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Grocery store nostalgia: the return of Lucky

By rgordon
Monday, August 6th, 2007 at 3:13 pm in Uncategorized.

For those who’ve lived in San Mateo County as long as the Insider has, does anyone else find it to be a bit of a shock to drive by your local Albertsons and discover that its name is now prominently displayed (as shown below) as Lucky?

Lucky Lucky? How could this be? Is the local grocery store of the Insider’s bucolic childhood, lost in 1999 to the indiscriminate malaise of corporate takeover, back?

The Insider first noticed the return of Lucky at newly-named Friendship Plaza at the corner of Murchison Drive and El Camino Real in Millbrae. With all the construction going on there (they’re building a new Walgreens and adding more yet-to-be-occupied retail space), the Insider wondered, had the Albertson’s sign been knocked down by a crane and the red script Lucky sign underneath it accidently unearthed?

It turns out this is no accident.

The Northern California division of Albertson’s was acquired by Save Mart Supermarkets in November, and included in the deal was exculsive rights to use the Lucky name in areas where Albertson’s operated. Save Mart, which acquired 132 stores from Albertson’s, plans to convert 72 Bay Area stores to Lucky.

Since July 22, Save Mart was aiming to convert at a rate of eight stores a week. In San Mateo County, seven stores have been converted.

Lucky was a San Mateo County icon. According to Grocerteria.com, a Web site dedicated to the history of the American supermarket, Lucky began in San Mateo County as Peninsula Stores. It expanded to the East Bay in 1935, resulting in what investor Charles Crouch called his “lucky stores,” and the name was first used at the Berkeley store on Shattuck Avenue.

As an answer to Safeway, Lucky stores were clustered primarily in Oakland and the East Bay. A flagship San Leandro store opened in 1947 was one of the first attempts at the modern supermarket. Lucky was acquired by American Stores in 1988 which was then acquired Albertson’s in 1998. Lucky stores were re-branded as Albertson’s in 1999.

Save Mart is headquartered in Modesto and operates 252 stores in Northern California and Nevada under various brands. Their resurrection of the Lucky brand is no accident.

“Lucky stores were known for their high quality products at extremely competitive prices,” a July 25 press release about the Lucky openings said. “Save Mart intends to restore that heritage.”

If Save Mart really wants to restore the Lucky heritage and use nostalgia to draw customers, will they also bring back the 1980′s-era generic brand that had little more than a bright yellow label on the package with black lettering to identify the product? Or how about its offspring, Lucky’s own generic brand of Lady Lee?

Those were the days, when yellow cake mix was simply “Yellow Cake Mix,” and Lady Lee was a woman you could trust.

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16 Responses to “Grocery store nostalgia: the return of Lucky”

  1. Rex Says:

    After checking out my “new” Lucky in San Carlos, I’m not impressed. They lowered lots of prices a few cents, but a few are even higher than I remember at Albertsons. Otherwise, it looks about the same as before. Some pretty new paint doesn’t make it like the old Lucky stores.

  2. suesue Says:

    but weren’t the LUCKY signs GREEN? If only GEMCO could come back, too. What a GREAT store that was!

  3. alicia Says:

    i dont remember the lucky signs being green. the lucky’s in alameda, oakland and san leandro all had red signs.

  4. Big Mo Says:

    Lucky stores are back
    One great thing with this change is that Lucky is once again a California owned and operated Grocery Chain. Give Lucky a chance. Savemart has to clean out all the old vestiges of albertson’s and that might take a while.
    Go visit a savemart store, and you will see the prices are lower than Safeway or Albertson’s. This is good for California. And if you see something you don’t like, call the Headquarters in Modesto and make a suggestion. They really are the local guys

  5. Ruth L Boring Says:

    I went to do some grocery shopping at the Lucky’s store on Mowry Ave. in Fremont, CA.
    Once we had a store in Newark, CA. It was a pigs sty and I was elated to see it close.
    The store on Mowry was Albertsons. Albertsons always kept their stores clean and the employees were pretty good people as well. There customer service was exceptional
    compared to what is in the same store different name. It was early in the evening,
    shelves needed restocked, employee’s were chattering among themselves about there
    boyfriends, girl friends etc. In the mean time there were three customers who needed
    a boot out of the store for unruly activity. They were swaring, eating the cheese and
    cracker packs and being very obstinate. I am sure they never paid for the crackers
    and cheese packs. There was one lady pushing her grocery cart who made a
    comment that she refused to go down the isle where these people were. One of the
    so called “Men” called the girl he was with a “F—– Bi— with out a thought. I don’t
    need to listen to this kind of nonsence and the next time, if I ever go in that store
    again I will either ask for the manage (if there is one there) or call the police myself.
    The employees didn’t show good customer service or did they take time to survey
    the store to see how things were. That is bad…………………… There is to much
    of this kind of thing going on in stores, malls and I am sick of it. At least Safeway
    and Raley’s watch out for their custormer. I think it is time you pay attention to what
    going around your stores and keep them CLEAN!

