I've been a frequent shopper at the supermarket since 1990 when Saratoga-based Gene's, with Don Smejdir as manager, took over the old grocery that had been at the Valley Avenue-Hopyard Road location since 1971. Earlier this year, Don retired and Gene's owners decided to pull back across the Bay, a decision that gave Mar-Val a chance to expand west with its first store in the Bay Area. Casey Rodacker, who had managed one of Mar-Val's six stores, was picked as the new Pleasanton store manager and has been commuting from his Lodi home since the April 16 closing date.
Produce, meat and fine sushi have always been a Gene's specialty and will continue to be the focus of Rodacker's store, which will continue to use the Gene's name. He's using the same wholesalers, including staying with Nor-Cal that searches for and delivers fresh produce to Gene's. All the display and refrigerated cases are new with improved lighting that makes the produce sparkle. Farmers Market no doubt has some produce that's just as fresh, but at Gene's I was able to buy the same freshness and quality with a shopping cart to pack it all in and a chance to roam the store for every thing else on my shopping list. With 25,000 square feet of floor space, about the only items missing that other markets offer are lawn chairs and a pharmacy. But with Rite Aid next door, it's a short walk to find those needs anyhow.
Rodacker says customer service is another prime focus of the store. It's part of the quality foods and super service credo that started with Rodacker's grandfather Marty Kidd, who opened the first Mar-Val grocery in 1952. It's always been a family-owned business, which sets it apart from corporate-owned supermarkets and their store-brand products. Rodacker, who earned a degree in business management in 2009 at the University of Nevada at Reno, also completed studies at the University of Southern California's prestigious Food Industry Management program, which also focused on quality foods and customer service.
Mar-Val also has long been active in the communities it serves and Rodacker will continue that effort in Pleasanton. Starting Wednesday and continuing for the next three weeks, Gene's will match up to $5,000 customer contributions to local nonprofits. For the seven-day period starting Sept. 5, customer contributions along with the store's match will go to the Discovery Shop in Pleasanton; the following week starting Sept. 12 to Shepherd's Gate in Livermore; and starting Sept. 19, to the Valley Humane Society. Customers can add their contributions to their grocery bill, which allows them to have a cash register receipt to use for charitable tax deduction purposes if they choose.
Also starting on opening day next Wednesday and continuing for the next 28 days, the new Gene's will have drawings for prizes, including trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas and Carmel, a 50-inch flat screen television set, 28 iPods and miscellaneous prizes.
Rodacker will be taking the next two days off to attend a wedding in Lodi. Not his, but his sister Courtney, who's marrying Doug Gnas Sunday before heading back to Arizona where they'll live. On Monday, Labor Day, it's back to Pleasanton and a long day's work for Casey Rodacker to get Gene's ready for the grand opening.