By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
Save Mart Supermarket’s newly appointed vice president of operations, Ed Popke, of Sonora, has been working his way to the top for 32 years and counting.
Popke first began his career with Save Mart in 1978 in Modesto at the age of 18 where he worked as a produce clerk before transferring the following year to Sonora’s lower Save Mart, said Save Mart Supermarkets president and chief operations officer Steve Junqueiro. Popke was later promoted to produce manager over Modesto and Sonora stores after opening the upper Save Mart on Mono Way in 1992, Junqueiro said.
“His commitment to our customers has been evident in every position he held,” Junqueiro said of Popke in a Nov. 1 memo sent to Save Mart employees.
The next big step up for Popke came 25 years into his career when he was promoted to produce supervisor in the former Central Division in 2003, according to Junqueiro. In 2008, Popke was promoted yet again, this time as a special assistant to the president, before his most recent promotion in November 2010 to vice president of operations for 106 Save Mart Supermarket locations from Nevada down to Bakersfield, he said.
Popke is, in his own words, a second-generation Save Mart employee, following in the footsteps of his mother, Leona Popke, who worked for 23 years as a Save Mart grocery clerk in Sonora.
“He’s a very hard worker,” Leona said of her son. “He has such a beautiful charisma and a nice way with people. Everybody loves him.”
Save Mart Store Manager Lynn Patricio had only good things to say about Popke, with whom she worked since 1990 when he was her produce manager.
“Ed has always had an extremely strong work ethic,” Patricio said. “He has very high standards. It’s not a surprise he was promoted into the position he has right now, because he has certainly worked very hard to get there.”
The two worked side by side in opening up the upper Save Mart in 1992, Patricio said. She said that not only is Popke a wonderful co-worker, but she considers him to be a good friend after all these years.
“He’s just a good person all the way around,” Patricio said. “He goes above and beyond — he’s that kind of guy.”
Popke attributes the key of his career success to mentorship, for which three men in the industry have greatly helped him along the way, one being the man who first hired him in 1978, Frank Siliciani, as well as Junqueiro, he said.
Popke lives in Sonora with his wife, two children and two grandchildren.
Of his experience working with Save Mart, Popke said, “It’s been absolutely outstanding.”