  6. John Anthony Says:

    Good memory, the sign on the old buildings(1950-1960) were green letters on “the tower” that stood above the store and could be seen for a distance
    but the lettering on the rest of the in store signs, bags and carts were red.
    if the store did not have a tower it was the red lettering.

  7. John Anthony Says:

    Let me correct myself some of the real old stores did have geen lettering.
    If you want to check out old photos of lucky, mayfair and others check out grocerteria.com

  8. Tracy in Walnut Creek Says:

    Ruth L.B. (8/26/07) should have checked out the Albertson’s stores over here in Walnut Creek, Concord and Pleasant Hill.
    From my experiences in their stores here, I was not at all surprised – and relieved – when the chain went under. After finding butter that had expired three months before and several other products that were either at or past expiration, I stopped shopping at any of their stores. And I’ve never encountered store clerks with worse attitudes, some bordering on obnoxious. In addition, most of the time their prices were even higher than Safeway’s. At least Safeway’s campaign a few years back to make their staff more “customer-friendly” worked – it’s a pleasure shopping there now (although the prices are high).
    At any rate, it sounds like Ruth and I have had vastly different shopping experiences – it all comes down to how a store’s management runs their store.
    I remember shopping with my mom in the very first Lucky’s store in San Leandro in the
    ’60s, and I’ve always enjoyed all of their stores whenever I moved around the Bay
    Area – and I’ve lived in just about every county here. Their staff was always friendly,
    and they hadn’t been forced into it. And no one could beat their prices. I was heartbroken
    when they were taken over by Albertson’s.
    Here’s hoping the “new” Lucky stores measure up to their predecessors.

  9. Lou Says:

    Save Mart does not own the brand Lady Lee, They dont own the brand Key buys. That is owned by another company. I worked for Lucky stores for 12 years from when I was 16 till 28 years old.

  10. Jim Martin Says:

    I started with Lucky in 1966 and worked for them through the Albertson’s aquisition. Albertsons immediately raised all the prices and changed prices constantly. Two for this …five for that. It was very confusing for the customer. Mangement for Albertsons was the “good ol’ boys club. Just a bunch of self serving jerks who were only concerned about their bonuses. I knew Lucky rejects who went on to become supervisors for Albertsons. If I ever come back in life… I will hold up liquor stores before I ever work in the grocery business again!!!

  11. karen gilmore Says:

    Luckys manager @ the one un Santa Rosa was rude and would not take a product back even Tho I had a reciept and it was on my Debit card Rude Rude rude. I will be shopping at Safe way and I will tell every one to shop at safeway as well

  12. Leslie Says:

    On Tuesday May 20, 08 in the afternoon I dropped my drivers license on a cash register at the Lucky’s on El Camino in San Bruno and it disapeared into the machine. There were numerous coins, receipts and other dirt in the space it fell into. I had to stand around for 15-30 minutes while they let me try to get it out and offered some help. They promised to have a technician out on Wed May 21 in the morning,and to call me no matter what. They didn’t do any of those things. I called and they said ‘oH we forgot’, and again promised to get my license on Thurs, same thing, they promised then did nothing. On friday I finally got a call that they found it. I went to pick it up but apparently didnt’ thank them enough or ‘ask nicely’ so they wouldn’t give it back to me. I asked for 15 minutes. I finally called the police, once they were involved the cashier gave me my drivers license back. She had been passive aggressively holding it the whole time. WTF? I recommend that no one shop at the Luckys on El Camino the manager was ANDy on the first day and MArio on Thurs and Friday.

  13. Jose Says:

    Ok so people need to stop complaining about Lucky. You people need to get a life and go outside and do something.

  14. Tracy Says:

    You will find rudness everywhere. I am sure not all employees of any company are bad. It is a shame that management is not listening to the complaints as well as the compliments that are offered by the consumer. Hmm, “consumer”- a good word; one who consumes. In an industry where you are providing “consumables” They really should pay more attention to what the customer has to say.

  15. Melanie Says:

    I shopped at the Lucky’s in San Pablo when I was a little child from the mid to late 1980′s with my mother and brother…it was so much fun there and I loved the employees. I wish I remembered their names. They loved me and my brother so much. It was a great experience and you always felt welcomed!

    I was so sad when the Lucky stores closed in 1999…I was 17 then…in fact I was just talking about this yesterday to a friend and came to find out tonight on the internet that the Lucky Stores reopened last year…this is so exciting! I actually came to tears when I found out Lucky’s is back again! I have such a lifetime of memories there from when I was very little.

    Altogether it’s been 12 years since I shopped at a Lucky’s so I hope it’s the same feeling and that the management is the same as it was when I was there…once again, this is so exiciting!

  16. Matt Says:

    I remember the Luckys on the Newport peninsula. When I first moved there in the mid 80′s, we had a running joke of who the real Lady Lee was. Then later in the early 90′s when the recession hit, my friend Nina had her hours cut at work and was quite worried about making ends meet. I told her to not worry about it, and to do what I was doing. Just go to Lucky’s. I am saving so much money buying Lady Lee toilet paper, paper towels, milk, charcoal, cheese, I can afford having my hours cut. Then Nina said, if they have Lady Lee tampons I’m there. We had a good laugh.

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