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Rooftops, surging average household income from Bay Area checks & the quest for Trader Joe’s et al
trader joes
A newer Trader Joe’s in Halfmoon, New York.

WinCo has expressed interest in Manteca.

It included representatives sitting down with firms trying to build two different shopping centers along the 120 Bypass.

They were preliminary number crunching but so far not much more.

Safeway has looked twice at expanding near the Airport Way/120 interchange for a second Manteca store.

Once was in 2006 when Lowe’s Home Improvement Center was going through on an environmental review for a store just east of Sizzler as well as in the past year.

The mortgage crisis ended up blowing apart Lowe’s s plans and ended Safeway’s exploration.

Safeway is back again lured by the city’s steady 2.5 to 3 percent annual growth and ground breaking on four housing projects that would add upwards of 2,800 more rooftops to southwest Manteca.

The fact Manteca developers are getting calls from various chains is significant.

That means Manteca is on “the serious look” list for consideration.

Manteca’s consistent housing growth even in downturns is keeping the city on the radar of retailers and dining concerns even as other dynamics — online shopping and even increased organized retail crime makes opening new locations rougher to pencil out.

How fluid the market is for brick and mortar stores is well illustrated by the changing times Save Mart has operated under for the past 71 years.

It also underscores how rooftops — the number of homes a community has that is needed for specific stores to pencil out — is a constantly moving target.

Mike Piccinini — who along with his partner Nicholas Tocco — opened the first Save Mart in 1952.

It was in Modesto that had 15,000 residents at the time.
Piccinini had moved his family to Manteca  — actually south of town on a 20-acre farm on South Manteca Road — back in the 1940s. That is when Manteca has less than 2,000 residents.

He opened his first grocery store — Mike’s Market — with his brother where Accent Carpets is located today in the 100 block of North Main Street.

The first Save Mart was opened in Manteca until 1965. It was where Hafer’s Furniture is today in Lincoln Center on West Yosemite Avenue.

Manteca had less than 10,000 residents in 1965.

Back in 1995, Lathrop leaders started lobbying Save Mart to build a store in their city. They were told they needed enough rooftops to support a population of 12,000 before Lathrop would come up on the chain’s expansion radar. The city had 8,000 residents at the time.

When Lathrop was closing in on 12,000 in 2000 and pitched Lathrop again to Save Mart, store representatives said the numbers to make a store work called for a market draw area of 16,000 residents

Save Mart didn’t open in Lathrop until midway into the first decade of this century when Lathrop ‘s population was closing in on 18,000.

Piccinini’s son  Bob, who was a graduate of Manteca High, back in 2010 told those at various community meetings include the Manteca Historical Society and Manteca Rotary that he wanted to open another Save Mart that would be a start-of-the-art store in Manteca.

Bob, who passed away five years later, noted even though the current two Save Mart  stores in Manteca were too small by industry standards in 2010, that they still penciled out as profitable operations.

He noted that the other two stores would remain open if and when a third Save Mart was opened.

Keep in mind sentiments aren’t the bottom line. The economics of the market have to work to make an investment on the scale of opening a new  supermarket work.

Manteca had 67,000 residents in 2010.

Save Mart sold several years after Bob’s death in 2015. Manteca  now has 90,000 residents.

And Save Mart started to move forward, then retreated, and again expressed interest in building a third store in Manteca.

Save Mart, in their second serious go around with the developers of the proposed shopping center at Atherton Drive and South Main Street, were offered a 40,000-square-foot anchor space. It was slimmed down from the previous 50,000-square-foot footprint Save Mart was using for stores when they first expressed serious interest.

Now the two existing Save Mart stores — seen as too small by 1990 by the supermarket industry  in general — are now almost rightsized stores based on the changing grocery environment.

Toss in the specialty grocers — Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and Nugget to name a few — and above average household income becomes a bigger factor.

Manteca, thanks to a surge in new home sales in excess of $700,000 with more than a few McMansions south of the 120 Bypass selling for $900,000 up to $1.2 million,  clearly has a growing base of households that can afford a specialty market appetite.

While the Manteca market and economy meets the broad criteria to be in the hunt for future store locations, it is abundantly clear that firms aren’t expanding on the scale they were even 10 years ago.

It is why a steady blitz of emails to corporations — or even weighing in on future store location  request forms such as Trader Joe’s has on their website — could give Manteca an edge over other areas competing for new stores.

It sounds crazy, but if Manteca and 30 other cities are on the second round, so to speak, of store expansion and there are only 10 new stores being planned for a year, a bunch of potential customers indicating they want a corporation’s store here doesn’t go unnoticed in a retailer’s real estate division..

And  — as much as many may not like it — the fact Manteca keeps adding rooftops is increasing its odds of securing stores and restaurants that people say they want.

Many of those people also don’t want to see another rooftop built in Manteca.

But has been happening now is Manteca’s new homebuyers more and more are bringing more robust Bay Area checks home to Manteca not because it is simply a place they could afford to buy a new home, but because it is a city now offering homes more conducive to older families that are better financially situated than those that headed eastward over the Altamont Pass a decade or so ago.

It is reflected in upper grade and high school enrollment growth surge in Manteca Unified schools.

It is reelected in average housing in places south of the 120 Bypass in excess of $108,000 a year — or almost $40,000 higher than Manteca overall.

Those who can afford new tract homes barreling  toward $900,000 in an era of hybrid work that frees up money and time from commuting is exactly  what retailers are enamored with.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at