Save Mart's new prototype location, in Modesto, Calif.
Save Mart opened its 54,000-square-foot flagship store on Oct. 2 in its hometown of Modesto, Calif.
The prototype location will serve as a “test-and-learn” innovation center for the company, where new programs will be piloted and, where appropriate, introduced at other stores, Nicole Pesco, CEO of The Save Mart Cos., told Progressive Grocer in an interview.
“Modesto is more than where we are, it’s who we are,” noted Pesco upon the opening of the new store. We’re family-owned with deep roots and longstanding friendships with local ranchers, farmers and producers who help fulfill our vision every day. It means a lot to us to be part of this neighborhood because this is where we grew up and are now raising our own families. We’re proud of our hometown and the hardworking people who live here.”
She added to PG, "We live in the heart of the largest growing area in the country in terms of produce," but the Central Valley region also provides dairy, meat, nuts and other foods -- "so much that comes from around us."
In keeping with the company's vision, local products are an important feature of the store, which carries such items produced in the area as Fiscalini cheese, Ratto Bros. produce, Rosie’s Donuts, Diamond Almonds and Dust Bowl beer.
“Save Mart’s new state-of-the-art supermarket will not only serve the local community by providing fresh wholesome food, but will provide great jobs to local residents,” said Dave White, executive director of Opportunity Stanislaus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the economic vitality of the areas. “The Save Mart Cos. plays a unique role in Stanislaus County with its headquarters here and the company’s commitment to sourcing products from local growers and purveyors to their network of 207 stores.”
Pesco explained in her interview with PG that development of the flagship store took several years, beginning with conversations about how the grocer could “continue to be meaningful to the customer” at a time of evolving customer needs and a changing grocery industry.
The idea was to take the company’s concept of the Save Mart brand and turn it into a store reflecting the supermarket chain’s legacy, a location that “felt authentic to the community, but that still provided the value” Save Mart customers were used to, along with some innovative features “with a lot of elements beneath them,” as Pesco put it, noting all of the location’s store-made offerings.
In addition to an in-store fast-casual restaurant, The Tipping Point, the store includes the Bakery Bar, where customers can mix and match cookies by the pound, choose from an assortment of Mexican pastries, and pair their selections with made-to-order, locally roaster Milone Coffee or espresso drinks; Meat & Seafood Central, featuring an in-house smoker turning out made-to-order brisket, ribs, pork shoulder and sausage, as well as grilling specialists who’ll cook meats and seafood for customers while they shop; the Valley Fresh Produce Stand, offering the Produce Stall, where specialists will dice, chop, slice and juice fruits and veggies to order; the Beer Cave, containing Modesto’s largest selection of cold beer – more than 550 varieties and sizes – in an easy-to-shop layout; roaming wine-and-cheese-pairing specialists available to assist customers; and the Deli Market, with fresh made-to-order foods with a local spin, among them a daily grilled cheese sandwich special, a new hot bar and a ceviche bar.
“We truly had the Modesto family in mind when we developed our food selection, created our prepared foods and picked the services to delight our guests,” observed Jerald Smith, the new store’s director. “We have assembled an excellent team to ensure a great experience for our guests every time they shop — and that experience will evolve as we test new ideas and concepts for the company.”
Further, to reflect Save Mart’s strong sense of community, garden beds located amidst The Tipping Point’s outdoor seating will be planted and maintained by the horticulture clubs of the local Kiernan Klover and Empire 4H clubs. Twice a year, those organizations will host a produce sale in front of the store to raise funds for their clubs.
The store opened the day after an evening of celebration with local elected officials, community groups and foodies from throughout the Central Valley. During the event, local muralist Aaron Vickery painted a live art piece that now has pride of place within the store.
Asked by PG how the new location’s size compared with the rest of the company’s store base, Pesco noted that it was on the larger side, but not the largest, as the chain’s stores, built at various times and representing various demographics, range in size from 20,000 to 60,000 square feet.
The new Modesto store will serve as “kind of the blueprint” for stores going forward, she said, although each location will be tailored to its own particular market, with local products that resonate with shoppers in those communities. That goes for the ground-up store currently in the works for another of the grocer’s markets. Pesco wouldn’t provide specifics, although she did say that the next store incorporating the new concept would make its debut in Spring 2020, “if the weather cooperates.”
No. 19 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States, Save Mart operates 83 Save Mart stores throughout California and northern Nevada. The grocery chain is part of The Save Mart Cos., the largest family-owned grocer in California. The company operates 207 traditional and price-impact stores under the Save Mart, Lucky, FoodMaxx and MaxxValue Foods banners. In addition to its retail operation, the company operates Smart Refrigerated Transport and is a partner in Super Store Industries (SSI), which owns and operates a distribution center in Lathrop, Calif., and the Sunnyside Farms dairy-processing plant, in Turlock, Calif.