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Richland Market closure 'end of era'
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The news of the impending closure of Richland Market is one of the saddest stories that I've had to write in a long time.

It's truly an end of an era in Ceres.

Richland Market was the product of a lot of hard work by sons of a Greek immigrant. Gus, John and George Pallios typified the American dream. They were sons of Steve Pallios, who didn't like mining but preferred to become a butcher of sheep and cattle, of which the meat was supplied to miners in Utah. The Depression forced Steve to seek a better way of life since mining dried up. A family friend had been to Ceres and wrote back that things in California were far better. In 1935 the senior Pallios loaded up the seven kids in a Model A and pulled all the family's possessions in a trailer and they were off to Ceres. The boys' parents went into the egg production business.

Gus graduated high school and went into the wholesale produce business in San Francisco when he joined the Army Air Force in 1943 at the height of World War II.

With the war over and a country to build, Gus left the service in 1946 to dabble in cannery work and then construction before learning the grocery trade during employment with Lucky Stores.

Gus and John acted on a suggestion by their dad to go to work for themselves in a vacant building that he happened to own. They decided to fill a need in Ceres by opening a small store at the corner of Richland and Evans in 1951. Gus later said the store was too small to be considered even a "mom and pop" store and said the location bore more jack rabbits than people. Gus and John Pallios borrowed $3,000 to get things off the ground. On their first day of business, the store reaped $75 in receipts, followed by the next day of $110.

The Pallios brothers believed in hard work. In fact, Gus often told his son Nick: "Don't fear work; let work fear you."

Initially they were afraid they wouldn't make it. Their dad said he'd let the rent slide if they had trouble making payments. But the brothers saw to it that they paid their rent on time - always.

They also believed that if you treated customers as more important than any profit that they would be back. They were.

The brothers expanded their store in 1957. In October 1960 the brothers moved the store to Whitmore and Moffet in the building that now houses Richland Ace Hardware. On one occasion, they had a chance to give Richard Nixon, then a candidate for governor, a tour of the store after he came across the street from touring the Ceres Dehydrator.

In 1967 they dreamed bigger and constructed a new Richland Shopping Center on a nine-acre site that once held the homesteads of two well-known Ceres families - the Gondrings and Moffets. But it wasn't until 1971 that they moved into the center. In the late 1980s, to remain competitive, the store underwent a major remodeling effort.

The brothers opened a store in Turlock in 1965 and later stores in Modesto and Oakdale. After a 2005 downsize, two stores remained in operation in Modesto - at Carpenter and Kansas, and Yosemite and Claus in Modesto - until they were sold to Cost Less Foods.

The Pallios brothers were good to Ceres and Ceres was good to them. Before his 2007 death, Gus had been saying, "If I die tomorow, I've lived a good life, no regrets. People have been good to me." The store supported a variety of community causes and had a faithful customer base over the six decades, some of which are no doubt heartbroken at the news.

America is much different now than it was in 1951. So are Americans' shopping habits. For one thing, there are more shopping choices today. In Ceres of 1952 you had to get milk from the local store operated by local people. Today you can grab the sodas, cans of soup, milk and candy at the corner Walgreen's while you're getting that prescription filled.

In this economy, shoppers are being squeezed and aren't devoted to one store anymore; they shop for bargains. Americans are doing what they can to cut down on their food bills since they are spending an average of $105 per week - $8 more than they were in 2008. So they seek lower prices at the Wincos, Costcos, Food-4-Lesses and Cost Lesses and stock up on lower priced canned goods at dollar stores.

Paco Underhill, a renowned retail expert, said today's shopper doesn't like loading up the cart for obvious reason - a significant outlay of cash. He said shoppers are now thinking, "Don't take what you're not going to finish, because if we can hold off on grocery shopping for one more day that would be great."

With half of all supermarket trips resulting in purchases of five items or less, stores make their money on volume. And the bottom line is that Richland Market faced too much competition in Ceres. The opening of Rancho San Miguel was probably the nail in the coffin. The store was also figured to be a potential casualty had the Walmart Supercenter opened. Now it appears the store is destined to close despite of a Supercenter, which is tied up in court.

How can established grocers like the Pallios family make it when places like Dollar General have prices that are 22% less than grocery stores? Consider too that wholesales prices have been shooting up while the grocer has only been able to pass on an even smaller margin of profit, meaning the only way you do that is through high volume.

Still, it is very sad to see a Ceres born and bred business - one which enjoyed generations of success and faithfully served generations long gone - fall by the wayside.

The legacy of the Pallios operation will be long remembered in this great community.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at