After 40 years, one month and three days in the same job, Ned Ghnaim said he has no regrets about calling it a career.
The longtime owner of Super K Market on 22nd Avenue and California Street will trade his daily routine of stocking the shelves of the store that he has run since he was 23 years old for gardening and a chance to write his autobiography.
"Every day was fun for me," the 63-year-old father of four said.
After thinking about it for more than two years, Ghnaim decided to sell the store to one of 15 interested buyers, largely because of health problems. He said he chose the buyer whom he felt would be best for the Richmond neighborhood he has grown to love so much over the years. He said the longevity of his store, which has experienced its share of ups and downs, is due to the fact that he was able to establish a personal relationship with his customers.
"It was a very hard decision," he said of leaving, adding that last weekabout 100 neighbors threw a farewell party for him. "A lot of people cried. A lot of people tried to talk me out of [retirement]."
Ghnaim said he has been blessed with loyal customers, including one woman from the Marina who has shopped at his store for 40 years. He said he has seen neighbors come and go, the industry change and children grow up. He has employed several of his customers’ children, including two he remembers fondly.
In 1971, he said, a woman moved next door to his corner store with two children. One day he saw the youngsters walk in with no clothes and no shoes on.
"I took them and bought them clothes and shoes and had them work at the store," he said, adding that the two children are now 52 and 48 years old.
His small neighborhood store has been able to withstand competition from large supermarkets, such as Albertsons and Cala Foods, within a few blocks. He said his customers appreciate seeing the same face behind the counter every day and being able to build a relationship with their grocer.
"There’s nothing I don’t do for the customers," he said. "If I don’t have it, I’ll go and get it."
The grocer who makes a habit to wave at neighbors as they pass his store said he wants to write about his interaction with customers during retirement. He plans to add to an 80-page autobiography he wrote when he was still in college.
"If I do it today, it will be hundreds of pages," he said. "[It will] study the nature of people [and] the habits of people."