Sonoma County’s G&G Supermarkets purchased by Safeway

Sonoma County’s G&G Supermarkets purchased by Safeway

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | October 27, 2016, 12:05PM

G&G Supermarkets, a landmark family-owned Sonoma County grocery business for over a half century, has been purchased by Safeway stores, the two companies said Thursday.

Pleasanton-based Safeway has agreed to hire 250 G&G employees at the company’s Santa Rosa and Petaluma stores at “the same compensation or better,” said G&G CEO Teejay Lowe.

The exact date for the business change has yet to be announced but should be by the end of the year, Lowe said.

G&G workers at both store locations learned of the sale Thursday morning in meetings with Safeway and company officials.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Safeway officials were not immediately available to discuss the reasons for the purchase and the impact on their existing stores near the G&G properties, including the Safeway on Marlow Road in Santa Rosa and the store on South McDowell Boulevard in Petaluma.

In a statement confirming the sale, Safeway said, “We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to bringing these locations into the Northern California Safeway family.”

The two companies “are working together to ensure a smooth transition for store employees and customers,” Safeway said in the statement. “Each store will be closed for a short period of time once the transaction closes, which we anticipate will be sometime in December.”

Lowe suggested the sale’s timing was partly related to age of the company’s four owners, all members of the Gong family, including his own father Robert Gong and his three uncles. The four owners range from 65 to 83 years old.

“It’s a good time for them to retire,” Lowe said. “They’ve been serving Sonoma County for 53 years. It’s a good time for them to enjoy the holidays.”

Of the sale, he added “It was a decision that the entire family supports.”

The agreement also will benefit current employees, Lowe maintained, not only by preserving their compensation but also by offering them new opportunities with a larger grocery company.

“This deal checked all boxes,” he said.

G&G was founded in 1963 by Robert Gong and his late father-in-law, Gee Kai Gong. The company operates a 96,000-square-foot supermarket on West College Avenue and a 55,000-square-foot store on Sonoma Mountain Parkway in east Petaluma.

G&G has been the epitome of a family operated company. At one point close to 25 relatives worked in the business, Lowe said. Even today he works with six relatives that are either siblings or cousins.

Lowe would not say whether he had been offered a position under the new ownership.

“Whatever the future holds, I will be a part of this community,” he said.

G&G has long been the place that crab lovers turned to, with many calling the store each November to learn when the first Dungeness catch of the season would be arriving from the docks of Bodega Bay. After talking with fish processors, Lowe said he’s looking forward to “the last and most incredible start” of a crab season for the grocery company next month.

In the community, G&G built a reputation for generous support, particularly for turning out as a family to buy the champion lambs raised by 4-H and FFA students at the Sonoma County Fair’s junior livestock auction. The company supported a variety of high school fundraisers, particularly at Cardinal Newman and Piner high schools.

More recently it was the first retailer to sell Noble Spoon specialty meals produced by the Sonoma County Council on Aging. And when Lake County residents were displaced by wildfires, G&G donated store gift certificates to the relief efforts, said Brett Martinez, CEO and president of Santa Rosa-based Redwood Credit Union.

“They’ve always been that company that has been there,” Martinez said.

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