Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gentlemen ... Start Your Grocery Cart: Save Mart Supermarkets Goes 'Big' With 12-Foot High Motorized Shopping Cart

Touring the track on Sunday at the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Northern California Market Region

Northern California's two leading supermarket chains - Pleasanton, California-based Safeway Stores, Inc. and Save Mart Supermarkets, which is headquartered in Modesto - have been thinking and doing "big" this month.

But the big thinking and doing has nothing to do about the fact the grocery chains are the number one - Safeway - and number two - Save Mart - market share leaders in Northern California.

Safeway Store's big thinking and doing was on display in San Francisco on Sunday, June 17, when the grocery chain broke the Guinness World's Record for creating the longest picnic table. We wrote about the "big" (or long) event in this June 19 story: Safeway Has A Picnic in San Francisco Featuring the 'World's Longest Picnic Table' to Showcase its 'Open Nature' Natural Foods' Brand

Kyle Bush and the giant Shopping cart in the winner's circle after Sunday's race.

12-foot high 'hot rod' shopping cart

Not to be outdone by its competition when it comes to "big" thinking and doing, earlier this year Modesto-based Save Mart hired a local company, BRE Rods & Classics, located in nearby Salida, California, to create the 12-foot high, "hot rod" shopping cart (pictured at top).

The cart, which some insiders are calling "Piccinini's Pride," in honor of Save Mart majority-owner, chairman, CEO and rabid auto racing fan Bob Piccinini, who commissioned the mean machine, was featured on Sunday at the NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 auto race at Infineon Raceway in Northern California's Sonoma County.

Sunday's race, sponsored annually by Toyota and Save Mart Supermarkets, was won by Kurt Bush, who held off a late-charging Jeff Gordon to claim the first-place honor.

Save Mart's mega-motorized shopping cart, which is powered by a 454 Chevy engine sponsored by Watson Racing, which allows it to hit speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, according to Jim Brown of BRE Rods & Classics, got its inaugural debut in Modesto's annual "Graffiti Fest" parade on Friday evening, June 11. (You can see the Save Mart motorized shopping cart on a test run in the brief video below.)

The three day "Graffiti Fest" event, which is sponsored by the Modesto Kiwanis Club each year, pays homage to the movie "American Graffiti," which was made by Modesto native George Lucas of Star Wars fame, and chronicles the born-and-raised in Modesto movie producer-director's childhood, growing up in what the locals like to call the "Cruising Capital of the World."

Or at least Modesto was America's cruising capital. However, a number of years ago the Modesto City Council outlawed cruising on McHenry Avenue and J Street, the main drag where most of the action took place in Lucas' era (late 1950's-to-early 1960's) and in his movie, which is set in the early 1960's. As the famous line in American Graffiti says: "Where were you in '62?

Local boosters created the annual "Graffiti Fest" event, along with a series of other events throughout the summer, called "Graffiti Summer," as a way to celebrate the tradition, along with using it as a vehicle to increase tourism and encourage people to spent money with local businesses during the summer months.

Save Mart's big, hot rod shopping cart got a bit over-heated during its trial run in the June 11 "Graffiti Fest" parade, according to a longtime Modesto-area food broker and Fresh & Easy Buzz reader who was there, and had to be sidelined. A Save Mart executive confirmed that observation for us recently.

However, the crew at BRE Rods and Classics fixed the problem and "Piccinini's Pride" was in top shape at Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 race in Sonoma County.

Sunday's big race isn't the last stop for the shopping cart. Save Mart's pit crew is taking the racing engine-powered vehicle to the California State Fair in Sacramento next.

After that the cart, which also made an appearance at one of Save Mart's Lucky banner supermarkets in Napa, California on June 23, will be featured at the annual "Hot August Nights" event in Reno, Nevada. Save Mart, like Safeway Stores, Inc., operates supermarkets in northern Nevada, as well as in Northern California.

The Save Mart "hot rod" shopping cart at the Crystal Springs Gold Course in Burlingame, California. The club's pro says course rules prohibit the shopping cart's use as a golf cart, even though it can hold a whole lot of golf bags. But he did let a photographer use the fairway to take a few "shots."

An American tradition

Creating "out-sized" things and events - giant displays in-store, parade floats, and even record-holding tables and giant shopping carts - is part of a long and historic tradition of thinking and doing "big" by U.S. grocers, as a way to not only promote their stores, but also to have plain fun.

It's good to see that Save Mart and Safeway Stores' are keeping that tradition alive - and are doing so in a "big" way.

Potential Guiness World Record?

Modesto, California-based Save Mart Supermarkets, which was founded over five decads ago by Bob Piccinini's father Mike and partner Nick Tocco, operates 240 stores in Northern and Central California and Northern Nevada under the Save Mart, S-Mart Foods, Lucky, Maxx Value (supermarkets) and FoodMaxx (discount warehouse format) banners, should contact the Guinness World Record people post-haste because a Guiness World Record might just be looking the grocer right in its eyes, so to speak.

Save Mart can't get the record for biggest/largest/tallest shopping cart. That record is already held - and at 34.4 feet high, from ground to handle, the world record-holding cart, which was made by the Al Safeer Group and Century Shopping Mall, and sponsored by Dubai UAE Duty Free, won the honors in February 2004 at the Dubai UAE Shopping Festival

But ... the record-holding shopping cart from Dubai has no motor.

Enter Save Mart's 12-foot high "muscle car-style" shopping cart, powered by the 454 Chevy engine.

Based on our research on the Guinness website, we think there just might be an opportunity for Save Mart to claim the title and honor of having the world's biggest, largest or highest (or all three) motorized shopping cart.

It's certainly worth checking out. After all, does Save Mart Supermarkets' (and its chief Bob Piccinini) really want to let Safeway Stores' have all the glory with its World's Longest Picnic Table, when it comes to Northern California-based grocery chains setting world records?

The grocery business is all about competition, right? So ... Bring it on.

Related Stories

June 19, 2011: Safeway Has A Picnic in San Francisco Featuring the 'World's Longest Picnic Table' to Showcase its 'Open Nature' Natural Foods' Brand

March 23, 2011: Tesco Opens First Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store in California's Northern Central Valley Today - in Modesto

March 19, 2011: Preview: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is Headed to Save Mart Supermarket's Hometown of Modesto

October 27, 2010: Save Mart CEO Bob Piccinini Poised to Make it to the 'Bigs' as Member of Golden State Warriors' Ownership Group

July 15, 2010: Just Like Mr. Rogers Did, Save Mart Supermarkets' Doesn't Just Talk the Talk, it Walks the Walk in the Neighborhood

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