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Goodbye G & G: An ode to a favorite local grocer

Local producers may be the hardest hit by news that G & G Markets is being sold to Safeway

News that G&G Markets is being sold to Safeway hit me like a ton of bricks. I just didn’t see that one coming, and it’s bad news for Sonoma County for a lot of reasons — from G & G’s ongoing community involvement and financial generosity for local organizations to its willingness to give fledgling local producers space on the shelves.

The sale won’t be finalized until the end of the year, but the latter is what has me especially concerned.

Since I was a teen visiting my grandma in Santa Rosa, G&G was the place you went when you needed something unusual or hard to find. In the 1980s, that meant rarities like pickled ginger or rice noodles. Later we went for the Pasta King’s famous pesto sauce or good deli meat. More recently, it was my go-to for everything from small-production butter and arrowroot powder to holiday crab, shrimp chips and local cheeses.

It’s heaven to walk the aisles, peering at cans of Heinz spotted dick, bottles of Mexican sodas and packages of dried fish, mushrooms and unidentifiable Asian specialties. During baking season, I can count on finding just about any kind of flour, from coconut to rice, and then grabbing a box of fried rice and pork to keep me cooking. Not to mention their annual Christmas town display, something that delighted both young and old.

But every time I went, I also found dozens of little local producers just starting production. Unlike Whole Foods or Safeway, which have a fairly intensive vetting process, or Costco, which demands massive amounts of product to go on its shelves, G & G (along with Pacific Market and Oliver’s Markets) is the Sonoma County food kick starter where you can talk to a human about your idea, possibly even an owner. They have hosted live feeds of John Ash’s Good Food Hour and cooking lessons with chefs like Josh Silvers.

I admit that I’m also part of the problem. I don’t faithfully shop at G&G, usually preferring the convenience and cost of my nearby Safeway. For specialty items, I make the trek from my house to G & G or Oliver’s Markets, but for daily staples like toilet paper, milk and ice cream, proximity rules the day. I suspect many others do the same.

Acquisition of local markets seems to be accelerating. Bay Area Andronico’s supermarkets also announced this week their sale to Safeway, meaning even fewer local grocers to support local producers.

And I get it. Safeway isn’t in the business of supporting community purveyors. Its buyers make attempts, and as a regular Safeway shopper I love seeing things like Bella Rosa Coffee, Clover dairy products and Franco-American bread in my basket. But these boutique small producers are primarily loss-leaders that represent good will. Safeway can make far more money on its house brands and mass-produced consumables from companies like Frito-Lay and General Mills than it can from small batch spaghetti sauce made in Sonoma.

That’s the reality we’re living in, where small grocers get snapped up by bigger grocers, where small production companies get snapped up by international conglomerates, and where we all want chicken that costs 99 cents a pound.

So farewell to G & G. Sonoma County won’t be the same without you.

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Comments

7 thoughts on “Goodbye G & G: An ode to a favorite local grocer

  1. G&G was my last thread connecting me to the Santa Rosa of my memories. It’s sad to see the last grocery store aimed at the everyday shopper (of many different ethnic backgrounds). Now we are left with only commodity markets like Safeway and the “lifestyle” markets like Whole Foods, Oliver’s and Pacific. I’m not knocking Oliver’s or Pacific, they seem to be doing well with direction they have chosen and I wish them much success, but sometimes I just want to go shopping for the things I need, not to hangout. I don’t want another market that carries 15 types of nori (no joke, I counted). I’m going to miss them terribly.

    1. Another personal gripe is the frozen vegetable sections, which have shrunk to one or two display cases in the chain markets. Good luck finding lima beans or black eyed peas, yet you’ll be able to select from a dozen brands of edamame. Again, G&G to the rescue!

  2. I’m in deep mourning over losing G&G. While they indeed have unusual items (why is every PD item swooning over “spotted dick”?) it is remarkable for the range of dependable, quality goods at fair prices. It is an excellent Mexican market; it is an excellent Asian market. You can find most of the same stuff at the different ethnic and high-end groceries in our county but you’ll be doing lots of driving and need to be pretty knowledgeable. G&G’s hamburger is made fresh daily, including chili grind (does any other store even offer that?) and roasts are always tied perfectly, which shows no small skill. And on the topic of meat, their deli counter is a thing of wonder, with 50? 60? offerings. The Safeway down the street has nine. Ever have Lebanon Bologna? Better get to G&G fast. The baked goods section includes all local breads and their high quality produce section reflects their Asian/Mexican base. Their wide variety of mushrooms are all fresh; their cilantro bundles are generous and cheap; their ginger root is so fresh it can be overpowering if used in the amounts usually found in recipes. When they close it will be a great, great loss.

    1. I’m in mourning too and don’t know what I’ll do now for my basic groceries. Forget Safeway, they’re not getting my dollars. Don’t care for Whiole Foods, will try Oliver’s. Love Pacific for certain items and their butchers but their size is too small to be a baseline resource for me.

      I wish some other independent market would seek a foothold here, I’m fed up with the Safeway monopoly and I find their stores quite depressing, cluttered and way too much advertising screaming out at me from every shelf. And way too focused on their house brand.

    2. Yes, it is a real shame that G&G is being lost. By the way, Spotted Dick is a wonderful pud. You should try it sometime. But don’t buy the tinned version. Get someone English to make it for you.

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