Wander the narrow aisles overflowing with intriguing items and discover the hidden delights to be found on every shelf at Cal-Mart, one of the Bay Area’s last family-owned supermarkets, whose motto, “where quality and service are unsurpassed since 1952” is still the driving force behind its success through the second and third generation of operators.
The fascinating saga of Cal-Mart Supermarket, from its humble beginnings as a simple produce market to the full-service emporium that it is today, is a tale of strength, commitment, and fortitude amidst adversity. The company’s overwhelming success shows the endurance of one man who shared his love of service with his neighbors and beyond.
Founder Joseph “Scotty” Giampaoli immigrated to San Francisco from Lucca, Italy, in 1929. He worked two paper routes as a teenager and eventually, served at the produce section of Buon Gusto in North Beach’s Italian Village in 1936.
By 1937, Scotty’s steadfast dedication and commitment to service led him to run Victor’s produce market, where he could be found every morning by 2:00 AM, selecting the best fruits and vegetables available. Their clientele valued his vast experience and knowledge, trusting him to provide the freshest products for their needs.
In 1952, Scotty used his talents from the produce section to work as the forerunner of what is known today as Cal-Mart Supermarket along with two partners, Gerry and Bano Dal Porto. By the 1960s, Scotty and the Dal Porto’s took over the entire store, ensuring the same great quality and service customers enjoyed in the produce section would be found in every department and aisle.
Scotty, along with his sons Ronald and Joseph Jr., took great pride in his market, always looking for ways to improve the business, better serve the clientele and provide the finest items at great prices, while keeping an eye on grocery trends and changing shopping habits. In the early 1980s, Cal-Mart was among the first grocery stores to sell fresh-cut flowers; and over the years, Cal-Mart continued to flourish and expand its offerings, including a full-service deli, Antonelli’s Brothers Meat, Fish & Poultry, Sweet Things Bakery and home delivery.
The business was a family affair, with Scotty’s wife, Evelyn, working the check stand, often seen rocking an infant Ronald while attending to customers; their sons grew up in the market, taking on simple tasks at an early age and more daunting chores as they matured, and often could be found napping on piles of brown paper bags during breaks.
By the 1990s, Ronald and Joe Jr. bought out Scotty and his partners, taking over the operation of the unconventional yet upscale marketplace. Scotty died in 1997 at 83, but he taught his sons well and they continue carrying on the traditions passed down by their father, lessons learned at the feet of a master who thrived on providing quality service, quality prices and the best produce to be found in the area.
Yes, produce is still the main feature of Cal-Mart, with an amazing variety of vegetables, fruits, unexpected ingredients and other exotic offerings so folk can create everything from simple dishes to gourmet meals. Antonelli’s full-service counter is stocked with local fish fresh from the docks, Harris Ranch beef and Sonoma lamb are in abundance and of course fresh flowers, by the stem or potted, can still be purchased to brighten a dinner table, surprise a hostess or provide a bit of color and scent to soothe the soul at the end of a long day.
Skinny wire carts, paper bags with handles and old-fashioned curvy checkout counters harken to a simpler time, when the butcher knew exactly how you liked your steaks cut, the bag boy knew your car and carried your bags out without asking and the clerks knew the names of your children and whether your boy made the football team or your daughter was prom queen.
Raymond Burr loved visiting the quirky shop and often stopped in to pick up items and say hello to the family and staff. Later, when he was unable to climb the narrow stairs to the restroom, the brothers had one installed on the main floor; Ronald’s wife, Diana, christened it “The Raymond Burr Memorial Bathroom” and customers can still take a peek inside.”
The Giampaoli Family is proud of their heritage and strives to uphold their patriarch’s philosophy of taking care of the customers’ needs. His motto, “where quality and service are unsurpassed since 1952” still rings true today.
The second and third generations continue Scotty’s legacy, providing their loyal customers and foodie fans with the best produce. Today, Cal-Mart Supermarket has grown to include in its inventory a range of product offerings, such as tasty tidbits, decadent desserts, enticing spices, jars, tubs, buckets and boxes of tempting treats and other choices. You’ll want to return day after day to discover new and exciting wares tucked amidst the common foods in our mart’s shelves!