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2,400 apply for 100 jobs
Jessica Ramirez stood in line for three hours Friday morning to become one of the first to apply for a job at the Rancho San Miguel Market which opens this summer on Hatch Road. By the time the store's two-day job faire opened up at 9 a.m., a line of hundreds wrapped around the block around the Ceres Community Center.

"It's worth the sacrifice to get an application," said Ramirez who said she's been unable to find work for four years.

She brought a magazine to read as the line grew behind her.

Unfortunately for her, the long wait had less bearing on her prospects for employment than she thought. Store officials received 2,400 applications for the expected 100 job positions, and will be gleaning for the most qualified.

"We want to get the best we can," said Corey Crawford, manager of the Food4Less store in Ceres. He is helping oversee the hirings since Food4Less owns Rancho San Miguel.

"It's rough out there," said Crawford. "We were expecting a good turn out but it's going to take forever to set up interviews. There will be an army of HR people down here for several weeks."

Store officials accepted applications from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Friday and Saturday. Applicants filled out job forms at tables inside in the large assembly room which was decorated with festive balloons. About 1,300 showed up on Friday alone, jamming up traffic and parking in downtown.

Crawford said applications will be screened and interviews scheduled for the next three weeks. The firm is hiring for grocery, dairy and produce stockers, meat cutters and meat clerks, bakers, cake decorators, cooks, deli, salsa bar and kitchen helpers, cashiers and utility clerks.

When the store announced it was hiring through newspaper ads and articles and banners placed in front of the former Raley's store - where Rancho will operate - city staff at the Community Center was inundated with calls.

"The Community Center has been bombarded with people trying to get ahead of the curve," said Crawford.

Advertisements for employment noted that applicants who are bilingual would find a plus in their column. That prompted some angry calls to the Courier's "Sound Off!" section.

"We do business in English but a lot of our customers don't speak English so we say speaking Spanish is a plus," said Crawford. "I don't speak Spanish - but I've learning slowly."

He said the store would like to hire Ceres people to work the store but said many factors go into hiring.

The opening of a new store and jobs is positive news in Ceres during a time in which closures and layoffs are standard fare, Crawford noted. His chain's price impact stores are growing as "people are looking for ways to stretch their dollars."

Crawford said Raley's, which closed its Hatch Road last year, couldn't attract customers because of higher prices. Crawford said he priced a bottle of ketchup at the Modesto Raley's and found it double the price customers pay in his store.

Rancho is expected to open its doors this summer.

"We're probably six months out," said Crawford.

Construction will include remodeling the kitchen and reconstructing the meat department inside the former Raley's store space. He said the store will use the conventional shelving found in regular store rather than the metal modular shelving found in warehouse type grocery stores.