Devout Save Mart shoppers and members of the community came close to pinching themselves as they wandered into the brand-new store adjacent to the old haunts and were amazed at all its new features. Hundreds attended the Wednesday morning grand re-opening to check out what the new store and its branding was all about.
The renovated store inside the Whitmore Plaza Shopping Center at the southwest corner of Whitmore Avenue and Mitchell Road features a pharmacy, expanded meat department with fresh sea food, custom grilled meats, an expanded offering of produce to include organic varieties, a bakery, ready-to-go sandwiches and meals, a soup bar, full service deli, a burrito/taco/nacho bar with tortillas and chips made fresh in the store and café seating area for in-store dining with Wi-Fi available.
"We're excited about making such a big investment to the area," said store manager Donna Lambert, who leads a team of 74 employees. "We're bringing the best of what Save Mart has to offer, and shoppers will see a noticeable difference."
Twenty-eight positions were created as a result of the bigger store, which stands as just over 43,000 square feet. That's 15,000 square feet bigger than the old store which has been operating since July 9, 1980.
The old store closed Sunday, June 24 with all workers transferring to the new location right next door on Monday morning.
In their first-ever peek at the new store, most were intrigued by the sea food and meat section in the back. Save Mart's director of meat, Tom Hedegard, explained that customers can have their selections grilled on the spot - at no extra charge - to take home.
"This is a new concept and there's probably no one here in the Valley who does this," said Hedegard.
Grilling has been offered at Save Mart stores in Los Banos and Oakdale.
"It has been such a big hit. A lot of people don't know how the cook sea food so we'll prepare it for them. We'll season it. With steak or sea food, you're talking a lot more dollars and you don't want to ruin it so you don't have to worry about it - we'll cook it."
Fajitas are also available for grilling. Customers can call ahead and have thicker meats cooked in advance of pick-up, said Hedegard.
"The mac and cheese is killer. We put a little spin on it and put in bacon. The fire roasted corn is really good."
The store also offers $6 meals in a bag which can be microwaved.
Hedegard called the new Ceres store "really probably the nicest store in the area."
The new Save Mart brand launched last year, and with the availability of the Rite Aid site, the chain thought this was a great opportunity to enlarge the store and bring a brand-new Save Mart to Ceres. It is the eighth store under the new branding.
At the grand re-opening Save Mart delivered $500 donations to the Ag Boosters of the local high schools and the Ceres Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Foundation. Gift cards worth $500 were handed over to Ceres Christian Church and the Salvation Army. All year long, the store donates up to three percent of its sales from Shares member purchases to more than 160 local schools and charities through its Shares powered by eScrip program. Shoppers who sign up for it can designate which non-profits will receive monthly donations.
Save Mart also presented Ceres resident Sheryl Trout the clock that hung in the old store for decades. While working at Yosemite Advertising, her father, Phil Reynders, built and painted the clock in the early 1980s. Sheryl requested that she be able to keep it as a family memento.
Vice Mayor Mike Kline thanked the company for its re-investment in Ceres.
"We can't say enough of what you think of our community," said Kline at the grand re-opening. "With the renovation of the new store and the shopping center that's going on, I think there's new and good things to come."
The Save Mart Companies is a family-owned, privately held company. Based in the Valley, The Save Mart Companies is committed to sourcing a wide variety of local products. The company employs nearly 16,000 and operates 206 traditional and price impact stores under the banners of Save Mart, Lucky, Lucky California, FoodMaxx, S-Mart, and MaxxValue.
A gym will occupy the former Save Mart space.