End of an Era: Farewell to Gene's Fine Foods in Saratoga

- It’s the end of an era for a long-time, family-run grocery store in the South Bay. Gene’s Fine Foods is closing its doors in Saratoga after 47 years and the community is sad to see it go.

It’s one of just two supermarkets in Saratoga. Customers call it the heart of the town. Now, that it’s closing it’s not only hard on the community but employees who are scrambling to find a new job.

Since 1970, Gene’s Fine Foods in Saratoga is where customers not only shopped for groceries and gourmet foods but bonded with its 50 employees. The independent business is considered a staple in Saratoga. It’s now closing on October 15.

“It’s community,” said Trish Fisher, Santa Cruz shopper. “It's friendships and it's a great market. It's sad that it's being forced out.”

For the last 20 years, Jeremy Jercha worked his way up from the deli to assistant store manager even commuting from Sacramento. Last week came news of the closure.

“I was very shocked because this store was doing good,” said Jercha. “We felt like we were going in the right direction.”

“Unfortunately the market being the way it is in grocery stores, we weren't able to make a sale happen,” said Edward Webb, Gene’s Fine Food Financial Advisor.

The store's financial advisor said the 75-year-old owner is retiring and was close to finalizing a deal with a major grocery chain. However, it fell through when Amazon announced it was buying Whole Foods.

“It was hugely significant,” said Webb. “As a matter of fact as soon as that news hit that began to impact our negotiations.”

With profit margins tight already, it doesn't help the store's 20-year lease is up and the landlord is raising rent to market rate. Now, reality is sinking in for customers and employees who are facing uncertainty.

“It’s terrifying,” said Checker Christine Everett. “I don't think I've slept in a week. I’m scared I won’t find a job at my age. I’m no spring chicken.”

As they say their farewells, everything in the store is up to 75 percent off. The landlord is hoping to rent to a new grocery operator, yet everyone knows it won't be the same.

“The grocery business isn't what it used to be,” said Checker Jennifer Gonzales. “Minimum wage is going up but our union wages haven't gone up and everything else has gone up.”

The owner's family started the business in San Francisco in 1928 with four Bay Area locations. One store in Pleasanton remains. It’s not owned by the family.

The union is helping employees find jobs and a Go Fund Me page has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/4ie2p4o.

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