Less than 24 hours after Vallerga’s Market announced that it will be closing its Redwood Plaza store — the last outlet in a family-owned chain that was once the pride of Napa — loyal customers voiced their laments on social media and while shopping.
“It’s devastating,” but not unexpected, Dorothy Tchelistcheff said Friday morning.
“I knew it was probably in the works,” Tchelistcheff said. She has been shopping at Vallerga’s Market stores since moving to Napa in 1970. “It’s a favorite place to come to.”
She and other customers had high accolades for the store’s produce selection, meat department and friendly service.
Angela Perdigao cooks often and shops at Vallerga’s Market at least three days a week. On Friday, the Napa native was “loading up on vegetables.”
“This is what’s amazing about Vallerga’s – you tell me what other store is going to do this for you,” she said, recounting when, in January, she was looking for rhubarb before it was in season and, knowing that she had asked about it on a prior visit, an employee approached her and told her that it would be there in two weeks.
The store is a part of Napa culture, Perdigao said. “We’ve been shopping here forever.”
The Redwood Plaza store is closing March 31, 71 years after founder Joe Vallerga opened his first grocery on First Street. Vallerga’s once had a chain of four groceries as well as liquor stores before it began contracting.
Chris Vallerga Burns, daughter of founder Joe Vallerga, said Thursday that the grocery industry had become more competitive, making it hard for an independent to survive. The Redwood Plaza store, which opened in 1962, has 54 employees.
Joan Oliver has a history with the store, too. She remembers going to the family’s produce stand as a little girl and buying corn for 10 cents an ear from founder Joe Vallerga’s father, Giuseppe Vallerga.
“I started with Vallerga’s in 1947 when they first opened their store,” Oliver said.
Although she does shop at other stores, Oliver said that she gets things at Vallerga’s that she can’t find at other stores like the cracker bread she uses to make hors d’oeuvres with or the Jell-O Instant Lemon Pudding that she makes cookies with.
“There are things you get here that you can’t get other places,” she said. “Where is everyone going to get their Willie Bird Turkeys?”
Before the store closes at the end of the month, Oliver said she may try to stock up on a few of her favorite things and freeze them.
“It’s just sad,” she said. “It’s like the passing of an era … It’s an old friend, so you hate to see it go.”
“I love this store,” Celinda Bergquist said. She knew the store might close, but she didn’t realize it was going to be so soon. She has a $50 gift card given to her at Christmas from her employer – a tradition that will be no more – and only until the end of the month to use it, she said.
“They have food, unique stuff,” she said. “Their sandwiches are the best.”
By Friday afternoon, the store’s Facebook announcement about closing had received 710 reactions, 435 comments and 403 shares.