was an opportunity to bring their business to another segment of the community. The small local chain, which started in Patterson in 1980, has five current locations: one on Crows Landing Road in Modesto and others in Turlock, Riverbank, Ceres and Hughson.

In addition to the existing grocery items, the new store will carry specialty Mexican products. But the biggest change will be to the prepared foods. While the deli will remain as is, down to its signature sandwiches, between three to four warm Mexican food options will be available each day in grab-and-go packaging.

Freshly baked pan dulces, or Mexican sweet bread pastries, and Mexican street-food-style fresh fruit cups with tajin and other spices will also be for sale.

Joan Barnett Lee

“We’re keeping it the same, we’re just complementing it with authentic Mexican food,” Vergara said. “We want this to be an extension of the Crows Landing store.”

Vergara said they decided to keep the deli to give customers more options. One day you can have chile verde for lunch, the next a roast beef sandwich. People can also order custom cakes from the La Perla bakery at the downtown site, and — wait for it — batches of tamales year-around. Yes, that’s right, place your holiday tamales orders starting Monday.

Keeping the Same & Dave’s name is also part of keeping things consistent for the shop’s loyal patrons, Vergara said. Before it opened there wasn’t a spot in the heart of downtown to buy bottled drinks, snack-sized chips and other convenience items. Lopez, already a familiar downtown face from his eight years serving on the city council, said his last day at the market will be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He plans to go back into sales and has fielded some offers already.

“In the last few days a lot of people have dropped by to say that in a short period of time we’ve created an institution downtown. It’s a place to drop in and get soda and whatever else you need quickly,” he said. “And I feel like we’re leaving it in good hands.”

La Perla will begin operation of the store the Monday after Thanksgiving and transition through the start of the new year to bring all of its new products, prepared foods and more.

The new Sam & Dave’s Market from La Perla Tapatia will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. For more information call 209-408-0633 or visit

Joan Barnett Lee

Elsewhere on the Business Beat:

A new Mountain Mike’s Pizza’s has opened in northwest Modesto.

It is the California-based pizza chain’s eighth location in the city. The restaurant is in the same shopping center as the Save Mart on Pelandale Avenue, next door to the AutoZone. The 2,539-square foot eatery has a large dining area with flat-screen TVs throughout and features a kids’ activity area with arcade games.

This is the second pizza place in the same shopping center. A Round Table Pizza is located across the parking lot in the complex. The new Mountain Mike’s, at 3601 Pelandale Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. For more information call 209-497-6799 or visit

Marijke Rowland: 209-578-2284, @marijkerowland