New face on 14

TRACY – Just in time for the grand opening Saturday, a large “Tracy Food Market” sign was installed, welcoming customers to the new one-stop convenience shop located along U.S. Highway 14 in Tracy.

Since purchasing the former Food-N-Fuel building in February, owner Sunny Vue has worked hard to get the new store ready.

While a few aspects of the business are still in the process of being completed, the Tracy Food Market will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

“You crawl before you walk,” Vue said. “Then you walk. You don’t run or you’ll fall. One step at a time, that’s my plan.”

Shelves are gradually filling up, including a large variety of Asian grocery items. The coolers will also be full before too long.

“Basically, everything is here,” Vue said. “We’re waiting for Pepsi to deliver the product. They say they’re going to bring it in here, and the same with the potato chip guy.”

The next step is getting the kitchen up and ready to go. Part of the process has already been completed, said Vue, who gave up his job with Grill Works in order to open his own business. For the past few months, Vue has been working eight to nine hours a day at the store, cleaning, repairing, remodeling and obtaining permits.

“Everything went well in the kitchen inspection, except this coming Wednesday, I’m going to class to get my license so I can cook food-to-go,” he said. “We’re planning to do egg rolls, sausage, BBQ pork, BBQ chicken, sticky rice and maybe noodle soup.”

Vue is also awaiting approval in order to be able to sell eggs, milk, butter, cheese and cereal.

“Hopefully I’ll get that approved soon,” he said. “Little by little.”

Fishing enthusiasts won’t have to wait much longer to have access to live minnows either, if all goes as planned.

“Hopefully by Tuesday, the fish will be here so people can start fishing,” Vue said. “Three people were already in (Sunday) morning, asking us if we had live minnows. So that should go good.”

Vue has already been offering a Verizon “Page Plus” cell phone service to customers and plans to continue that in the future.

“I probably have like 50 customers already,” he said. “So things are pretty good. We just go by monthly rates. We have a $12 plan, a $29.95 plan and $39.95, that’s unlimited talk and text.”

While Vue’s wife Mai will be the store’s bookkeeper, the couple’s five children will also help out from time to time. Once the kitchen is open, Vue anticipated that he may hire a couple of part-time employees.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Vue said.

The biggest dilemma Vue now faces is deciding whether or not to sell gasoline. After talking to city officials, Vue got the impression that there was interest in having more than one gas station in the community.

“The cost of bringing it back would be $50,000 to $60,000 and you only get 5- or 6-cents per gallon in return,” Vue said. “It’s hard to get that kind of money back, so I might not do the gas. I’ve already spent close to $70,000 for this building and the food.”

The possibility exists, Vue said, that another vendor might provide the gasoline instead.

“If that happens, they’d only use my electricity,” he said. “Hopefully that will work. If not, I may have to tear the gas pumps down. I have ’til September to decide.”

The unfortunate part, Vue said, is that the previous owner took the system that controls the pump outside. Vue assumes that the last owner also took all the shelves in the walk-in cooler.

“If I want to replace the system that controls the gas pumps, it’s $15,000,” Vue said. “I also had to replace all the shelves and the timers for the cooler and freezer. They took those, too, and those cost a couple hundred dollars apiece.”

Offering gasoline in addition to the other convenience items would likely attract more customers, Vue said, noting that he is currently weighing his options.

“I should be able to do fine without the gas,” he said. “I’d like to do that, but I’m pretty deep in the hole. I just don’t want the doors to get closed down again.”