Mar-Val Food Stores in the Central Valley assumed ownership of Gene's Fine Foods in Pleasanton Monday in a transaction the new owner promised would be "seamless" with few changes in produces and store employees.
Mark Kidd, president of Mar-Val, which has its corporate office in Lodi, said the six-store supermarket chain has been negotiating with the owners of Saratoga-based Gene's for several months and wrapped up the sales agreement last week.
Kidd said his company also obtained the right to continue using the Gene's name in Pleasanton.
The ownership change comes just a few months before Walmart is expected to open one of its Neighborhood Markets in the former, long vacant Nob Hill supermarket site on Santa Rita Road.
The supermarket Gene's occupies, which has 23,000 square feet of floor space, is located at 2803 Hopyard Rd. at the intersection of Hopyard and Valley Avenue, was built in 1971 with Gene's taking over the business in 1990. Don Smejdir, the long-time manager of Gene's, has chosen to retire as the new owners take over.
"We tried to keep Don, but he and his wife decided this was a good time to step back and retire," Kidd said. "But a high percentage of Don's employees have agreed to stay on board and become part of our new team."
Mar-Val stores are non-union, although the meat departments in the stores are unionized, as is the meat section employees at Gene's.
Mar-Val, named after Kidd's father and his brother who started the business in 1952, has supermarkets in Escalon, Georgetown, Groveland, Clements, Prather and Valley Springs in the Central Valley. Two are slightly larger than Gene's, but all are smaller than the typically larger, multi-product supermarkets.
"We like to stay on the small size and stay within our communities, give good service and quality and just be good neighborhood stores," Kidd said."We specialize in quality meat and fish and will continue that same specialty that Gene's also has been known for."
He said Gene's location in the heart of Pleasanton is a perfect location for Mar-Val's first store in the Bay Area.
"The shopper Gene's has attracted is the same as ours," he added. It's entirely different than any other store in Pleasanton is going for. You have Safeway, which is a huge corporate type operation with 60,000 square feet and other stores, such as Walmart coming in. They have their own, very different type of customers."
"Gene's has a unique customer that really wants quality and service and a small sore, and really we're the only one n town that has that," Kidd added.
Kidd and other Mar-Val managers will work at the company's new Pleasanton store for the next few weeks to help in the transition "and to make sure we know where all the switches and the safe are," Kidd said.
Once settled in, Kidd said the new Gene's will have a grand opening to introduce the public to the Mar-Val team.