Modesto, Calif., January 15, 2013– Save Mart Supermarkets – Save Mart, S-Mart Foods, Lucky, Maxx Value Foods, and FoodMaxx stores –honored Luke Houston, store manager of the Scenic and Oakdale Save Mart in Modesto, Calif., with the prestigious 2012 Nicholas J. Tocco Outstanding Store Manager of the Year Award. During the company’s annual management appreciation gala on Saturday, January 12, 10 nominees for the award were presented.

The Save Mart banner is very proud that Luke Houston was chosen as the 2012 Store Manager of the Year. Luke has only one speed and that is full throttle; his leadership has improved every store he managed. Sales and profits grow every quarter and his team always gives excellent customer service. Thank you for making us proud, I know you will keep up your winning ways,” says Ed Popke, Vice President of Save Mart Operations.

Luke started his grocery career as a teenager at Gemco and then worked for Lucky stores in the South Bay for 11 years until hired by Save Mart in July of 1990. He was promoted to store manager in 1997. A successful manager he has been a trainer and coach and involved in various programs in the company. This was his fourth time to be honored in the Top Ten.

Luke was more than pleased to receive this honor. “I am both honored and humbled by my selection. I am fortunate to have an outstanding staff and to have been associated with and inspired by some excellent leaders throughout my career.

David Gonzales – Save Mart on North Milburn in Fresno and Rich Alstad– nominated for his management last year of Save Mart on Standiford Avenue in Modesto – were named first and second runners-up, respectively.

This year’s Nicholas J. Tocco nominees included:

  • Tony Angoletta– Save Mart store in Riverbank
  • Vince Messina– FoodMaxx store on Lone Tree Way in Antioch
  • Rick VanMatre– Save Mart store on West Goshen Avenue in Visalia
  • Kelly Bizzini– Save Mart store in Ripon
  • Joe Ribeiro– S-Mart Foods on Quail Lakes Drive in Stockton
  • Tom Brooks– Save Mart in Paradise
  • Vince McFarland– Save Mart on South Tracy Blvd. in Tracy

The Store Manager of the Year award, presented by Save Mart Supermarkets Owner and Chairman Bob Piccinini, was created in honor of the late Nicholas J. Tocco, co-founder of Save Mart Supermarkets. Nominees for the award must meet the company’s standards for store performance, customer service, and community involvement. The winner receives an etched blown glass vase, travel certificate, and cash. Runners up receive a cash award and all nominees receive a framed certificate.

Pictures or interviews of nominees and winners available upon request via email to or