Our Views: Save Mart founder Bob Piccinini always made quite an impression

Bob Piccinini, CEO Save Mart, at the new Save Mart store opening on Pelandale Road at Chapman in Modesto in 2010. Arvin Schok, left, and Cecil Russell talk to Piccinini.
Bob Piccinini, CEO Save Mart, at the new Save Mart store opening on Pelandale Road at Chapman in Modesto in 2010. Arvin Schok, left, and Cecil Russell talk to Piccinini. Modesto Bee

Bob Piccinini couldn’t be summed up in a single obituary or even three. Too many stories, too many exploits and accomplishments.

One reporter told us of strolling through the public staging area at Sears Point Raceway shortly after Piccinini created the Save Mart 300. It was packed with all the general ticket holders, but none of the high rollers, since those with better access usually avoided the crowds. After gawking awhile at Dale Earnhardt’s car, the reporter turned to go and almost bumped into Piccinini – the race’s promoter and most significant player – standing there with everyone else. Being a fan and wanting to talk cars.

Piccinini will forever be linked to sports. He was a part owner of the San Diego Padres and Golden State Warriors, but also the Sacramento Solons and Modesto A’s minor league baseball teams. While he owned the A’s, Piccinini conspired with Darrell Phillips – sports editor of The Bee – to pit player Rickey Henderson against one of Phillips’ quarter horses. The horse won.

Known as “Peach” to his friends, Piccinini was an innovator, virtually reinventing how NASCAR sold itself through commercial sponsorships at major venues. He saved the Modesto Relays. He helped create Graffiti USA. He built a gym at Fresno State. Oh, and he turned a couple of family-owned grocery stores into an empire of 240 stores and a distribution/packaging company.

But it was his love of sports that most recall. He once told a reporter, “I’ve got a little grease in my blood,” which might explain why he owned 15 vintage cars, from a Model A roadster to a Packard V-12. He loved things that went fast. Gone too soon. Godspeed.

Moving along, but not far

We’re also saying goodbye to Carol Shipley this week, but it’s not in a permanent way. Shipley is one of the consummate behind-the-scenes people who helped run the Stanislaus District Attorney’s Office through some of its most tumultuous years. She’s retiring after 31 years as a prosecutor – all in Stanislaus County. She started in the Family Support division when there were 25 prosecutors and leaves as deputy district attorney with 47 prosecutors. No doubt, she’ll stay busy.

A reason to wake up early

If you don’t mind getting up early, City Ministry Network’s Catalyst program is hosting Great Neighbors Build a Great City on Thursday at 7 a.m. at 1301 12th St. If you get there before 7, you can get a cup of coffee. It’s a panel discussion all about making Modesto better.

Looking over Valley issues

We’ve often written about the Maddy Institute’s podcasts focusing on Valley issues. Now, they’ve taken it to video. Airing on Fresno’s Channel 30 on Sundays, it will also be online at www.ABC30.com or www.maddyinstitute.com (where you can also find the podcasts).

Helping the Tuolumne

Finally, if you want to help the Tuolumne River, consider the seventh Paddle to the Sea, which begins May 9 and continues on successive weekends through June 13. There are whitewater and kayak segments and even sailing on the Delta. The Tuolumne Trust’s Patrick Koepele says the money will help battle the awful hyacinth problem plaguing the river. Call the trust at (209) 236-0330.

Related stories from Modesto Bee