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SaveMart owner Bob Piccinini dies

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SaveMart owner Bob Piccinini dies

Bob Piccinini, left, shakes hands in 2010 with Bill Gelderman at the Manteca Museum.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED March 25, 2015 12:43 a.m.

Bob Piccinini — the Manteca High graduate who parlayed his family’s first grocery store they opened in Manteca into a chain of 243 stores throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada — passed away Tuesday. He was 73.

In 2010 Piccinini walked down memory lane during a gathering at the Manteca Historical Museum.  

The 2005 Manteca Hall of Famer in Business cut his teeth in the grocery business at age 12, working at his father’s store, the now-defunct Mike’s Market in Manteca. He pressed labels onto packaged meats for which he earned a whopping 50 cents an hour.

The seeds of SaveMart were planted by Piccinini’s father and uncle when they opened Mike’s Market in what is now Accent Carpets on North Main Street. Two original black and white photographs of the old Mike’s Market are part of the Manteca museum’s collection.

Piccinini said that the first ever SaveMart store opened in Manteca in 1965 where Hafer’s Furniture is located today in the Lincoln Shopping Center on West Yosemite Avenue. He also worked at that first SaveMart store and was the head clerk there at one time.

Piccinini said he had “lots and lots of fond memories” of Manteca. He remembered his late father’s family moving to Manteca when he was 6 or 7 years old and settling on a 20-acre farm on South Manteca Road. The house where his father grew up is still there, he recalled in 2010. He also remembered his father quitting high school at age 15 during the Depression and going to work “to help support the family.” His mother, Margaret, who was born in Scranton, Penn., lived on Murphy Road in Ripon where her family settled. His mother’s father was a shoemaker and ran his business in the small building next to the old El Rey Theater, Piccinini recalled. The theater, whose claim to fame was being destroyed in a fire while the movie, “The Towering Inferno” was showing, metamorphosed into the now shuttered Kelley Brothers Brewing Company and Brickyard Oven in downtown Manteca.

Piccinini also fondly reminisced that when his parents got married in 1936, they owned and operated a service station on South Main Street.

“This is what I consider my hometown,” Piccinini, who was a Modesto resident where SaveMart is headquartered at the time of his death.

During his talk, he reminisced about his early jobs while growing up in Manteca, giving a hint of the character and work ethic that catapulted him to the success he enjoyed. He recalled working for Bill Cabral at Western Motors washing cars and other odd jobs. He also worked at a service station in Manteca from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. In the evenings on weekdays, he worked at another job from 6 to 8:30 p.m. That’s on top of working at the market owned by his father and uncle located in what is now Accent Carpets.

“I was a 15-year-old kid working 70 hours a week. I had money sticking out of my pockets. I was rich!” Piccinini said five years ago with a laugh, his thrilled audience that included Bill Cabral, his old boss, laughing along.

Piccinini purchased Save Mart from the Piccinini and Tocco families in 1985 after working his way up through the ranks — box boy, truck driver, store manager, Vice President of Real Estate and on to President and Chief Executive Officer. He is credited with taking SaveMart from a homegrown, Central Valley chain to the regional competitor it is today complete with 20,000 employees.

Other stores owned by SaveMart are Lucky, Food-Maxx, S-Mart, and MaxValue. SaveMart also owns interest in Superstore Industries in Lathrop that serves as a distribution center for SaveMart owned stores as well as Raley’s. The firm also owns SMART Refrigerated Transport and Sunnyside Farms dairy plants.

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