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A Destination for 93 Years

Rocca’s Market

Dan Rocca, 65, is usually working one of Rocca’s Market’s two registers, serving customers. “I love being with people, people are fun, the easiest part of the job is the check stand.” Known for his slow drawl and quick wit, he readily admits what everyone already knows, “I’m kind of low key.”

“When I graduated high school in 1973, Dad said, ‘What college do you want to go to?’ I said I’m not a college type of guy, and he said, ‘Well, grab a smock. When you know what you want to do, you can leave.’ I’m still here. I don’t think I could be good at any other job. I’ve never had another job.”

Rocca’s Market is located at 1335 Monterey Road, just north of San Martin Avenue and has occupied the same site since 1927 when grandpa Giulio Rocca built Rocca’s General Store, Feed Store, Service Station, and Restaurant. In 1932, John Bonfante and his wife Ines, Giulio’s daughter, ran Rocca’s Market. In 1948, Mike Bonfante took over operation.
And in 1952 Julius (Rocky) and his wife Elenore became the owners-operators and lived in an upstairs apartment. Later, Rocky and Elenore moved to Colony Ave in San Martin, where they raised their four boys—Michael, Dan, Tom and Paul. In 1994, brothers Dan, Tom, and Paul took ownership, forming Rocca’s Market, Inc. Today, Dan and Tom are the owner-operators. Tom Rocca, 59, brimming with energy, usually roams the store with a price-tag gun sticking out of an apron pocket. He’s ever on the alert to help customers find what they need.

“We love what we do,” he said. “Dan and I have worked at the store since we were ten—bagging groceries, taking them out, sorting soda bottles for return. When we got too rambunctious, mom said, ‘Go help your father.’ “It was never a burden. It was just unspoken—you worked with Dad.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, grocery stores remained open as an essential business. Besides everything else he does, Dan has been the liquor buyer since high school. After their alcohol buyer left, his dad said, “See what you can learn.” He learned how to stock a full line of hard liquor and fine wines from all over the world, including California and forty local wines from Santa Clara County and South County alone. “I go to the local wineries and know all the owners. A lot of them are customers,” he said.

Dan Keith is a burly man with a hearty greeting and a ready smile. He joined the Rocca’s team in 2012, working part-time doing construction, and generally helping out. Later, as a full-time employee, he became the meat department manager. Because Rocca’s is a small market that can’t compete with chain and big-box stores, they upgraded instead of matching prices. “We have to have something better than the next guy,” Keith said. “I got rid of the select and choice meat and bumped the product up to prime with some American Wagyu.” USDA prime is a higher quality beef than the choice and Certified Angus Beef (CAB) carried by most stores, and American Wagyu rates higher than prime. Rocca’s carries some CAB for chuck rolls and brisket, but the steaks and ribs are always prime. They also went high end on pork—prime grade or heritage pork—and chicken—Rocky Jr. All-Natural California chickens. “We have stuff that nobody else has,” Keith said, including products he has created in-store: smoked salmon, salmon spread, and ten to twelve store made sausages. “Since I started making the sausage, I get people from Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Salinas, and San Francisco.” Rocca’s is an old-fashioned cut-and-wrap meat department. Meat, bacon, sea food, cheeses, and lunch meats—cut and sliced to order—are weighed, wrapped in butcher paper, and price-marked with a wax pencil. You won’t find any Styrofoam or plastic wrap. “You have to find a good product and stand behind it,” he said. “Now, our customers expect better. They want the best.”

Rocca’s is not a supermarket—it’s really still a general store. It doesn’t have a pharmacy, a coffee kiosk, a bakery, or a bank. With its premium meats, well-stocked spirits, and fresh local produce, you can purchase everything you need to create a great meal in less time than it takes at a supermarket. And, you can find thumb tacks, clothes pins, brooms, mops, stationery, work gloves, and 20 Mule Team Borax. Rocca’s also supports local entrepreneurs with products from Original Roasters Coffee, Pepper Plant Sauce, Big Daddy’s Cocktail Mixers, Stacey’s Jalapeno Jelly, Roxanne’s Biscotti, Greenlee’s Cookies, Frantoio Grove Oil, Toni’s Balanced Meals, Gizdich pies, Marianne’s Ice Cream, Amen Bee local honey, and others.

The sign that juts over the sidewalk at the corner of the building reads: Meat, Grocery, Spirits. You can fill your shopping cart with these at any supermarket or Big Box store. But
you can’t fill your cart with personalized service, premium meats, fresh/local produce, locally made products, and over forty local wines. Add to that a 93-year history of Rocca’s
family ownership and dedication to the community, and you begin to understand that this little corner market is an integral part of South County history. Reviewers on Google
Maps agree (4.8 from 140 reviews). They rave about the meat, wine selection, produce, and service and readily travel from Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and even San Jose to get them.

“People used to take out groceries,” said Dan. “Just the other day, I took someone’s groceries out. They said, ‘Do you want a dollar?’ I told them I don’t take tips. I just do this every day. I like doing it. I know everybody who comes in.”

“How fortunate I feel,” Tom said, “to be still standing. Our standard has now become old-school charm. This is what we do. Dan and I have been trained to be grocers all our lives.”


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