Peter Gong, who has owned Sam’s Food City at 125 S. El Circulo Ave. for the past 26 years, said it was time for him to retire. His last day of work was Sunday, Sept. 23.
“I’ve been working for 50 years,” Gong said. “It’s about time to retire and relax. I’m tired. If I was 10 years younger, I’d stay.”
Linda Gutierrez of Patterson has worked off and on for 20 years at the store, and said Gong will be missed.
“My daughter was 4 when I started working here, and she is now 23 and works here,” she said. “(Gong) means a lot to me. He’s like family. He’s always there when I need him.”
Gutierrez said she would always remember Gong for the family atmosphere that surrounded the store’s work environment.
“We always got along,” she said. “We always tease that he’s like my stepdad.”
Adnan and Saeed Ali Obaid, cousins and business partners, are in the process of purchasing the store, with escrow expected to close this week.
They own Fiesta Latino Market in Firebaugh and Amigo Meat Market in Avenal. All of their stores’ names will be changed to La Fiesta, Adnan Obaid said by phone Monday, Sept. 24, noting the Patterson store will retain its employees.
“I’m excited. I think that store has a lot of potential,” he said of Sam’s Food City, which will change names at the end of escrow. “I like the area and the fact that it is growing and hope we do well. I like the location of the store in the middle of Patterson.”
Obaid, who has been in the grocery business for 21 years, said he expects to remodel the entire store department by department while staying open with new fixtures and equipment.
Meawhile, Gong said he looks forward to playing golf three times a week and playing with his grandchildren.
“I’ve been here 26 years and enjoyed every single minute,” Gong said. “I’ve had good customers and made good friends,” he said. “Some of my customers are the next generation of customers from when I started. I’m going to miss the employees and customers.”
Gong said customers sometimes go elsewhere to try out new stores, but almost always return.
“We’ve got a lot of loyal customers,” he said.
He added that while the opening of a Patterson Walmart scheduled for year’s end could hurt for a while, he expects Sam’s customers will return.