Tom Modugno of Santa Cruz Market | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Cruz Market is advertising a pound of cherries for $1.99, about a third of what the summertime treat is costing in some grocery stores around town. That and other good deals are what locals love about Santa Cruz Market; at the news that owner Tom Modugno had sold the market, we asked if customer specials would continue.

“We use good companies and suppliers, and we find the good deals,” he said — and the new owner is keeping things the same: “They said, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’” The new owner, Santa Barbara Markets Corp., which Modugno described as a family with markets in Ventura, Fillmore, and Oxnard, was excited about the meat section and the fresh salsas at Modugno’s clean, well-stocked, very busy store. They were keeping all the full-time employees, staying in the union, and had buyers who knew what they were doing, he said.

Tom Modugno of Santa Cruz Market | Credit: Courtesy

Modugno is ready to retire after decades of running the Santa Cruz Market in Santa Barbara and Old Town Goleta with his brother Jon and his wife, Kim. Insurance was getting hard to find, and bureaucracy made life for a small business harder and harder. “We were going to sell in October,” he said of the deal, but it took months for the City of Santa Barbara to process a conditional-use permit for the transfer of the liquor license.

As a more leisurely life beckons after the years of a 6 a.m. start time at the store, Modugno said he’ll have more time for his creative hobbies: Haskells Designs, which silkscreens T-shirts; photography and surfing; and his popular blog. Naturally, the history of Santa Cruz Market is well-documented.

The Goleta store started life as an airplane hangar in Santa Barbara until Robert Giffin moved it to Old Town in 1938. It became a 101 Ranch Market in the 1950s, then a Santa Cruz Market two decades later. Ralph Modugno bought two of the chain’s stores in Goleta and Santa Barbara in 1980. The son of Italian immigrants, he’d picked grapes in the San Fernando Valley as a teenager, worked in grocery stores, then served in World War II as a medical technician. Upon his return, he moved up the grocery store ranks to manager, then to Goleta in 1963. While the Santa Barbara store was originally where Lazy Acres is today on the Mesa, it moved to Montecito Street in 1990, where Ralph worked until he was 87 years old. He died in 2011 after 70 years in the business.

The coin-operated horse rides in front of the store remain, a reminder, Tom tells, of when he was left behind, obliviously playing in the rocket ride, while his family returned home from what was then the 101 Ranch Market. This tale and much more can be found at Tom Modugno’s picture-packed

The ponies had customers, popular as ever at Santa Cruz Market in Goleta. | Courtesy

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